New BMW i3 the best electric car this side of a Tesla

Not cheap, but charming, fun and with seriously practical performance and range.

It’s funny how perceptions change. When I was young in a sepia-toned world the drivers who were on the receiving end of most abuse were those behind the wheels of BMWs. Arrogant, aggressive and antagonistic with an addiction to tailgating was the accepted caricature of this firm’s car owners.

Times have changed though. BMW, for all its massive sales success in Ireland in the past 15 years, now has a slightly less combative image, one of classiness and desirability with a little less of the disdain from those unable to afford one.

BMW i3

BMW i3

With the i3, there is the chance for BMW to slip seamlessly into full-on caring and sharing mode. The little electric car has been around since 2014, but had failed to make much of a dent in Irish buyers’ collective consciousness, mostly down to a combination of being small, with a big price tag and, well, electric.

For all the talk of Ireland being a perfect test case for the introduction of electric motoring, few brave souls have taken on the mantle of early adopter. A combination of cost, lack of infrastructure and that ever-present spectre of range anxiety has held people back.


Well, BMW has answered that in part by boosting the range of the i3 to a much more acceptable level. While the lithium-ion battery pack hasn’t been made physically larger, it has increased in capacity, to a very healthy 33kWh (up from 22kWh) and the i3’s part-carbon-fibre structure, light but strong and costing BMW several fortunes to develop, was always there to make the most of any extra range.

In fact, one-charge range climbed to 300km on the European NEDC (New European Driving Cycle), but cognisant that the official test has been thoroughly undermined in the public eye, BMW says 200km is a more realistic day-to-day figure.

So it proves. A writer must write of what they know, so I can only speak of how the i3 performed on my own regular driving cycle, but it is significantly improved.

I was testing the ‘REX’ version, the range-extender, which uses a tiny two-cylinder moped engine and a seven-litre tank of petrol to keep the batteries alive should you run out of charge with mileage still to go to get home. It adds, generally, around 100-120km of extra range, easing many the furrowed brow.

Read more: Irish Times

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