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

CAR (UK) - - Our Cars - @TimPol­lardCars

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

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