|BMW’s tiny i3 has become an icon of the premium EV world. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
The i3 started life with a cute albeit unusual exterior design and one of the more appealing interiors I’d experienced up to that point. Today, its outer styling remains quirky yet relatively fresh due to rarity, and its interior is still amongst personal favourites.
It was always a bomb to drive, with quick acceleration and superb handling, the latter surprising when first eyeing its tall, narrow, stubby proportions, and while its
|The i3 has a distinctive character despite its five-door hatchback profile. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Before getting too excited you should be aware that the U.S. EPA gives it a more conservative 183-km range rating, but either one represents a 40-percent improvement in EV-specific distance traveled between charges, which is a positive step forward. Then again, we live in an era of 383-km Bolts and 499-km Model 3s, both of which cost less than the i3.
Yes, the i3 has always been a pricey little runabout. It was initially $44,950 in 2014,
|Standard LED headlamps and 19-inch alloys are signs of the i3’s upscale lineage, while the "Frozen Blue" trim shows even BMW can get funky. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
This was the first base Loft model I’d tested of the four previous examples, the first in my favourite Lodge trim, the second in full-load Suite guise, and the most recent one also totally decked out in Suite trim, which helped me appreciate what $48,150 plus $2,095 in freight buys you.
|"Clam shell" doors offer easy access to the back seats. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
But wait, you might notice the lovely wood trim across the dash, which is priced at $350 yet somehow adds another $500 to the final price thanks to a requisite $850 Interior Design Selection upgrade, while my tester also included a $1,200 dual-pane sunroof, plus of course its $4,000 Range Extender (REx) two-cylinder gasoline engine, which collectively pushed the price up to $57,550 before freight and fees.
|The i3 provides one of the most appealing interiors in the compact sector, and its mostly made of recycled and recyclable materials. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
Lastly, you can add a $2,750 Technology package that includes a Harmon/Kardon audio upgrade, semi-autonomous self-steering, the ConnectedDrive Services smartphone package. Seems like a ton of money for a stereo, being that many will want the audio upgrade without being forced into the other items.
The Frozen Blue accents are standard, as are 19-inch alloy wheels (you can choose from three if the rims on my tester are as unappealing to you as they are to me),
|These are some of the nicest digital displays in the industry, looking rich while hovering overtop the optional open-pore hardwood dash. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
With prospective range now somewhere between the 183-km EPA estimate and the 200 km projected by BMW, how did I fare? When I picked it up there was 946.1 kilometers on the odometer, 142 km of estimated EV range, and an additional 82 km of range on the REx.
I drove 13.1 km so that 959.2 km showed on the odo and stopped at a local mall to
|All primary instruments are located on this tablet-style high-resolution display. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
My partner joined me for the next stint, a photo shoot that normally sees her behind the camera and me behind the wheel (pivoting the car around in circles). One problem though, once we arrived at our location I realized I’d left the camera back at the house, causing me to race back and forth at a really fast clip so we didn’t lose the sun. The i3 took off from standstill like a slingshot and handled brilliantly, but if course this kind of driving isn’t the best for optimizing range. All in all our afternoon adventure totaled 29.6 km for a new total of 996.1 km on the odometer, plus we spent about an hour and a half “idling” while doing exterior and interior photos. All of this caused the range indicator to show 117 km.
|This electronic column shifter is one of the more efficient of its type anywhere, and easy to use. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
|The widescreen infotainment display provides stunning graphics, colours and depth of contrast. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
|The base i3’s stylish, comfortable, and environmentally friendly front seats look pretty cool too. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
As for charging, the standard i3 incorporates AC quick charging and the REx upgrade adds DC quick charging as well, which means you can add an 80-percent charge to your battery in about 40 minutes. That’s if you can find a DC quick charger. I’d recommend you purchase one for your home if you live somewhere it can be installed. If you don’t, I can’t recommend a plug-in at all. A couple of years ago, using a public charger wasn’t an issue in my city because there weren’t many electrics on the road, but now there are a lot more EV drivers thanks to cars like this impressive little i3, so you’re going to be hard pressed to find one that’s not already in use.
|Rear passenger roominess is quite good, while the seats offer decent lower back support. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
No matter which EV you’re considering, three provincial governments offer taxpayer money to coax you into cleaning up your act. The rebate is $5,000 in BC, $14,000 in Ontario, and $8,000 in Quebec. The rest of the provinces get no incentive,
|Lay the 50/50-split rear seatbacks forward and there’s plenty of space for cargo. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)|
For the time being the i3 remains the only full EV offered under a premium badge in Canada, unless you consider Smart premium, in which case you can opt for the ForTwo Electric Drive. In the U.S., the Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive joins the Tesla 3, but so far we have neither in Canada.
This said plenty of premium EVs are on the way, which will go a long way to promoting cleaner local air. Until then, consider the i3. It’s not the newest EV on the block, but it’s still very capable and provides a premium driving experience along with a level of interior refinement that’s unmatched thus far. Likewise, its advanced carbon-fibre monocoque construction is the stuff of supercar dreams, and just one more reason why BMW EV customers can feel like they’re getting their money’s worth when bucking up for this pricey little subcompact.
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