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BMW i3 review - the ultimate commuting machine?
BMW's i3 city car was one of two new vehicles to launch the Bavarian 'i' brand - alongside the seminal i8 sports car. While the latter is more of an evo kind of car, the i3 still holds a lot of appeal, especially for those that spend most of their time in a big city.
It looks like nothing else on the road, has a surprisingly spacious and yet genuinely interesting cabin plus the instantaneous maximum torque makes it a hoot to drive - albeit in an urban environment. The only thing holding it back is its ultimate range - as with nearly all electric cars.
We'd be flabbergasted to find a BMW i3 buyer that doesn't have a smartphone, so assuming you do, it's worth installing the bespoke BMW i Remote app, as it enhances the ownership experience no end. A particularly useful feature is remotely checking how a charge is getting on, while it's also possible to pre-set the climate control temperature for when you return to the car. There's also what BMW claims to be a world first intermodal route planning system - i.e. it'll guide you whether you're in the car, on foot or using public transport... perish the thought.
If you like the idea of further range in the i3, BMW will happily sell you one with a 'range extender' engine built in that can generate electricity when the battery charge runs out. Great in theory as it nearly doubles the effective range, but that still means less than 200 miles as the fuel tank for this engine is tiny - and the extra weight means a reduced electric-only range. It does make the i3 more usable for more people, but it also comes at a hefty £3100 premium over the already expensive base model.
Company buyers tempted by the zero-rated Benefit in Kind of all-electric vehicles should also note that the model with the range extender attracts five per cent BIK as it has an official emissions rating of 13g/km. Still, a combined economy figure of 470.8mpg is interesting...
Performance and 0-60mph time > Instant electric torque makes the i3 quite brisk despite its unusual proportions - 62mph arrives in 7.2sec, or 7.9sec for the slightly heavier range-extended model.
Engine and gearbox > Only the range-extender car actually has an 'engine' - both use a 168bhp electric motor for propulsion, through a single-speed reduction gearbox. The battery is a 22kWh lithium-ion pack.
Ride and handling > It doesn't feel much like a traditional BMW, but the i3 is nicely balanced, if lacking outright grip. Ride is very firm, given its city car aspirations.
MPG and running costs > A full charge is unlikely to cost you more than about £3, for around 80-100 miles of driving. Range-extender uses fuel too, but not much of it, and goes further.
Prices, specs and rivals > The government's £5000 plug-in car grant makes the all-electric i3 a £25,980 car. Options can be expensive, but rivals are few and far between.
Interior and tech > One of the i3's true highlights. Interior looks and feels great - truly a product from the future. Interior 'world' options make it even better.
Design > The i3's looks will divide opinion for some time to come, but it stands out on the road more than most supercars.