Mitsubishi Sets $27,990 Price for Electric i Car, But Read Fine Print

By · April 22, 2011

Mitsubushi i cars on lot

Good news about EV affordability, but premium trim levels bring price close to Nissan LEAF

Mitsubishi announced Thursday that its “i” electric car—formerly named i-MiEV—will have an MSRP of $27,990 (excluding destination charges), making it the most affordable mass-market electric vehicle available to U.S. consumers. This price is for the base ES trim level.

The company begins taking orders today, with the first deliveries scheduled for January 2012. Prospective buyers will make a $299 deposit, plus $99 for a home inspection related to installation of charging equipment. Mitsubishi will waive the home electrical inspection fee for the first 2,000 potential buyers who sign up at i.mitsubishicars.com. Detailed information about pricing and the ordering process is described on that site and in a Mitsubishi press release.

"We want to penetrate this market and need to be competitive on pricing," said Yoichi Yokozawa, Mitsubishi’s North American chief executive, at the 2011 New York International Auto Show. After buyers take advantage of a $7,500 federal tax credit, the effective price is close to $20,490—dropping into the mid-teen range in California, where a $5,000 immediate rebate is available to purchasers of a pure electric car.

The i is a small electric car with about 80 miles range and a top speed of 80 miles per hour. Mitsubishi’s competitive price stands in sharp contrast to hefty price tags for other small EVs—such as the Smart ED that leases for $599 a month, and the Think City priced somewhere between $34,000 and $41,000. The Mitsubishi i is slightly larger than those two cars, and seats four passengers, where the Smart and Think are two-seaters.

Read the Fine Print

While the base level i sets a new lower benchmark for EV affordability, a closer look at features and trim levels shows a price relatively close to the LEAF (and probably the Ford Focus Electric)—vehicles with more space, power and range. Focus Electric pricing has not yet been announced.

The base model Mitsubishi i ES includes speed-sensitive electric power steering (EPS), LED rear tail lamps, driver seat heater, electric air conditioning with micron filter, remote keyless entry, 3-spoke sport steering wheel, an on-board recharging system with 120V portable 8 amp charging cable, and a 4 speaker, 100-watt AM/FM/CD audio system with MP3/WMA playback.

The price for the i climbs from $27,990 to $29,990, when adding a 360-watt, eight-speaker sound system, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, upscale upholstery, two-tone interior, 15-inch alloy wheels, and fog lamps. Add another $2,790 for the SE premium package—putting the price to $32,790—to get a navigation system, a rearview camera, Bluetooth, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, and a quick-charge port. An available "Cold Zone" package will be offered on both the ES and SE trim levels of the Mitsubishi i for $150. It includes a battery warming system and heated outside mirrors.

The i SE package is 10 bucks more than the base-level Nissan LEAF SV, with an MSRP of $32,780, which offers a navigation system, Bluetooth, satellite radio, and stability/traction control. The LEAF SL goes to $33,720 when including a photovoltaic solar panel spoiler, rearview camera, automatic on/off headlights, cargo cover, and Homelink universal transceiver.

The key difference in cost between the two EVs could be the onboard quick charger, which is included in the Mitsubishi i’s $32,790 SE premium package—but the quick charge port is only available on the Nissan LEAF’s premium SL package at an additional $700, lifting the price to $34,720.

The other major distinction could be availability. Mitsubishi’s Yokozawa said the initial goal is to deliver about 2,000 units of the i, and later expand to between 20,000 and 30,000 units per year. Nissan is already delivering that quantity in the U.S., plans to steadily ramp up production, and aims to sell 500,000 units globally in the next few years.

New to EVs? Start here

  1. Seven Things To Know About Buying a Plug-In Car
    A few simple tips before you visit the dealership.
  2. Incentives for Plug-in Hybrids and Electric Cars
    Take advantage of credits and rebates to reduce EV costs.
  3. Buying Your First Home EV Charger
    You'll want a home charger. Here's how to buy the right one.