THIS IS WHY WE CHALLENGED A GROUP OF ENTHUSIASTIC BLOGGERS TO CHANGE THEIR WAY OF THINKING ABOUT MOTORING, BY SPENDING THE WEEKEND WITH OUR ALL-ELECTRIC FAVORITE!
"Overall, we really enjoyed the experience with the i3. It gives you a totally different perspective on motoring. We were very impressed by the drive ability and how easy it was to become used to the electric motor and regenerative braking.
Range: It was difficult to get away from the range anxiety, as we're used to being able to drive anywhere without too much planning. We did think carefully about how far we could go, but luckily the sat nav was very helpful in showing the closest charging stations to our destination. I think with a home charging point, it would be relatively easy to adapt to life with the car, if you can keep it topped up at night.
Safety: The lofty driving position is likely to appeal to families and those who spend a lot of time driving in cities. Rear parking sensors worked well, although I would prefer to specify front ones as well to make the small spaces a little easier. We couldn't comment on child seats but there certainly seemed to be enough space in the back for mischief!
Aesthetics: The i3 certainly stands out on the road, especially in the Aberdeen area, where it's all white Audis as you said! The colour wasn't to our taste, and the front styling would take some getting used to. The car is definitely still a statement purchase, I would be interested to see BMW apply the innovative technology to a more conventional bodystyle, like the 1 or 2 series. As for the interior, I thought the use of different materials was funky, but I'm not sure I could live with it. Again, it's a choice to make, but I think anyone used to BMW interiors might find it difficult to give up the high quality leather!
I have to say that the info screens were very clear and easy to read. Very important given the need to check the range a bit more often! The iDrive etc was very familiar, although the column mounted "gear" lever took some getting used to, especially since it was backwards!
Drive: I was most surprised by how fast the car was. The power delivery was instant, different to anything I've experienced before. I nearly got caught out a few times by the speed! In an urban setting, the combination of instant speed and light steering was a winner, especially darting round busy roundabouts and junctions. But you would need to be careful with pedestrians, since the car is so quiet.
On dual carriageways and country roads, the drive was smooth, quiet and relaxing. I certainly wasn't worried about keeping up with the traffic.
Charging was an interesting experience. We didn't try to charge the car at our house, but used local charging stations and stations in public car parks. The charge card was fairly easy to use, although we were a bit cautious with the cables at first. My only concern would be some stations seemed to charge at different speeds.
I would recommend the car to those who spend most of their time in the city. We frequently travel to see relatives and friends in Glasgow, so I'm not sure it could fit into our lifestyle with the current range capability. However, the price is competitive and I think it could the perfect car for a young professional looking to move about the city."
A couple of months ago I saw a post on Facebook asking people to review the BMW i3 and my immediate reaction was that I would rather sit on a cactus. There was a good reason for that reaction: I'm a petrolhead through and through and have been since I was a boy. If it has an engine then I'm into it and that applies especially to cars - the bigger the engine the better. So the i3 to me was the antichrist, it was the unwelcome symbol of the end of the glorious age of horsepower from hydrocarbons.
Soon enough, we'd all be driving horrible little cars like the i3 I thought, devoid of the rush of blood to the head as you sink your right foot and hear the engine burst into life, accompanied by a rasp of the exhaust. That thought filled me with dread and needless to say I wanted to hate the i3. I wanted it to be miserable, underwhelming and completely useless as an everyday car so that I could laugh in the face of electric cars and sleep easy knowing the combustion engine would rule for a long while yet. So on a scale of 1 to 10 I would put my perception of the i3 before getting hold of it as a 2 at best.
So, now you know where I am coming from I better tell you what it was like. I'll make clear now that I tried to put all of my preconceptions to one side at least temporarily, to give the i3 a fighting chance...
The first thing that strikes you about the i3 before setting foot in it is the way it looks.
To this day I can't make up my mind about whether it is modern and edgy or just plain ugly. Without an engine there is no need for a big bonnet, so it has a stumpy front end and is deceptively tall which makes it a bit boxy.
BMW has tried to counter this with two tone body work (black and silver on my model) which actually works really well and adds to its futuristic appearance. It also sat on large 18" black and silver diamond cut wheels which were pretty cool too. If you have ever seen the pods at Heathrow that take you from the car park to the terminal the i3 looks like one of them riding on cool wheels. Over the course of the weekend I found myself thinking that I liked the way it looked, only to change my mind 10 mins later when I looked at it again from a different angle. It certainly isn't a bland car to look at and in my view the world needs more cars that stand out, so you can make up your own mind as to whether it looks good or not.
Stepping inside was a novel experience as well. The cabin was clean, uncluttered and the dash simple yet modern. What really surprised me was the airy spaciousness which is down to its boxy shape - it comfortably seats four people. My model had the panoramic sunroof too which meant the cabin was flooded with light and made it quite a nice place to be. The only let down was the appearance of some of the recycled materials used in the cabin on my model which may be environmentally friendly but looked pretty awful and cheap.
Now for the most important bit: the driving experience. The first thing to say is that this little thing is rapid off the line, and I mean rapid! Put your foot down from a standing start and it takes off like a lightning bolt, surging forward with just the feintest whirr from the electric motor. It's so addictive that I found myself catapulting away from every set of traffic lights and leaving everything else in my wake. Great fun but I paid the price for my lead foot as I ran out of range almost as quickly as I could accelerate to 30mph...and that leads me on to this car's biggest failing, the range.
Having stepped inside the car and clocked a 75 mile range I thought that wasn't too bad, but alas it didn't last long. I quickly developed range anxiety and was constantly checking how many miles I had left until I needed to charge. The first day I had it I took the car to Newmachar, Kintore and then back into Aberdeen which is the type of driving most people in and around Aberdeen would do - a mix of country and city. It proved a bit much for the little i3 to handle though as I was running seriously low on juice by late Saturday afternoon. Not to worry I thought, the council and has installed loads of charging points around Aberdeen so I'll nip to one of them and top up. Easier said than done...I tried three, yes three, separate charging points around Aberdeen and didn't get a single amp of electricity. Two of the points weren't compatible with the standard 13 amp socket that the i3 comes with (although I understand you can purchase alternative sockets as an optional extra) and the other charger, which was supposed to be a rapid one (c. 40 mins for 80% charge) was broken. So a lot of time wasted and i had no juice left. That was a problem as I needed to go back to Kintore again.
Step forward the range extender petrol motor. Hiding beneath the boot floor of this model is the optional extra 2 cylinder petrol engine which kicks in a low range to recharge the battery. It's a bit of a lifesaver and gave me an extra 60 miles or so of range, more than enough to get me around for the rest of the day until I found a charging point that worked. The only downside was it sounded like there was a lawnmower in the boot but it maybe seemed worse than it was because I had become so used to absolute silence!
What I would say about the driving experience is that it lacks the drama and thrill that you get from the combustion engine. If you enjoy driving a big part of the appeal is the roar of an engine and a snarling exhaust but both of these things are absent on the i3. Yes it is fast, but it didn't get the blood pumping as much as I would have liked because the speed was so effortless and silent. I guess the i3 is not designed to be a sports car however, for that you'll need an i8 (so I am told... maybe one day I'll get one of those for the weekend)
The next day it was time to hand the i3 back. I really did enjoy my time with it but was glad to get back behind the wheel of my own car. I said at the outset that I wanted to hate the i3 but am happy to report that I didn't, it was a much more impressive package than I had expected. The technology is clearly in its early stages and requires further development to improve the range to make this a truly useable every day car, particularly if you live in a semi-rural location. I think things will move on fast over the next 10 years and that doesn't fill me with the same level of dread that it did before I set foot in the i3. My initial rating of the car was a 2/10 but in a short time with it that has gone up to a solid 6 which is no mean feat and high praise indeed coming from me! There will always be a place on my driveway for a big gas guzzler but I'm now much more open to an electric car or hybrid being parked next to it. I was asked to describe the i3 in three words so i'll sign off with those: novel, nascent, nippy!