The 2016 Mitsubishi i-MiEV is an outlier—in design, in layout, and in the way it drives. Yet our long-term 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf is nearly the polar opposite—a full battery-electric model wearing the look, feel, and functionality of one of the world’s best-selling cars of all time.
As we mentioned this past week in a drive report of the i-MiEV, Mitsubishi was one of the leading-edge offerings in a fledgling electric-vehicle market four years ago—and it seems that during four years the market’s expectations of how an EV should be packaged, and how it should perform, have changed considerably.
If you’re relatively new to electric vehicles, we recommend that you click through our reviews of the Volkswagen e-Golf and 2016 Mitsubishi i-MiEV at our companion site, The Car Connection. But based on our recent short drive of the 2016 i-MiEV and our several months already with the e-Golf, here are several key differences (other than pricing, which is an obvious advantage of the Mitsubishi) that small-car fans and EV enthusiasts are likely to see between the two:
2016 Mitsubishi i-MiEV
2016 Mitsubishi i-MiEVEnlarge Photo
Packaging and seating
There couldn’t be a more pronounced difference in how you sit and ride in these two vehicles. In the i-MiEV, short-and-upright seats give you a high vantage point but lead you to feel like you’re sitting on the bulk of the car. Those short cushions aren’t all that comfortable, either—especially for taller drivers—as they tend to focus all the pressure on sit-bones and none on thighs. You’d better feel comfortable with your passenger, too, as you’ll be nearly bumping shoulders (as the i-MiEV is considerably narrower than most other U.S.-market small cars). And the steering column is fixed. The e-Golf, on the other hand, has great, supportive seats, with longer proportioning that gives far better support for one’s thighs and back. There's more adjustability, too, in multiple ways. You sit lower in the car, for sure, and while that means visibility isn’t quite as great, you instantly get a better feel of the e-Golf’s handling and cornering capability.
In back, both of these models are closer—and the Mitsubishi might even have the advantage, surprisingly. In the i-MiEV, we’ve found the back seat to be better-proportioned than the front seats, in some respects, and barring the same narrow feel, there’s lots of headroom and reasonably good legroom. In the Golf, there’s good space in back, but the door cuts and low-set front seats make getting in and out, and wedging feet underneath, quite a bit more difficult.
The Volkswagen e-Golf, like most modern electric cars—whether they be ‘compliance cars’ or higher-production-volume affairs, gives you lots of readouts. It keeps you posted on your energy use, and lets you keep tabs on your driving style. On the other hand, in the i-MiEV, there are no information screens or in-depth efficiency data; instead, while there is a sweeping power gauge, range and trip information is relegated to a tiny LCD display that you click through with an old-style odometer peg.
2015 Volkswagen e-Golf - Long-term test car
2015 Volkswagen e-Golf - Long-term test carEnlarge Photo
And then, perhaps more importantly, there are the driving modes. In the i-MiEV, a ‘B’ mode on the gated shifter gives you far more regenerative braking—and essentially, one-pedal driving—while an ‘Eco’ mode puts a limit on engine output. In the e-Golf, you have two sets of variables: first, three modes (Normal, Eco, and Eco+, with the latter two limiting power and top speed), as well as three regen modes—accessed through a sideways toggle of the shift lever—to help suit your driving style.
Responsiveness and handling
Both of these models offer perky, electric-car zip off the line, with acceleration that’s a bit less zippy as you near highway speeds. That high-speed sluggishness is more noticeable in the i-MiEV, which feels at its best and most responsive below 50 mph or so.