Our Rating



Very high quality and good performance, at a price.

BMW's electric city car is available in two forms. One has a little two-cylinder engine which charges the battery pack when asked to and should put at ease the minds of potential customers suffering from range anxiety.The BEV tested here is the other one. There's no engine, so the only way to charge its battery is to plug it into the mains. BMW quotes a range of "up to 100 miles", but as with all electric cars, and indeed cars in general, this is dependent on many factors. Basically, though, it's less suitable for long journeys than the range-extender model is.My main problem with the i3 is that I feel it has been drastically over-styled. BMW's design department seems uncomfortable with anything smaller than a 3-Series, tending to pack in more visual elements than the size of the car can bear. I have always thought this when a 1-Series comes in to view, and I think it twice as much with regard to the i3.Another issue - partially assuaged by the fact that you don't have to pay congestion charges or Vehicle Excise Duty - is that it's awfully expensive. Without frills, it costs £30,680, and BMW loaded the test car with enough extras to push the figure up to £37,285. Okay, the UK Government pays for the first £5000 in each case, but that grant would have to be more than doubled to match the price of the most expensive (and similarly sized) Ford Fiesta.On the other hand, the i3 is very obviously a quality product. The interior materials and the way they're applied do a very good job of convincing you that you should indeed have paid at least £25,000 (after the grant has been applied), and while the styling is nearly as over-the-top indoors as outdoors it's at least a good deal more adventurous than we've come to expect from BMW.And then there's the noise level. It's easy to assume that electric vehicles are silent because they don't have engines, but it just ain't so. Smaller ones in particular can make quite a racket, what with the whine of the motor and the more than usually obvious road noise and so on. In the i3 this is all superbly suppressed.The driving experience will be familiar if you've already driven electric cars, with one very obvious exception. Lifting off the accelerator turns the motor into a generator with unusual force, and you get so much deceleration that you can go from town speeds to an absolute standstill without touching the other pedal.In the opposite situation, if you want acceleration you can have a lot of it. The motor is surprisingly powerful, and can push the i3 up to 62mph from a standing start in just 7.2 seconds. That's junior hot hatch stuff.At 260 litres, the luggage compartment is only moderately useful considering the overall size of the car, and although there's plenty of room for four-sized adults it requires some athleticism to get into the back thanks to the rear-hinged doors which start some way forward of the seats. Shorter people may be able to maintain some level of elegance as they climb in, but I had to start the process by pointing my toosh into the gap and basically falling backwards, and I was glad there was no one around to watch this happening. Engine Electric motor Power 168bhp Transmission 1-speed Acceleration 0-62mph: 7.2 seconds Top speed 93mph Price £30,680 Details correct at publication date

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