I'll be the first to admit to a fascination with small cars. They fit easily into tight spaces, are inherently efficient and they're usually lightweight which means that they can be entertaining to drive, as long as they come equipped with a decent powertrain. Having driven Mitsubishi's turbocharged 3-cylinder (and all-wheel drive!) "i", I found a lot to like about the car, though its peak power and torque weren't among them. That being said, the i-MiEV improves enormously on this area with its all-electric powertrain that returns livable range and is thus something I believe will be a viable option for many city and suburb dwellers when it arrives in our market next year.
I got a chance to drive our JDM i-MiEV loaner home last night and was quite impressed with its potential for daily use. My commute its roughly 20 miles in each direction, give or take a few miles to account for errands and/or traffic avoidance detours, so given the approximate 80-mile range, not a single electron was spared in the interest of economy on my trip home. Full-throttle off line torque is more than enough with which to splice your way into traffic as the electric motor emits a high-pitched whine like that of turbine engine, at a tiny fraction of the decibel level and thrust of course (). Its rather tall body with narrow proportions make it little more susceptible to crosswind breezes, but the added battery weight, which is mounted relatively low in the chassis, helps this 2500-pounder stay upright and planted. With heavy foot and all ancillaries a go, I arrived home with 6 of the 10 energy bars denoting the battery's state of charge (plenty of juice left to go grab some take-out granted I could find a right-hand drive thru window). Though I usually love to hear the sound of a well-built internal combustion engine, the relative quietness of an EV (when you aren't hard on the throttle) presents a new level of interior clarity for conversations and audio systems.
Not far off of the growing B-segment cars you see popping up all over the continent, the i-MiEV will provide about as much utility (minus the road trips), but with more style (good, bad, you decide). All in all, there is a place for the i-MiEV here, and we can't wait for it to show up.