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Our Fleet Test Drive: BMW i3 - final report

Date: 01 February 2016   |   Author: Guy Bird

Why we're running it: To see if this EV cuts in beyond the theory
Equipment: 6 airbags, stability and cornering brake control, hill-start assist, auto aircon, electric windows, leather-covered multi-function steering wheel, satnav, Bluetooth hands-free facility with USB, 50:50 split-fold rear seats, rear park distance control, 19in streamline star alloys, halogen headlights
Options: Lodge trim (£1500), 19in turbine alloys (£680), Harmon Kardon hi-fi (£640), DC rapid charge prep (£560), silver metallic paint (£530), Enhanced Bluetooth with USB (£350), internet (£95)
Media Package - BMW Professional (£960), Park assist package inc. colour reversing cam (£790), Winter package inc. heated
front seats (£260), Online Entertainment (£190)

'Excited' didn't begin to sum-up my enthusiasm for the i3 EV range-extender's arrival in late March 2015. But did the shine finally wear off?

Not everyone loved the i3's design - the local dump attendant quickly told me "it wasn't a proper BMW" even though I hadn't asked for his opinion and was only dropping off some garden waste. Still, I made him change his mind on the interior at least, once those cool coach doors were opened [1] and he could see the bent wood-clad Lodge interior (a £1500 option well worth ticking) [2]. Him aside, most people I met were curious and impressed in equal measure.

Driving the i3 was easy-peasy, fun and serenely quiet. I quickly became a one-pedal maestro, with regenerative braking doing almost all of the slowing down work once I'd got the knack of coasting. Meanwhile, the 170hp i3's 7.9-second 0-62mph sprint - dispatched with electric immediacy - still enabled the upright city car to slay unsuspecting boy-racer rivals. Which was funny.

Charging the thing could be less amusing. Plug-in points are too few and far between and often not working, busy, recently changed provider (requiring new charge cards) [3] or were sat inside expensive car parks. Longer term, I'd want off-street parking or a local charging point within walking distance.

The range-extender i3 - which includes a tiny 647cc petrol engine solely to recharge the battery when it runs out of juice - curtailed most bouts of 'range anxiety' by adding a real-world 60-70 miles, but in reality it was seldom used (and a bit noisy besides). I only filled up three times in eight months, equating to a grand total of 12.10 litres. With electricity still free at Source London outlets keen to promote early EV uptake, my total fuel spend over 2393 miles was minute (an exact electricity cost was impossible to calculate due to the variety of sources I recharged at).

From south London I got to Goodwood, Brighton and a few other spots well outside of London on electric alone, and for obviously longer journeys I switched to our own diesel car or the train.

The only fault on the vehicle during our test was an infotainment screen that intermittently went blank and required a restart from the main menu for a few weeks, but that seemed to resolve itself before a visit to the dealer could be booked.

The i3 isn't for everyone, but most of the trickiness of living with it relates to the EV infrastructure it requires, not the car itself. Its app was useful and clear too. Back in March, I said it felt like "driving a slice of the future, today". It still does. It's a brilliant city-dweller's car.

BMW i3 Range Extender Lodge auto

Mileage 3065
Official consumption 470.8mpg
Our average consumption 898.9mpg*
Forecast/actual CPM 60.0p/57.8p
P11D price £34,075**
Model price range £30,925-£34,075**
Residual value 33.5%
Depreciation cost £23,653
Fuel £1499
Service, maintenance and repair £1722
Vehicle Excise Duty £0
National Insurance group 21
CO2 (BIK band) 13g/km (5%)
BIK 20/40% per month £28/£57

Verdict


  • Eco innovation,
  • Groundbreaking design
  • Life-adjusting compromises, infrastructure required

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