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When I heard Mitsubishi was offering their right-side drive iMiEV concept for testing at the EcoXperience track at the North American International Auto Show, I immediately headed for the basement at the Cobo Center, signed an injury release form, submitted to a breathalyzer, and got in line. Almost everyone else in line was also waiting for their chance to try the iMiEV, ignoring nearly all of the other, more readily available, zero-emission vehicles.
It was really worth the wait. I don't know exactly what I had been expecting, but it surely wasn't this well-put-together, supremely quiet and peppy thing. Yes, the interior is a little spartan, but surprisingly spacious. The instrument panel is IKEA-like in its stark representation of anything a driver would want to know. For a car its size, it does have a fair amount of headroom and legroom, front and back, and the seating is comfortable.
Our product expert back-seat driver allowed us four times around the track, and though we were not allowed to drive at more than 10 miles an hour, iMiEV handled cornered tightly and handled well, and the little bit of acceleration we were allowed was strong, without hesitation. "Supremely quiet" really doesn't cover exactly how silent the iMiEV is — unless our product expert had told us the vehicle was running, we would not have known.
iMiEV is being fleet-tested in Japan now, and while it does seem a little pricey, if the testing goes well, our product expert told us we can expect to see the iMIEV for sale in the U.S. as early as 2010.