BMW: 2015 i3 review

BMW: 2015 i3 review

Let me preface this review of the new i3 with the following disclaimer.

I fell in love with this electric car from the BMW stable. I loved the design, the lightly coloured interior, the technology, the driving characteristics, the carbon fibre and plastic construction and the ability to run on renewable energy and not go near a petrol station too often.

In the few memorable days I drove the i3, I never used a single drop of petrol in the range extender.

2015 BMW i3 at charge stationBetween charging the car up at the quick charge facilities offered in the Auckland Transport downtown carpark, and the charging facility at Sylvia Park one evening, I never managed to use more than 50km worth of stored electric energy in a journey.

Now just imagine if everyone (like myself) who lives and works within a 25km radius of the Auckland 2015 BMW i3CBD could do that. We’d have a really good use for all of our off-peak hydro electricity that goes to waste.

And think of all the emissions that wouldn’t harm the atmosphere or kill people off.

These are also some of the reasons this car has also made the top ten list of finalists for the New Zealand Car of the Year Award, which the New Zealand Motoring Writer’s Guild is announcing on 2015 BMW i3 side profileDecember 9 at an evening cocktail function in Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour.

Yes, it is small, yes it is not exactly cheap at $83,500, yes, it is more of an urban vehicle than a long distance one.

It won’t suit everyone, and it is not the magic bullet to saving the planet, but it is a very good start.

Despite the obvious limitations of such a vehicle, I still loved it. Mostly, because it was fun to drive, 2015 BMW i3 rear 3:4easy to park, and quite practical, the rear seats backs fold flat and turn the i3 into quite a decent load carrier.

It also converted my car-loving petrol-headed mate Steve Simms, aka, the TV3 gadget guy.

After a quick blast from our respective CBD offices down to Tamaki Drive and back, he was ready and primed to trade in his petrol-powered five-year-old BMW 7 series.

2015 BMW i3 side doors open“My wife has an X5 diesel as our family wagon, so I don’t need a big car any longer for my daily commute, and this one seriously impresses me,” he said.

You can read about our market earlier response and impressions here too.

So what was so impressive? The driving experience is whisper quiet; there is a little bit of wind whistle and tyre roar but the progress from zero to 100kph 2015 BMW i3 Lodge interior trimand beyond is virtually silent.

The other characteristic that impresses is the energy retardation when lifting off the accelerator; the i3 has a very strong ‘engine braking’ feel as the inverter charges the batteries.

Once a driver becomes familiar with the power take of and delivery from the i3, it becomes very easy to drive the car on the throttle alone and very rarely touch the brake pedal.

2015 BMW i3 on location doors openIn true BMW fashion, the electric motor drives the rear wheels of the i3 and imbues the car with the typical ultimate driving machine character beloved of the brand.

The generator and range extender hides under the boot floor, but the weight distribution is such that it feels almost like a go-kart to drive, and zipping through city traffic has never been so much fun.

The compact dimensions of the i3 coupled with its commanding driving position let you nip into spaces other drivers wouldn’t contemplate.

Owners will also love the park assistance package for urban use.

By simply engaging the system when looking for a parking space and by using the indicator, and holding down the park distance control button, the i3 will ease itself into a car parallel park.

It does a much better job than any human can, you simply hold a button, the car will steer, reverse, accelerate forward and the backwards as required all by itself until it is satisfied the manoeuvre is completed.

The BMW i3 fully charges in three to six hours via a BMW i wall box home charger, which provides up to 150km of driving range when using purely electric power. The 2-Cylinder 650cc range extender engine increases the driving range of the car to 340km.

To maximise its battery efficiency and preserve power, the i3 has an Eco Pro and Eco Pro + setting in addition to the normal comfort mode.

Eco Pro retards the available power on tap and places a speed restriction of 100kph, and the Eco Pro + further retards acceleration, dispenses with the air conditioning, and sets a speed restriction of 90kph.

I cycled through the three settings but spent most of the time in comfort mode because I enjoyed the cars dynamic ability and power delivery.

The test car pictured here featured the Lodge Interior with wool/cloth/leather upholstery and eucalyptus fine-wood trim, and the full BMW connected drive package, which offers greater connectivity between car and driver and the internet.

BMW offers a five-year vehicle warranty, an eight-year battery warranty, a three-year service plan and a five-year roadside assistance package with all new i3 cars sold here.

As I said earlier, the i3 won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

However with more and more people moving into terrace housing and apartments in our cities or on the city fringes, compact electric cars such as the i3 are going to become the norm and not the exception.

This one gets a 5 out of 5 ranking too. My first yet on a Car and SUV review.

Price: $83,500


  • Bristling with technology
  • Does everything a good urban car should
  • Fun to drive, safe as houses
  • Cheap as chips to run


  • Exterior design won’t suit all
  • Not yet affordable for people who really need it

Words and local pictures:

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