The i3’s performance is pretty eager even with the energy-saving EcoPro setting switched on (it subdues the throttle response and cuts the cooling power of the air-con) but fully unleashed it is a remarkably quick machine.
From zero to 30mph, there’s probably not much that could keep pace with this city car, and even up to 50mph or 60mph, the i3’s progress can be described as pretty vivid. Overall refinement is impressive, too, with road roar and wind noise well subdued. Notably narrow tyres probably help here.
Perhaps the biggest oddity is the strong braking effect of energy regeneration when slowing down. Lifting off the accelerator results in a quite marked braking effect as the motor starts acting as a generator. Time it wrong and you come to a halt quite a way short of the traffic lights.
As a driving machine, the i3 has an impressive ability to get out of the driver’s way. The upright seating, high driving position, panoramic view and lack of mechanical interference all allow the driver to either concentrate on the city traffic or just enjoy the view. On our test route, the i3 provided a tremendously agreeable way to travel through the lush greenery of southern Germany and it also cut swiftly along autobahns without feeling out of its depth.
Should I buy one?
This new 94Ah model isn’t cheap. After the government's £4500 grant, it costs £27,830 in base form. If you fancy the version with the two-cylinder petrol range-extender generator, that will cost you £30,980. However, the Range Extender with a fully charged battery and a full tank of fuel (just two gallons) does give you a real-world range of around 217 miles.
If you own the current i3, you can have the battery pack upgraded to the new 94Ah version. However, it will cost you around £6000 and it seems unlikely that you’ll get the upgraded charging hardware and software.
There’s something immensely refreshing about the i3. The radical composite and aluminium structure and unashamed modernity of the design inside and out make it hard to judge this car in purely rational terms, especially at this price.
However, the new battery and promised real-world all-weather range make it significantly more usable. If you have the ability to home-charge and appreciate the modernity of the car and its dynamics, the i3 is a very fine thing to own.
2016 BMW i3 94Ah
Location Munich; On sale Now; Price £27,830 (after £4500 government grant); Engine BMW electric motor; Power 168bhp at 4800rpm; Torque 184lb ft; Gearbox Single speed; Kerb weight 1195kg; 0-62mph 7.3sec; Top speed 93mph; Range 195 miles (claimed); CO2 rating/BIK tax band 0g/km, 7%; Rivals Volkswagen e-Golf; Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive