The small children enjoyed the afternoon ride, but it would be churlish to put that down to the i3s looking like something they’d find in their toy box. As ever, style is subjective. For what it’s worth, its quirky looks appealed to us, even if it dates the car: people increasingly expect electric cars to look normal because now that’s what they are. Try-hard eccentricities are not necessary.
Then again, the ‘characterful’ interior, with its lack of transmission tunnel and wide expanse of oakwood dash, gave a pleasing Tardis-like sensation, and the rear doors that open ‘the wrong way’ soon proved more than a novelty. The wide opening and lack of B-pillar made stretching over to belt in the kids easier than in most. A big tick on family ergonomics, then.
But by the end of the day, it was with some relief that I parked up and plugged in. Why? The ride. It’s fine on smooth roads, but how common are those in the UK? Over lumps, bumps and potholes, those 20in wheels transmit a fair wallop and the whole experience feels a long way from premium. Handling isn’t bad given the battery weight, but the thump factor would be a deal-breaker were I in the market. Well, that and the £40,000 price as tested. Electric cars of this size have to become more affordable – and soon – to truly compete with traditional models.
But let’s end on an upbeat: trickle charging is slow but sure beats pumping hard cash into a fuel tank. Lucky I can park directly outside my front door to access a three-pin socket, although living solely on the ground floor ruled out overnight charging through an open window. Still, an evening charge before locking up for the night offered enough of a top-up to get me to work.
Back to you, Tom. The i3s was fun – mostly – and far from a novelty. For us and for many families like us, such cars are the new normal.
Braking without braking Regenerative braking took some getting used to, but not pressing a pedal to slow is oddly satisfying.
Cable health and safety Charging cable threaded through a window isn’t just ugly, it’s the perfect height to garrotte a child…
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Coasting’s easier than you think - 18th September 2019
Given how aggressive the i3’s regenerative braking can be, no option to disable or reduce it, and the precision needed to control it using the throttle and your foot alone, one way to maintain speed while also maximising available range is to shift into neutral and coast where possible. The shifter (above) is sited largely out of your eyeline while driving so I was initially worried about knocking it into reverse by mistake, but sensibly the car won’t let you do that while travelling at speed.