Has driven the i3 abroad, but he has brought it to the UK to see how it really stacks up against the elements, potholes... and drag race rivals
Matt Kimberley B
MW’s i3 should be a vitally important car in the future of electric vehicles. BMW is the first premium manufacturer to wade into this sector of the market with a car so small, and what’s more the marketing comes dangerously close to making you want one.
But great advertising should always be tempered by a bit of cold, hard research, which is why I’m standing outside a central London hotel, drinking in the i3’s oddball, but strangely cohesive, looks.
Well, I can’t see all of it because there’s a bit of a crowd, but it’s the sort of car that has the power to generate those.
I’m going to drive the RangeExtender hybrid version first, which is pricier than the allelectric model by a good few thousand notes but roughly doubles the latter’s range. Plus you can use regular filling stations as well as electric charging points.
It has a surprisingly big, supportive driver’s seat and huge, upgraded 20-inch alloy wheels, which help balance the visual proportions a little. They’re also improbably narrow, at just 145mm wide, which will make it difficult to source replacements. Put it this way: you’re not likely to find them on the shelf at Kwik Fit.
The dashboard trim is another unexpected twist. It’s made out of an eco-friendly recycled material that’s also very lightweight. That’s great for lowering energy usage, but if you already own a recent BMW model, don’t expect the i3’s interior to look or feel anything like the same. The contact points are still highquality, though, and I love the blue detailing on the steering wheel.
To give BMW its credit, the i3 is built in a very environmentally considerate way. No half-measures here.
The great-looking instrument cluster is a highlight, though, blending the familiar and the futuristic just about perfectly.
Between that and the instant, forceful acceleration on tap whenever you ask for it, I can easily see how handy the i3 would be in day-to-day biffing about town.
Brands Hatch is the destination today and out on the open road towards the circuit, the i3’s outright acceleration is only slightly dented, surging through 30mph and not really tailing off until 60mph or so. It’s fair to say the main hit comes between 20 and 40mph.
At Brands, half the track has been closed off especially for us to try the i3.
Throughout exercises to test the thoroughly impressive 9.86metre turning circle and the acceleration, where I manage to beat a track-ready BMW M3 in a 100-yard drag race, the i3 consistently impresses.