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Living with the BMW i3 electric car

Well, hello and welcome to our latest test drive review, it is me Kelly and this week our test drive has taken a bit of a different direction! We have been given the BMW i3 for the week to see how we find it and also how easy it is to live with.

As a mum of 2, who has never driven an electric car before and who drives a Nissan Qashqai we wanted to see if the i3 suits a family life and how versatile it is. So here goes!

Off I go down to Bowker BMW at Preston to meet with their i specialist, Ben Cornwell. After a chat and understanding about how the car works we take it out with Ben who takes to the wheel first as I am a complete novice…. well not for long!

Initial Thoughts

  • It doesn’t look like any other BMW with its striking contemporary look with the metallic protonic blue and frozen grey accent paint. It has a futuristic feel to it both on the interior and exterior.
  • The car looks small and I am thinking that there is no way a family of four can be comfortable in it, I am wrong!
  • It is so quiet, you literally can hear a pin drop!
  • It drives like an automatic, no clutch and you hardly need to use your brake as you just release your foot from the accelerator
  • It is surprisingly fast, instant torque and has a recorded 0-60 mph time of 7.9 seconds as we have the range extender.
  • I am amazed at how spacious it is especially in the front of the car.


Ben gave me lots of information on the sustainability of the car, Ben is a pro and knows everything there is to know about the i3, so I thought I would do a bit of research as it amazed me.

BMW really have thought of everything when designing this car.

The car is manufactured in Leipzig, Germany and is 100% powered by wind energy. The car is 95% recyclable – the seats are leather tanned with olive oils, the dash and interior trim are made from open-pore eucalyptus wood sourced from 100 % FSC®-certified forestry. The larger interior surfaces are made from 30% Kenaf, the material is extracted from the mallow plant, which converts an above-average volume of CO2 to oxygen as it grows. Approximately 25% of the interior plastics used are composed or replaced by renewable materials.

The carbon fibres from which the BMW i3’s ultralight passenger cell is made are produced with energy generated entirely from renewables: the power comes from one of the world’s largest hydroelectric plants at Moses Lake, 186 miles east of Seattle.

The family life

Fast forward to home time and I wanted to see how suitable this car is for families. I have a family of 4 with a 2 & 7 year old and from the outside I would never have said we would all fit but from the interior it is apparent that we will. The rear seat access has rear hinged half doors that can only be opened once the front doors are open, which I did find this a little frustrating having to run around the car opening all the doors to get the children out.

The i3 is 4 seater car and the car seats fit with no hassles at all, in fact there was still the middle section available with the cup holders.

My eldest daughter loves the car and how much space there is and the fact the car is electric, something she later tells her whole class at school, she even comments how nice the inside is and that 'it is faster than your car mummy'!

The boot was on the small size but I found a decent sized shop fit in perfectly and the fact that the car is so spacious meant a few extra bags could go in the foot well or even the small umbrella fold prams if needed. Not to forget the seats do fold down increasing the capacity to 1,100 litres providing you do't need the seats for children.

i3 info

My car journeys only consist of about 10 miles per day so instead of giving you an in depth review of my driving trips I  wanted to tell you more about the car and to help you decide if this car would be good for you!

The car was launched in 2014 with a round of revisions done in 2016 which included a revision to the battery pack meaning i3 drivers can drive further on the electric battery. If you choose to have the range extender which is a two cylinder petrol generator that sits in the rear of the car under the boot floor this can increase the total mileage to just over 200 miles before it needs recharging. Something I did learn is that the petrol is not used to drive the car directly but provides the electricity for the battery/motor!

The car is powered by electric batteries that are positioned underneath the car meaning there is no need for a large bulk head or a centre console and giving a more spacious look to the interior. 

In the dash you will notice 2 large screens that display everything from speed to sat nav, music and iDrive.

The standard items included in the car are sat nav, DAB radio, bluetooth, air conditioning, cruise control plus much more  however this car has various optional extras including the reversing assist camera, a media package, 19" i Turine spoke style alloy wheels plus a few other items that were great additions.


So the rivals of the pure electric BMW i3 include the Nissan Leaf, Renault Zoe and the VW e-Golf, the hybrid version challenges the Audi A3 etron, VW Golf GTE and the Toyota Prius.

Charging the i3

As I mentioned earlier I don't usually take long car journeys and managed 5 days without having to charge the car, still having 60 miles range available including the range extender. You are given a charging cable with a 3 pin plug but it does take approximately 11 hours to fully charge which would usually mean overnight. A couple of things to point out is you would need an outside plug for an overnight charge and also the distance on the cable is restricted. An overnight charge shouldn't cost more than a couple of pounds in electricity.

I also took time to look at local electric charging stations just in case and came across a site called zap-map which was really useful.

Overall thoughts

After 5 days of driving the i3 I have got to say I was pleasantly surprised and really enjoyed driving it, in fact when I got back into my Qashqai I nearly stalled it as I hadn't used a clutch all week!

I would say it is suitable for a family of 3 or even 4 if the children are a bit bigger and a pram is not needed. It is a great city car or for people who are only doing small journeys.

The pure electric i3  has the privileges of being exempt from the road fund licence, benefit in kind company car tax and the London congestion charge. The REx version will have the same £140 road tax as every other sub £40,000 car.

A fun car to drive with contemporary looks and definitely a head turner!

If you are interested in one of these cars please contact the office on 01772 728000

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Posted on 21st June 2017 at 4:44 PM

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