BMW ADDS MORE POWER AND RANGE TO THE I3 E-CAR

The BMW i3 94Ah brings more to the range of the orig­i­nal car with even more pow­er­ful bat­ter­ies

Belfast Telegraph - NI Carfinder - - Front Page - BY JAMES FOSS­DYKE

BMW i3 94AH WHAT’S NEW?

At first glance, it’s just an­other i3, and if you look at the oily bits un­der­neath you’d still be hard-pushed to spot the dif­fer­ence, but this i3 has a se­cret that’s quite lit­er­ally been tucked away un­der the car­pet.

As ever, there’s a bank of bat­ter­ies in the car’s floor, but the 94Ah suf­fix de­notes the amount of power those bat­ter­ies can store. Whereas the stan­dard i3 only holds 60Ah, the 94Ah model holds half that much again, and that means the range has in­creased by 50% to 195 miles. If you go for the ver­sion with the petrol-pow­ered range ex­ten­der, though, BMW says you’ll be look­ing at squeez­ing 276 miles from a sin­gle charge.

But de­spite the ex­tra range, the new bat­tery fits in ex­actly the same box as its pre­de­ces­sor, so there’s no vis­i­ble dif­fer­ence. In fact, BMW will even let you swap out an old 60Ah bat­tery and re­place it with a 94Ah one. It’s a quick job - BMW say it’s around an hour and a half’s work - but it is costly. In­clud­ing tax, the Ger­man com­pany es­ti­mates it’ll set you back around 9,000 Eu­ros (about £7,600).

LOOKS AND IM­AGE

The i3’s looks have al­ways been di­vi­sive, but even its big­gest crit­ics wouldn’t hes­i­tate to call it strik­ing. Even though it makes very lit­tle in the way of noise, it’s a car peo­ple will still turn around to look at.

Inside, it con­tin­ues the left-field look, but it’s strong on its en­vi­ron­men­tal cre­den­tials. The plas­tics on the dash­board and door cards, for ex­am­ple, are made from plant fi­bres, and there’s any num­ber of re­cy­cled bits and bobs lurk­ing in other ar­eas. Whether they love it or hate it, who­ever comes along for a ride will cer­tainly have an opin­ion.

SPACE AND PRAC­TI­CAL­ITY

For all the i3’s tech­nol­ogy, it isn’t ac­tu­ally that prac­ti­cal a car. Al­though it’s tall - it’s ac­tu­ally about the size of a high-rid­ing Ford Fi­esta - the boot mea­sures just 260 litres, so it’s less than you’ll find in the back of a VW Polo.

There’s plenty of head­room in the rear, though, and even if the legroom is a lit­tle lim­ited, ac­cess is made sim­ple by the so-called ‘sui­cide’ rear doors. They can only be opened after the front doors, and they open the other way, mean­ing there’s no B-pil­lar to ob­struct you as you try to get in or out.

BE­HIND THE WHEEL

With the ex­tra power ca­pac­ity, the 94Ah i3 cer­tainly of­fers an ex­tended range. The quoted 195-mile strik­ing dis­tance is prob­a­bly a tad am­bi­tious, es­pe­cially if your right foot be­comes leaden or you try keep­ing up with traf­fic on a mo­tor­way, but you shouldn’t have too much trou­ble get­ting 140 or per­haps 150 miles from it.

If you do get the urge to bury your right foot in the bulk­head, though, you’ll find there’s no im­prove­ment in per­for­mance, but then the i3 never has been a slouch. The sprint from 0-62mph takes 7.3 sec­onds - much the same as a Mazda MX-5 - and the buck­ets of torque pro­duced by the elec­tric mo­tor make it feel even faster.

Through the corners, its height and front-wheel drive lay­out make it roll and un­der­steer if you get a bit too en­thu­si­as­tic, but the trade-off is ride qual­ity. It’s a com­fort­able ma­chine, with sus­pen­sion that’s firm with­out be­ing jar­ring, and soft seats that of­fer more sup­port than you’d ex­pect just from look­ing at them.

VALUE FOR MONEY

Prices start from £27,830, in­clud­ing the govern­ment’s £4,500 grant, but if you can’t get the grant - for what­ever rea­son - you’ll be look­ing at a bill for about £32,000. Opt for the range ex­ten­der, and that will rise to more than £35,000. Which­ever way you cut it, that’s a lot of money.

But con­sid­er­ing that the i3’s clos­est ri­val, the top-of-the-range Nis­san LEAF, is only a cou­ple of thou­sand pounds more ex­pen­sive, but is far less of a pre­mium prod­uct and has a shorter range, it looks like rel­a­tively good value.

WHO WOULD BUY ONE?

The i3 is a great sec­ond car for any­one who reg­u­larly drives into the city cen­tre, but even with the ex­tra range, it’s of lim­ited use as a tourer. Still, if you want a nippy, en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly hatch­back to com­ple­ment your main set of wheels, but don’t want to sac­ri­fice the pre­mium feel, BMW has built the car for you.

THE i3’s LOOKS HAVE AL­WAYS BEEN DI­VI­SIVE, BUT EVEN ITS BIG­GEST CRIT­ICS WOULDN’T HES­I­TATE TO CALL IT STRIK­ING.

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