February 11th, 2009


Auditioning for Top Gear - The Mitsubishi i MiEV

This will be the first, and possibly only, motoring review to grace this journal, but first a bit of background about my actual driving experience. Despite getting my licence at the grand old age of 25 I have driven a fair few different vehicles. These have included the Austin Allegro and the Holden Kingswood stationwagon (notable for being able to fit full sized sheets of plywood in the back) both belonging to my old mate Graham Loftus, Dad's Holden Camira, Dany's Triumph, Holden Torana, Toyota Landcruiser and Range Rover (I had to stop driving his vehicles when I could either see over the bonnet or reach the pedals when doing a hill start, but not both at the same time), my own almost unstoppable Toyota Corolla, the Canterbury University Physics Department Mitsubishi van, and various others. Almost without exception, they have been really big and well over ten years old by the time I got to drive them.
I currently own a motorscooter, and drive a car approximately once every six months.

Coming from this background the i MiEV, Mitsubishi's new electric car seemed very small, shiny, and a bit plasticy, but in a good way, like a high end piece of consumer electronics destined for the Japanese market - bring on the Hello Kitty version. It has 4 seats, 4 doors and would fit four average adults, if they were friendly, had bathed recently, and weren't going very far, although with a maximum range of 160 km, that's probably not going to be a problem. It doesn't have much cargo space with the rear seats up, as much of the back end is taken up with the motor, inverter and charger, so you'd have to choose between taking the kids or the groceries home. The front end is snub-nosed and doesn't contain much of anything at all - reservoirs for wiper and heater fluid as far as I could tell. The battery pack is under the floor of the vehicle.

I was able to drive it only very briefly, taking it out of Civic Square and round a few city streets. It operates just like an automatic - one pedal for stop and one for go. There are selections on the gear lever (does it still get called a gear lever when there are no gears?) for drive and reverse of course, break which engages the regenerative braking, and is the equivalent of using a low gear for engine braking, and economy mode, optimised for conserving battery charge while driving in urban environments. It was very easy and responsive (bearing in mind that this may just be in comparison to the extensive list above) and there was no lack of power. I felt very confident when it came to overtaking, changing lanes and avoiding central-city idiots who found it necessary to double park and have extended conversations with people on the side of the road in front of the library.

The Mitsubishi rep warned me that it was very quiet and to be careful around pedestrians - indeed I was busy signing my life away when the test vehicle returned from it's previous drive and didn't notice it pull up. Inside, it's about as noisy a really nice new vehicle (I have ridden in a few, ok) probably due to wind and road noise. They were right about the pedestrians. It's a bit disturbing when they don't acknowledge your presence behind them, much less get out of your way.

I didn't get to go up any hills (Hello - Wellington? Surely you could have found one!) or on the motorway to see how it performed under those conditions, and I expressed this disappointment to the people running the demonstration. They said - and I paraphrase here - "Good point. Why don't you come back tomorrow and have a longer go. But don't tell anyone, 'cause then they'll all want one."
So I will.
I think these people overestimate my degree of influence within the halls of government.