Final report: Bonnets up!

Summer has finally arrived – well it would appear so by the amount of dead insects on the windscreen and front of my BMW. A couple of wipe downs when parked have been successful at clearing them off the paintwork and lights of the i4. However, as expected, the windscreen has proved more troublesome. No problem, I thought. I’ll just break out the windscreen wipers and washers whilst on the move. Then it happened on the third squirt, a warning light sprung up on the driver’s display telling me that the washer bottle was almost dry!

First thought is: What size is this BMW’s washer bottle? After all, I’ve had this car since the end of January and not filled it up in almost six-months! The next thought is how do I fill up said washer bottle, which, after looking in the owner’s manual, involves opening the i4’s bonnet. The double catch almost had me, but once open, it was easy to see the top of the washer bottle with its light blue cap on the right of all the plastic internals. One jug of water and screen wash mix later, we were back in business, ready for what is likely to be another 4,000 miles of driving – although not to be enjoyed by me! 


Only after I’d securely shut the BMW’s bonnet, did it dawn on me the change in importance of previous maintenance parts of a car, as they have become more sophisticated. About 20 years ago, you’d think nothing of popping the bonnet of a car at least monthly – just to check the oil and anti-freeze levels. With an electric car there’s no engine, so the only reason to open an EV’s bonnet is to fill up the water bottle – or maybe put away the charging cables if there’s a frunk! 

No wonder duty of care issues continue to be a talking point for fleet. I’ve certainly done what I can to the BMW, including regularly checking the tyre pressures. 

My last month with this BMW has also given me the chance to compare another rival with it. This time, it’s the latest model in Hyundai’s Ioniq family – the Ioniq 6 – this time in Ultimate single motor form. 

While you can’t mistake the BMW’s look for any other model, it doesn’t stand out as an EV (which I like). The Ioniq 6 is something different, with its ‘streamliner’ fastback design. Is it just me, or does the back of this Hyundai look a bit Porsche 911-ish, with its rear spoiler and light bar? 

There’s more rear space in the Ioniq 6, but to clarify, what you gain in legroom in the Hyundai, you lose in headroom – thanks to that curvy roofline. The shape also compromises the boot opening more than the i4’s standard tailgate. 

In the real world, this Hyundai’s range seems to be on a similar level to the BMW. But as good as the drive is, it can’t match the keener, more involving ICE-power feel to the BMW. Although, this might not bother all drivers, I’ll admit that with the  20in wheels, the Hyundai doesn’t offer the composed ride of the BMW either. 

The Hyundai is more proof that there’s now a fine choice of EV models priced over £40,000, making it even more difficult to choose our favourite – although I’m looking forward to the debate on this category in this year’s judging for the Business Car Awards. 

As far as this i4 is concerned, it’s the best EV I’ve run to date, and rivals are going to have to be very good to beat its package of great range, keen dynamics, and reasonable practicality. It will be very hard to say goodbye to this BMW. 

5th Report: Positives and negatives

As I write I’ve got just under a month left with our i4 40 M Sport, so with almost 4,000 miles in my care I think it’s time to highlight my likes and dislikes of this mid-size premium hatch. 

Firstly, let’s start with the looks. BMW’s current big grille family look might not appeal to all, but the i4 and 4 Series Grand Coupe on which it is based, must be two of the best looking from the current crop. The fact the i4 is so closely related to its ICE brother means it’s hard to tell them apart – which is a good thing, if like me you don’t want to shout about the fact, you’re driving an electric car. 

San Remo green paint at £695, is one of the few options fitted to this car, but it looks stunning (especially when clean) and has received many positive comments throughout my time with this car. The standard 19in ‘Y-Spoke’ wheels are a modest size but suit the car and have equalled a comfortable and composed ride – even if they are difficult to clean. My only minor dislikes are the standard LED headlights which are nothing special and I’ve found BMW’s flush-fitting door handles difficult to open at times. 

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Inside, the i4 isn’t as spacious as it could be admittedly. Rear and boot space are the most compromised, but I’ve got two growing children and have had no moans from them throughout my time with this car. And apart from not being able to fit a roof lining from one of my MINIs in the boot, there have been no issues with stowage. The i4’s curved display, made up of screens for the infotainment and instruments, didn’t take long to get used to, as BMW’s iDrive remains one of the best on the market in my opinion – it has let me down only once so far and has got me out of many fixes on navigation routes. Although the instrument graphics are sometimes hard to read and the lack of physical buttons for the air conditioning leads to unsightly fingerprints on the bottom of the screen. 

On the positive side, the driving position and the sport seats that are part of the M Sport trim are very comfortable – even on long drives and the Vernasca leather has proved hard-wearing. The standard fit Harman Kardon sound system delivers excellent sound quality. 

I have no complaints about the way this i4 drives, either. I don’t know how BMW have done it, but unlike many EV rivals, they’ve cleverly managed to hide this car’s two-tonne plus weight. As such, it’s great fun to drive, but especially in the corners, where you can make the most of the high grip levels and precise steering. With 335hp and 430Nm from the rear-mounted electric motor, I’ve never felt the i4’s been short of power and the refined and composed ride has also impressed.

With the recent warm weather, we’ve regularly seen 300+ mile charges, but even when we’ve not, it’s been far more predictable than other EVs I’ve run – making it far less stressful day-to-day. 

It is not a cheap option, but in my view, the i4 must be one of the best EVs on sale today and fully deserving of its Business Car Award last year – I’m really going to miss it when it’s gone.

4th Report: Making green great (again!)

I’m still not convinced Spring has finally sprung, but more sun and warmer temperatures mean the range is certainly creeping up on my BMW i4 – the most being more than 250 miles from a home charge. This is helpful, as in the past month I’ve put over 1,000 easy miles under the wheels of this car. I’ve been as far as nearly Bristol for work, although I must admit destination charging has been my friend, as on one occasion it gave me the confidence to make three stops – including home – before ending up at Heathrow the night before catching a flight.

Sadly, all the previous EVs I’ve been lucky enough to run for Business Car have suffered the odd electrical glitch, mostly as the result of being parked up for a few days in cold weather. So, I’ve been pleased that the BMW hadn’t suffered warning lights crying wolf, or slow sat-nav. 

That was until I got back to the i4, which had been parked in a warm underground hotel car park for a couple of nights. I input the sat-nav, chose my music, and all seemed well until I reached the pay booth near the exit – then I had to turn the BMW off! Anyway, I exited the car park, and all seemed well. It was only when I joined the road leading to the M25, that I noticed that the 14.9in infotainment screen wasn’t working – although oddly it was still streaming the music off my phone! 


Previous experience suggests that stopping and restarting usually resolves these faults, but despite stop-start traffic giving me the opportunity to turn the i4 on and off, I thought it would be safer not to – just in case this BMW refused to restart in a lane on the M25 because of a bigger problem! Good thing I knew my way home from Heathrow, as despite my hopes that the screen might come back to life during my trip, it stayed stubbornly dead! 

More worryingly, when home, the screen still refused to power up after turning this car on and off. Then, just as I was considering a call to BMW Roadside Assistance, it finally booted up and the map was there on the working screen – just like nothing had happened! Anyway, I’ve been mindful of this car doing the same again, but so far so good. I’ve not been able to replicate this fault – thank goodness, but it has made me think and I will continue to keep an eye on it.

The fact that Spring hasn’t really sprung, as I mentioned above, is my main excuse why this BMW has only received one wash since it has been in my care. However, I’m pleased to say that inclement May Bank Holiday weather gave me no excuse not to make the metallic ‘San Remo Green’ great again. Anyway, despite being covered in two months of grime, the metallic finish quickly looked sharp – although it also revealed some damage which I can only assume came from a careless fellow traveller’s case. Still, I’m pleased to say these easily lifted with a bit of compound and polish. 

Three months have flown by already and electrical glitch aside, I’m already beginning to dread the time when the i4 returns to BMW – it’s such a complete and likeable EV.

3rd Report: Taking the long route

Just half an hour after finalising the last page of the March issue, I was in the driver seat of this BMW facing rush hour traffic and a 188 mile trip to Worcester, to interview a company MD for a future issue the next day. 

The date might have suggested spring, but just two days before this trip I was defrosting snow from the i4’s windows. So, I was grateful for the BMW’s mid-200 miles electric range, which I knew should be enough to get me there – thanks to the standard ConnectedDrive sat-nav. With cruise control deployed for the stop/start nature of the M25, I was sure I was getting the best efficiency and made me confident enough to keep the seat heater making the BMW’s sports seat toasty, plus the excellent Harman Kardon stereo pumping out my music to keep me entertained. 

Eventually the M25 gave way to the M40, with the connected nav again coming to my rescue, as an early evening accident had blocked the carriageway. It suggested coming off on to a twistier A-road route. It is a shame I didn’t know these roads better, as I could have made better time and enjoyed the BMW’s dynamics more as day turned to night. 

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The change from daylight highlighted one of the minor niggles of the i4 to me, the headlights. Perhaps I’ve been spoilt by previous long-termers, but for a car in this price range, they’re good and nothing more. If I was choosing, I think I would be very tempted by the optional Laser Lights, but even the fitment of BMW’s High Beam Assistant, which automatically switches your high beam on and off when there is oncoming traffic, I feel would help. Interestingly while doing some research for this piece, I found BMW are offering this tech as a payable over-the-air update, with prices starting at £10 a month – for selected models. 

Eventually the nav got me to where it thought was my night stop, which turned out to be in the middle of nowhere and still four miles away from the event site. Although, I’m going to give the BMW the benefit of the doubt here, as I can’t be sure I entered the post code correctly. 

Work done and i4 fully charged at the event, it was time to make the long trip home. Wet all the way, things got worse as I joined the M25, with torrential downpours forcing me off the motorway sooner than I’d have liked. As I switched off the BMW when I got home, I worked out I’d been in the i4’s seat for four hours – but I’m pleased to say I wasn’t uncomfortable or bored. 

The following week I had another long drive in the i4, this time to the other side of Oxfordshire – again in the cold and rain. Mid-200 miles range didn’t worry me, and I arrived at the event with more than 150 miles still showing on the range. However, I wasn’t going to turn down the offer of a fast charge, whilst driving a German rival’s cars at the event. This resulted in a 275 mile range – the most I’ve seen. However, the local birds made a dirty protest on the San Remo Green paint, but maybe it was the fact that the fast charger was in the tree-covered part of the car park. Either way, when I came back to the i4 to head home, the roof, bonnet, and boot were covered in many large and small unwelcome presents. I’m pleased to say they were removed quickly, without damage and I am waiting for more settled weather to give the BMW a well-deserved wash.   

2nd Report: Confidence and consistency

Just after the February issue landed, with my first report on this car in it, an email pinged into my inbox on the BMW. The reader (I’ll keep him nameless, but you know who you are!), told me he too had taken delivery of an i4 eDrive 40. Anyway, he loves his car, but was unhappy so far that he hadn’t yet been able to match BMW’s claimed 365-mile range. 

After over 700 miles behind the wheel, I now feel I have experience to comment on this BMW’s range. As so far, on top of other driving, I’ve done two long trips in the i4. Both to the Cotswolds, and both in very cold weather. A round trip of just over 200 miles, the first time I was confident enough to do this without stopping for a top-up and was impressed to have 40 miles range left according to the car when I got home. 

More recently, I did a similar trip to the Cotswolds. Again, I arrived with an indicated 140 miles left, which would have been more than enough to get back to my home in Herts. However, with temperatures struggling to stay in the plus, I didn’t turn down the offer of some free destination charging. 

So, no our BMW isn’t making its range claims – but what electric car is? It has been a cold start to the year so far, with winter seemingly stretching through to mid-March. Despite not making the numbers, this BMW is far more consistent with its range than the Volvo and Cupra EVs I’ve run previously. That consistency equals more confidence, and unlike any other EV that I’ve had, I find myself driving the i4 more like an ICE car, because if I’m aware of the BMW’s range, I know I’m going to get there and home.

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My only real concern has been with the charging times via my 7kW home charger. Most recently, the night before my second trip to the Cotswolds. I normally charge at home after 11pm, as it’s the cheapest time. Anyway, I had been using a test car, and knew the i4 had just 30 miles range left. Yet, I was slightly concerned when I connected the charger, and this BMW told me it wouldn’t be fully charged until 8:30 the following morning! In the BMW’s defence, it was a particularly cold night, but this wasn’t ideal – especially as I had to be at my destination by 9:30am! Anyway, the confidence I mentioned before came through, as I guestimated that even with only just more than a half charge, that would be enough to get me to Oxfordshire.  I shouldn’t have worried, as I noticed I had a full charge just as the last bit of ice melted from the windscreen at 7am the following morning.  

As I’ve said, I really like driving this BMW, and get annoyed when I can’t! The only irritation this month, has mostly centred around the boot space. The i4’s hatchback design usually equals a practical 470-litre opening for big loads – that can be extended to 1,290 litres with the rear seats folded. Sadly, not wide, or practical enough in this case, to get the roof lining from my 2001 Mini Cooper in the back. Luckily, with its chunkier, taller dimensions, the family Mini Countryman swallowed this and took it to the trimmers for recovering. 

Living with the i4 has been very easy so far, it will be interesting to see any changes as the weather warms up (hopefully!) in the spring and Summer months – I can’t wait!

1st Report: The most complete EV?

The BMW i4 was something of a surprise when I drove it over a year ago. Available in 40 and M50 versions. The first revelation was that despite the M-developed range-topping M50, boasting 544hp and four-wheel drive, the BMW i4 eDrive40 (that we have here in M Sport trim), is all you really need, with a 340hp electric motor and rear-wheel drive, giving an impressive WLTP-calculated range of up to 365 miles.

On top of the impressive performance and range of the i4, this BMW offers flexible charging options. Most notably, its Combined Charging Unit allows use of DC high-power charging stations, with an output of up to 200kW. BMW is claiming 102 miles (i4 eDrive40) of charge, being delivered in just 10 minutes if you can find one.

The i4 looks and drives like an ICE model. Outside, the i4 follows BMW’s latest big kidney grille look (which you hardly notice with our M Sport’s standard Shadow Line trim and the lovely, optional San Remo Green paint finish). Based on the 4 Series Grand Coupe, the only changes are the unique bumpers, plus the tracks are wider and there are chunkier side skirts – perhaps to hide the batteries hidden in the floor.  

On the road, the i4 offers the same keen driving formula, with responsive steering and engaging handling. It rides competently, too – with almost none of the unsettling low-speed ride issues that seem to bother other EVs – even on 19in alloy wheels.

So after living with our car for two weeks as I write, has it lived up to my first impressions? So far, 340hp seems more than enough performance and even after a particularly cold January, I was impressed the i4 completed a round trip to the Cotswolds and back from my home in Herts, (totalling nearly 200 miles) without needing charging. There was even an indicated 40 miles left! 

Handling-wise, the i4 exudes the same highly competent feel established by BMW’s ICE models. The ride and steering have surprised in a good way. Despite the weight of the batteries, the i4 feels surprisingly light on its wheels. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that this BMW has proved to be a refined long-distance companion. At first, I was worried that the steering was too light, but 400 miles in, I’m pleased to say it still has plenty of feel. 

Inside, M Sport spec means you’ll want for no kit – the excellent Harman Kardon sound system being an early favourite. The driving position is good too, and the front sports seats supportive. Then there’s the large, curved display, that’s made up of a 14.9in infotainment touchscreen and 12.3in driver display. Both work well enough, although I’ve found the instruments sometimes hard to read at a glance and touching the screen to control the air-conditioning seems a backwards step – what was wrong with the physical buttons anyway? 

There are also BMWi blue highlights on the conventional gear shifter, start button and around the badging.  

Move to the back, and like the 4 Series Gran Coupe, legroom is more of a premium. Thankfully, so far, I’ve had no moans from my children and the i4’s hatchback opens to reveal a practically shaped 470-litre boot. 

I always felt my last BMW long-termer, the iX3 EV was a car that worked with me rather than against me. On first impression the i4 seems to be much the same, so I’m really looking forward to the coming months together.