8 October 2020

Used Vehicle Review: Mitsubishi Minicab MiEV (2012)

When it comes to electric vehicles (EVs), most of us tend to think of sleek body lines and techy interiors with wireless this and Bluetooth that. We’ve become accustomed to this thanks to manufacturers like Tesla and Nissan. Back in 2011, however, Mitsubishi went for a completely different approach.


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Mitsubishi Minicab MiEV (2012)
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Mitsubishi Minicab MiEV (2012)
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Mitsubishi Minicab MiEV (2012)
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Mitsubishi Minicab MiEV (2012)
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Mitsubishi Minicab MiEV (2012)
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Mitsubishi Minicab MiEV (2012)

What they created was probably one of the least cutting edge EVs of its time, with an aggressive no-nonsense approach, incorporating influences from their Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation affiliation.

With all this being said, we were fortunate to receive the quirky-looking 2012 Mitsubishi Minicab MiEV van for review recently, complete with a blue plug and cord decal along the side to let everyone know you’re driving an electrically-powered machine.

Our test model was the 16.0kWh version, capable of 150km range from new (there’s also a 10.5kWh option).

Living Skinny

The dimensions of this vehicle are somewhat alien to typical vans. The Minicab MiEV comes in at 3395mm long, 1475mm wide and 1810mm tall, and the tiny 12-inch wheels are located in each corner of the body to maximise the internal space.

It shares the exterior design with the conventional Mitsubishi Minicab CD van, and looks unmistakably Japanese with its short boxy stance and miniscule front.

The headlights are situated quite high up and work well with the rather blunt front-end. The grill is sealed and sports Mitsubishi’s iconic tri-diamond logo in chrome. There’s also a long, low bumper which has an opening for airflow to the left of the off-centred number plate housing.

The side profile is fairly basic, with just one accent line running the full length of the van from the headlights all the way to the tailgate. The side of the Minicab MiEV also houses the aforementioned blue decal of the plug and cord, which is complete with the Japanese words for ‘electric car’ - Denki jidōsha.

You’ll find a flap on each side of the car for charging. On the driver’s side there’s a Type 1 charge connection for which connects to a conventional wall socket (4-8 hrs), and the passenger side houses a CHAdeMO port for rapid charging of approximately 30 minutes.

Less Is More

The cockpit is a conventional and rather basic space, with the most modern feature probably being the dual airbags. Both the grey vinyl clad seats and the factory stereo are quite a throwback, with the latter only having an AM/FM function and a single integrated speaker in the head deck.

One of the most surprising aspects of the Minicab MiEV is the lack of electric windows, although we assume this is to prevent other electric components from further reducing the vehicle’s range.

The instrument cluster features three backlit LCD displays. In the centre is your speed display and on the left is what looks like a fuel gauge, but it actually measures your battery’s capacity. The final gauge on the right displays the range remaining. There’s also a needle mounted behind the speedometer which indicates real-time economy and charge when the vehicle is in operation.

The seats are firm, and even the smallest of people would find the cabin a bit too cosy. Oddly, the strut tower is visible from the cabin and you can physically touch the top of the shock absorber from the driver and front passenger seats.

Two conveniently large drink holders are mounted just in front of the air vents and there’s a conventional heater and air con set up with simplistic control dials. However, be warned that operating the heater halves your estimated range so it should only be used when necessary.

Getting the most out of the space

In the rear of the Mitsubishi Minicab MiEV is a foldout bench seat which works well when required, although we wouldn’t recommend sitting on it for long periods of time as it’s also rather firm.

When the bench is folded down, the cargo area is completely flat and easily accessible from the two sliding doors and a rear hatch. The loading area is conveniently quite low at 675mm, meaning it’s pretty easy to load heavier items. There’s surprisingly a lot more space than you’d expect for a vehicle with such small dimensions - the cargo width is 1370mm x 1830mm.

The salesperson said that Minicab MiEVs were particularly popular with businesses like boutique flower shops, and we could certainly see this van having many applications for short-haul deliveries.

Unexpected Performance

Well what can we say the performance? For starters, it’s not like any other EV we’ve tested. The power is reasonable, but is way behind marques like Tesla for staggering acceleration. Battery deterioration is common in used EVs, but in just eight years, the battery in the model we tested had degraded from 150km range to between 100 and 110km on a full charge.

You can use a conventional selector to choose from three driving modes: D, Eco, and B, which allows you to choose between normal operation, lower output/energy-saving mode, and increasing the regenerative brake bias respectively.

With its firm suspension, a wheel base of just 2390mm and the low centre of gravity, the Minicab MiEV feels like a go- kart and is highly nimble. Manoeuvring this van around city car parks is a piece of cake, and because you’re so close to the front of the car, you have pinpoint accuracy when tackling even the tightest of spaces.

With no load in the back, you can easily hear the electric motor spooling up in the rear where the entire drive unit is stored. It’s not a quiet EV inside, especially at higher speed.

Verdict

This is a vehicle like no other – it’s quirky and bizarre, yet very practical for the right person. It’s been a long time since Mitsubishi released a pure EV, and if this is anything to go by, we’re excited to see their future ventures.

Despite being designed primarily for the Japanese Domestic Market, we can see this model appealing to a lot of NZ inner city businesses who need a short range delivery vehicle and also want a more efficient van that helps you stand out from the crowd. 

Choosing your next used car?

A good start is to find a vehicle that is stocked by an AA Appraised Dealer. AA Appraised used cars have received a 43-point mechanical check by the AA, which focuses on the mechanical and safety aspects of the car and gives an overall evaluation of the vehicle.

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Thank you to AA Appraised Used Vehicle Dealer GVI for supplying us with the 2012 Mitusbishi Minicab MiEV for review.

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At a glance

Models

Mitsubishi Minicab MiEV (2012)

Date tested

13/8/2020

Price

$14,350 (+ORC)

Mileage 

42,756km

ANCAP safety rating

N/A

Transmission

Direct drive

Fuel economy (combined)

N/A

Towing capacity

N/A

2WD/4WD/AWD

2WD

Seating capacity

4

Luggage capacity/payload

350kg payload

Safety systems

  • Anti-lock Braking System (ABS)
  • Airbags (Driver/Passenger)
  • Traction Control (TCL)
  • Electronic Power Steering (EPS)
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