2014 Mitsubishi i-MiEV

The Mitsubishi i-MiEV is a subcompact electric car whose main selling points are its relatively low price and its efficient drivetrain.

Based on the Japanese market i that went on sale all the way back in 2006, the i-MiEV is essentially a "kei" car with an electric powertrain. In Japan, kei cars are narrow vehicles with small engines that merit their own tax class. This helps explain why the i-MiEV is narrower than just about any other new car in the United States.

All-Electric Drivetrain
The tiny i is powered by an electric motor mounted under the trunk that sends 66 horsepower and 145 lb-ft. of instant torque to the rear wheels. Power is provided by a 16-kWh lithium-ion battery located under the chassis.

In the ideal driving conditions the i-MiEV can go 62 miles on a single charge. Although Mitsubishi claims that the car can achieve a top speed of 81 mph, don't expect it, nor the traditional zero-to-60 mph sprint, to come quickly.

The i-MiEV can be charged three ways: A standard 120-volt household outlet takes 22 hours, an optional 240-volt home charger trims that to 7 hours, while a CHAdeMO level three system like you'll find at some public charging stations will top off 80 percent of the battery in half an hour. The CHAdeMO port has been added to the list of standard equipment for the latest model year.

Trim Level Breakdown
Though the i is a very small vehicle, the base model still packs a respectable amount of standard features. Such items include an energy-efficient electric air conditioning with micron filter, alloy wheels, heated front seats, speakers in the rear doors, heated door mirrors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, speed-sensitive electric power steering (EPS), a heated driver's seat and LED rear tail lamps.

Moving up to the mid-level SE model nets a bevy of upgrades including a 360-watt, eight-speaker sound system, a leather-wrapped shift knob, silver accents on the seats, a unique two-tone trim on the dashboard and the door panels and fog lamps with daytime running lights.

Big spenders will opt for the SE Premium package, which adds such niceties as a high-definition navigation system, a rear-view camera, a USB port and steering wheel-mounted controls.

Occupant Safety
Fears about the i's ability to protect its occupants should be allayed by the long list of safety equipment: dual-stage supplemental front air bags, driver and front passenger seat-mounted side impact supplemental air bags, roof-mounted curtain side-impact supplemental air bags for front and rear-seat outboard passengers, Active Stability Control (ASC) with Traction Control Logic (TCL), 4-wheel ABS with Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD), a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) and a high voltage cut-off system are included on every Mitsubishi i model as standard equipment.

The i also has an Approaching Vehicle Audible System (AVAS) that produces noise when at speed to alert pedestrians to the otherwise silent vehicle's presence.

Key competitors
If you live in Middle America, the i-MiEV's only real rival is the Nissan Leaf, which costs a few grand more than a base i-MiEV.

Buyers in certain, primarily coastal, markets can also opt for region-limited vehicles like the Ford Focus Electric, the Fiat 500e and Honda Fit EV, the latter of which is sized the closest to the i-MiEV.