A Green Executive Supermini?

Super minis are ideal for city driving. They are easy to park, they nip through city traffic, they are cheap to run and have cool futuristic styling. Their prices are incredibly low and some come with impressive warranties – up to 7 years long. However the drive for accessible (cheap) pricing means that none of these cars provide a luxury driving experience. They are all a bit kiddie with some very basic interiors. As a result they have never been a realistic choice for the well heeled who are still buying huge cars for their city driving.

These buyers don’t need the size but they do want the high quality experience these cars provide and the feel good factor provided by the luxury car makers. Is there a small city car out there with good green credentials that a high earning city professional would actually want to drive?

Well now there might be an option. Before the most prestigious maker in the electric super mini market was Toyota with the Yaris. It is cheap at around £16,000 but the handling was average and the interior low quality. BMW have just released their i3 fully electric model which delivers excellent handling and prestige but with a correspondingly high price. Is it worth the extra money and is it something high fliers will want to drive?

BMWi3 Interior

BMW i3 Interior

Key Points

  • Electric car.
  • CarBuyer.co.uk Best Hybrid / Electric Car 2014.
  • High Quality Interior.
  • Exempt from the London Congestion Charge.
  • Top speed: 93mph
  • Range: 80 – 100 miles
  • 0-60mph in 7 seconds.
  • Full charge in eight hours on a regular domestic plug. This halves to only 4 hours if you buy a BMW wallbox for around £315.

The Drive

All reviewers agree that this car is brilliant to drive around cities. In general in the 0-30mph range it is surprising nimble so nipping in and out of city traffic is a doddle. An electric engine is actually better than petrol at delivering instant power from stationery which is why they are being developed as city cars rather than long rangers. The BMW i3 is even better at delivering this advantage than its electric rivals – it can accelerate to 60mph over 3 seconds faster than the Toyota Prius.

It manages to deliver a high driving position with excellent visibility coupled with great stability which is provided by the low slung heavy battery under the floor. It has a tiny turning circle of only 10m making parking easy which is just as well as the standard model does not come with parking sensors.

More importantly this car is actually fun to drive; not fun for an electric car just plain grin inducing FUN.

BMWi3 Is Fun!

BMW i3 Is Fun!

Pricing & Charging

The price range for the BMW i3 is £30,680 – £33,830 which is much higher than the rest of the electric supermini class. However it qualifies for the governments £5,000 electric car grant.

A full charge should take 8 hours from a normal mains socket and cost £1 delivering 80-100 miles of city driving. You can buy a wall unit which greatly reduces the charging time. In london there is government backed charging point network called Source London which offers a huge London wide network of charging points for an annual membership of only £10. The estimated fuel cost per mile is 3p which is excellent – the Yaris comes out at 8p.  The sat nav console integrates information on power usage and expected range as well as information on the nearest charging points. You can also download apps for this.

It is exempt from the London congestion charge so you could easily save £2,000 a year if you commute daily.

Styling and Interior

BMW i3 Two Tone

BMW i3 Two Tone

Most importantly the interior has the quality of a normal BMW and it offers the level of features you would expect from a prestige maker. The exterior styling is modern and various colour combinations are offered. Some of the two tone versions look a bit too cool and not series enough for a professional however see this car in white or silver and it looks classy; see left.

The floor is flat with no central columns and the cabin is high so this car feels spacious. The back only seats two adults; this is not a five person car. The boot is relatively small however the back seats flatten should you need to transport something large.

What Are Other People Saying?

“The BMW i3 is the most appealing electric car yet, with a premium cabin and surprisingly fun handling.” whatcar.com
“The electric BMW i3 has zero CO2 emissions, a fuel economy of 196 MPG equivalent and a NGC Rating of 22. Approved by NGC; one of the greenest supermini cars.” nextgreencar.com
“…acceleration is always smooth, quick and incredibly quiet. That makes the i3 nippy and relaxing about town. The steering is very responsive and accurate, too, and it handles well. And while it’s at its best in town, the little BMW copes just fine with motorways……………The i3 feels very spacious on the inside, with plenty of headroom for all passengers. The floor is completely flat – it doesn’t have the bulge running underneath the middle back seat that many cars have, which means there’s more space for legroom.” carbuyer.co.uk

Conclusion

This is a proper car – it looks, feels and handles like a prestigious model. It is quiet with an incredibly low running cost and excellent green credentials. The only downsides are the high initial cost and its limited range; it is only really suitable for city commuting. The cost is only high when compared to its supermini rivals but none of these can come close to offering the driving experience and quality of this car. After all, you get what you pay for.

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