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

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Kentmotors -

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.

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