Ford Focus EV
Base price: $42,199
The two entries in this category were both electrics, one that looked the part – Mitsubishi's modernistic i-MiEV – and one that didn't, unless you spotted the "Electric" badges on the doors of Ford's Focus EV, which smoothly motored off with the winner's laurels.
Examples of both were hooked up to charging units (powered by a monster diesel generator) behind test vehicle HQ in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., on the rainy morning I was to drive them and the contrast in approach and philosophy was evident.
Ford took the "easy" and perhaps more sensible route to create a city-friendly electric, stuffing its latest stylish and practical Focus hatchback with a lithium-ion battery and electric motor. Mitsubishi created a purpose-built four-person electric that's considerably smaller, 3,675 mm long versus 4,359 mm for the five-passenger Focus, making it easier to manoeuvre and park, and has styling that's cartoony-cute and makes a more visible look-at-me-saving-the-planet statement.
The $42,629 (some of that sting eased by an Ontario government hand-out of $8,500) Focus, however, impressed the test team more in most areas. The 143-hp (kW equivalent) Focus out-accelerates the 66-hp Mitsu to 100 km/h, taking 10.5 versus 15.2 seconds and, despite being bigger and heavier, actually outscored the i-MiEV slightly in AJAC's adjusted fuel use rating. Useful range for both is about 100 km (presumably if you use a light foot, keep the radio volume low and don't use the turn signals too often) and charging time (using 240 volts) is in the three- to four-hour range for the Focus, a bit longer for the i-MiEV.
Driving the compact Focus was simply a more pleasant experience. The interior is roomy and nicely fitted out with sporty leather seats, no-expense-spared piano black plastic, and other amenities of a fairly pricey car. And it accelerates smoothly and quietly and at a rate that's more capable of keeping up with traffic. The ride is better and it's likely safer, too.
The only real downside is that, along with the Mitsu and Nissan's Leaf, the only other all-electrics available in Canada, you are tethered to a charging station stake that allows you to circulate only within constrained radius if you want to avoid battery anxiety.
Base price: $32,998
As tested price: $35,998
Mitsubishi's i-MiEV is the least-expensive way you can go electric in Canada, and looks like a high-tech electric city car should, short overall but tall and narrow and with styling that's distinctive. Its subcompact size limits seating to four, but fold the rear seat-backs and cargo space is substantial, and outward visibility is good. Clever design and the choice of fabric and materials make it livable inside if rather simply equipped. Its 66-hp/145-lb-ft of instantly available torque let it step off briskly enough, and it is agile at city speeds. The short wheelbase makes the ride a bit choppy, but parking a snap.