Chiba, Japan--Bumper cars.
That was the first thought that crossed my mind when the Mitsubishi MiEV, the all-electric sedan from the Japanese conglomerate, came into view. The rounded back makes it look like a cross between a World War II-era Peugeot and something that fell off of a carnival ride.
But inside, it was much better. The car accelerated quickly from zero to around 60 kilometers (close to 40 miles per hour) and could have kept going. I slowed down only because of an oncoming speed bump. On the road, the MiEV had no problem keeping up with cars and passing trucks. (We took the test during Ceatec in Japan. I don't have a license so I had to stay on the streets within the grounds of the massive convention center.)
Like all electric cars, it felt a little bottom-heavy. The car comes with a 16-kilowatt battery pack. Although that's larger than the 24-kilowatt hour pack in the Nissan Leaf, I noticed the weight a little more in the Mitsubishi. Nonetheless, it did quite well in the dodge-the-cones test: handling is crisp for an economy car. Inside, it feels roomier than the Leaf; chalk that up to the Astrodome shape. Check out the video. (The onslaught of electric cars will be one of the primary topics at The Networked EV taking place November 9 in San Francisco.)
In the end, it actually felt a little more like the Chevy Volt than anything else.
U.S. drivers will likely soon get to take a closer look, too. Mitsubishi plans to hold the MiEV's U.S. debut at the L.A. Auto Show that begins November 18. The MiEV is actually the longest-running EV from a major manufacturer. Mitsubishi began to sell it to Japanese fleet owners in 2009 and opened sales to consumers earlier this year.
The U.S. price will likely be in the low- to mid-$40,000 range before tax credits and bonuses, making it comparable to the Coda sedan, but more costly than the Leaf. Mitsubishi, though, is a massive components and electronics conglomerate and it makes a lot of cars, too. Economies of scale won't be a problem if price wars break out.