For anyone accustomed to BMW’s established cabin architecture, this interior’s appearance is quite a step change. You perch elevated and upright on firm, flat seats, confronted not by a darkly imposing dashboard but by a stripped-back, light-toned design flooded with natural light from the enlarged windscreen. There’s airiness, space and, yes, a definite cheeriness to rival any high-sided B-segment model.
What separates the i3 from them (aside from its complete lack of a foot-hindering transmission tunnel) is the cherry-picked locations where either its price point or eco credentials poke through. BMW has done away with the instrument cluster completely, opting instead for a pin-sharp screen ahead of the driver. Most other functions are corralled on to an even larger 10.25-inch widescreen display controlled by the familiar, thigh-high iDrive.
The backdrop for these handsome slabs of LCD is a swathe of PUR-Sensatec, the entirely recycled trim material that closely resembles moulded packaging. For an early adopter, one imagines the juxtaposition would be as covetable as milled aluminium on house brick. The layout of what switchgear is left is impeccable, and the single steering column stalk – including drive select – is the icing on the modernity cake.
Aft of the slim backrests is arguably less successful. The i3’s structural integrity may have permitted the elimination of B-pillars and fitment of coach doors, but the opening remains slender and too distant from the floor to be labelled especially convenient. Nor is the space they access particularly roomy. Even worse, because they interlock, the back cannot be accessed without first opening a front door.
Nevertheless, the i3 provides one of the most appealing environments available for under £35k.
The i3 on the whole is certainly very well equipped with an iDrive system chocked full of BMW ConnectedDrive Services, sat nav, DAB radio, Bluetooth and a USB port. There are also heated front seats, rear parking sensors, and auto lights and wipers thrown into the package.
However, BMW want the i3 to be more than a mere driving machine but a personal statement, and have created four ‘interior worlds’ each with their own design style.
There is the standard fit Atelier trim, Loft, Lodge and Suite options, which upgrades the seats from cloth to premium leather and the dashboard from recycled material through to Eucalyptus wood
The 2017 facelift has seen the i3 given a moderate refresh with a new front bumper and rear apron, while LED headlights and a new generation of iDrive help give the small EV added sparkle. Now the i3 is smarter than before with the options to parking assistant, a rear-view camera, collision and pedestrian warning, city braking, active cruise control and traffic jam assistant - which helps maintains a safe gap to the car in front in traffic up to speeds of 37mph.
As per other BMW models, the iDrive system in the i3 has been updated, so the latest generation of the infotainment's software is used, and all i3s now come with a 10.25 in screen as standard, as is an improved version of BMW's iConnectedDrive and improved voice recognition, while Apple CarPlay is an optional extra.
The i3S doesn't look all that different from the standard i3, except for the creative use of gloss black exterior trim to give the car a sporty profile and the standrad fit 20in alloy wheels.