This is an immensely likeable vehicle, but it’s hard not to wish that BMW had opted to make it a little longer, especially in the wheelbase, when you drive it. The i3 is a finger’s width under 4.0 metres long and, in that context, the 2.57m wheelbase sounds reasonable, but on the road, it’s clear a more generous footprint would have helped with the i3’s two biggest failings: its ride on rough roads and access to the rear seats.
On a very poor surface, the i3’s chassis finds it difficult to settle down. It reacts rather harshly on the very roughest surfaces, joggling the occupants as it thumps and crashes. It’s true that the chassis is relatively stiffly sprung, so the situation is more exaggerated that it might otherwise be. The 19in wheels probably don’t help.
In stark contrast, on a very well-surfaced stretch of road - and there were a few of those on the test route in southern Germany - the i3 is uncannily smooth and swift. And the serenity of the progress makes using the full potential of the i3’s electric motor hard to resist.
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.