Bridging the gap between worlds
The i3 is a gateway EV, able to deliver old-school thrills in a clean, green way. By Tim Pollard
THIS MONTH’S BIG PICTURE is what the i3 is all about: it’s a reminder that electric cars can be fun to drive! This is heartening news in an age where it’s easy to be sucked into a vortex of negativity about the future of motoring, automotive pleasures as know them crippled by taxation, emissions, congestion and headline-grabbing ministers pledging to eradicate every trace of internal combustion by 2040.
You see, the BMW i3 is a stepping-stone car – a product bridging the gap between yesteryear and the brave new world of tomorrow. No wonder it’s won an evangelical following all of its own in the four years it’s been on sale.
Browse the internet and you’ll find numerous groups on Facebook and elsewhere dedicated to the electric BMW i cars. And quite a few of them have been corresponding with me to share their experiences.
That’s Steve Clarke below, who chose a 94Ah range-extender like ours ahead of a Tesla Model S. He took out a two-year PCP and haggled an additional £3500 discount on top of the government’s plug-in grant, with attractive zero per cent finance. Saving £8k on an i3 sounds like a cracking deal to us.
‘I love it, it’s great to drive,’ says Steve, who lives in Wales. ‘City driving is fun again, it’s so easy to drive and manoeuvre. The steering is light; initially I was concerned about this when I had a test drive, but once you get used to it, it’s less tiring. It still feels very involving to drive and still feels like a BMW. This is my ninth BMW.’
Another Munich loyalist is Robert Baldrey from Cambridgeshire, who’s owned 5-series and X5s before. ‘I was using my 520d for work and we found we were spending around £180 a week on diesel between the two cars! I started to look at ways we could bring the fuel bill down and really liked the look of the i3.’
One year later, Robert reports that his electricity bill has gone up about £50 a month after installing the official BMW wallbox. But he’s crunched the maths and reckons he’s spent £600 on electricity for 20,000 miles – around 3p per mile. Result? A net saving of nearly £4000 a year compared with his conventional fleet.
Both readers rave about the pre-conditioning feature that lets you warm up the cabin in advance – a godsend in winter. Robert, who also owns a Porsche 964 Turbo, likes the i3’s acceleration (‘ridiculously addictive’), while the taxi-spec turning circle remains a favourite party trick.
What would they improve? The lack of a fifth rear seat is a grumble, while the wobbly cold-weather grip and feeble air-con are singled out for criticism by Robert. And Steve bemoans the (optional) rear-view camera that gets filthy too quickly.
But it’s clear these early adopters love their i3s. And so do we.
Reader Steve Clarke (above) and Robert Baldrey’s leet