First Drive: BMW i3

First Drive: BMW i3

A Spin Around London in the BMW i3, the Perfect Electric Car?

Recently, I took the BMW i3 for a spin. It’s seen as one of the best electric cars in the world right now. I compiled a short review of my time in the car, check it out here:

Motor

The big selling point of this car is that it’s electric. In fact, BMW dubs it a ‘luxury electric car’, so it must be good. There are a couple of variations that you can go with, propulsion wise. If you want

BMW,i3,EV,electric car,styling

The familiar front

to go fully electric, you can! The electric motor packs in 162 bhp and makes the car feel very nippy at times. Obviously, with a max speed under 100 mph, you won’t be going too fast. But, the electric motor makes the car quite fun to drive. Fancy adding a little bit extra (like 50+ extra miles of range) and you can get a gas engine generator along with your electric motor. All in all, it’s a very good powerplant, and it’s good for the environment too.

Comfort

BMW,i3,EV,electric car,interior

Not family friendly

The i3 is perfect for making quick trips around the city; that’s what it was made for. It’s a car that you can zip around in and feel relatively comfortable. Granted, there’s not a great deal of legroom in the back, so it’s not ideal for families. But, the driver’s seat is comfortable enough, so you can’t complain as long as you stay there. When you step out of the city and take this thing on a longer drive, you get a different story. The ride feels quite firm, which is not what you’d expect, given how good it is in the city. I’m not sure about the tires either; I find they offer worse traction that the standard Goodyear tyres on my regular car. This adds to the lack of comfort on long drives.

Looks

Like every BMW, the i3 looks great. You have the iconic front grill and a super modern car design. It looks like something from the future. When you see one drive by you, have to check twice because you half expect it to be hovering. I found that a lot of people stopped and stared at me when I drove by in this car. It’s a head turner; it looks great. The problem with some electric cars is that they don’t look particularly good. But, with this beemer, you get one of the best-looking small cars out there.

Tech

BMW i3,interior,electric car,EV

Some modern tech luxury

As you can imagine, the i3 is packed full of great tech. There are dual displays inside that tell you everything you need to know while driving. There’s built-in satnav too, to help you navigate around the city even better. Like most cars, it has a DAB digital radio, and a great sound system to boot.

Conclusion

So, is the BMW i3 the perfect electric car? In short, no. Although the car looks great and is brilliant at what it’s meant to do, it costs too much. You can pick up much cheaper electric city cars that are just as good. After all, that’s what this is. It’s a car designed to zoom around the city. If you want a car that takes you on long trips, look elsewhere.

Tesla Tops Another Top 10 Green Cars List

Tesla Tops Another Top 10 Green Cars List

AAA Names Diverse Top 10 Green Cars & Trucks

Another day, another Top 10 Green Car list. While many of these lists might be linkbait for websites scrambling to add eyeballs, some of them stand out as the result of actual testing and measuring. The AAA list just released is one of the latter, focused on real-world capabilities. After all, this the automobile club, dedicated to helping its members travel and keep up their cars; it’s not some non-profit environmental group wishing everyone would walk or bike wherever they need to go (not that there’s anything wrong with optimizing your mode of travel for environmental impact).

So, when the AAA of Southern California says they’ve tested more than 80 models and have a list of the Top 10 Green Cars and Trucks in each category—it’s worth a look. It’s also not surprising that Clean Fleet Report has more to add on almost every vehicle on the list. Here is AAA’s Top 10 (broken between the Top Green Cars and the Top Green Values as well as the greenest cars in some main categories) and our take on the winners with links to our own tests of these vehicles or news stories on them.

Top Scoring Green Cars

  1. 2015 Tesla Model SP85D (electric)
    Bigger, but still an Outback

    Outback=Green AWD

     

  2. 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf SEL (electric)
  3. 2014 BMW i3 (electric)
  4. 2015 Subaru Outback 2.5i PZEV (gasoline)
  5. 2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI SE (diesel)

Best Value (cost-per-point score)

  1. 2014 Nissan Versa SV (gasoline)
  2. 2014 Nissan Versa Note SV (gasoline)
  3. 2013 Hyundai Accent GLS (gasoline)
  4. 2015 Toyota Yaris LE (gasoline)
  5. 2014 Kia Soul+ (gasoline)

Of course the AAA also correctly separated vehicles into categories (since there isn’t a lot of cross-shopping at Toyota between the Yaris and Tundra, for instance) and came up with these six winners, two-thirds of which were reflected in the Top 5.

2015 AAA Green Car Guide Category Winners

Large car:             2015 Tesla Model S P85D (electric)

Midsize car:        2015 Audi A7 TDI Quattro (diesel)

Compact car:      2015 Volkswagen e-Golf (electric)

ford,F-150,aluminum,lightweighting,EcoBoost

2015 Ford F-150 – An Eco truck

Subcompact car:  2014 BMW i3 (electric)

SUV/Minivan:    2015 Subaru Outback 2.5i (gasoline)

Pickup truck:      2015 Ford F-150 Supercab Lariat (gasoline)

So there you have it. If green is all you care about, there are a range of choices led by some great new electric cars. If your pocket book is the green you care about the most (while still wanting to make a green choice), then it looks like gasoline still rules the day in the AAA’s evaluation.  The company has a very basic definition of what makes a car green, one that we at Clean Fleet Report follow as well—a car is green if it burns less fuel than an average gasoline or diesel vehicle and minimizes emissions from burning its fuel (we look at fuel in a global sense from “well-to-wheel” since we all know the electrons it takes to run an electric car create pollution where they’re created unless they’re coming from solar panels or wind power).

In their testing AAA took a holistic view of the car, rating them on not only emissions and fuel economy, but crashworthiness, braking, acceleration, handling, cargo-carrying capacity, ride quality, interior noise, ease of entry and exit, maneuverability, roominess and visibility—a total of 13 categories. Among the 80+ tested were diesels, hybrids, CNG-power vehicles, electrics, plug-in hybrids, flex-fuel vehicles and high-mpg gasoline vehicles.

2015 Toyota Yaris,hatchback, SE

Yaris-a big little eco car

Clean Fleet Report has tested most of the winning vehicles (though not quite as thoroughly since we don’t have a test track and a staff of engineers) and agrees with many of the AAA picks. The Tesla does stand alone among the “green” vehicles on the market right now, but as AAA noted, its price certainly doesn’t make it easy to go green. On the other end of the spectrum, our experience with the Nissan Versa Note and the Toyota Yaris validate the findings—there’s a lot of bang for the buck in those little cars.

Likewise, the Volkswagen e-Golf and BMW i3 are our two favorite “affordable” electric cars, along with the Fiat 500e. Since AAA had to use a standardized metric for cost, they used MSRP (the Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price, or the official list price), they weren’t able to show some of the lease deals or discounted sales that would have shifted the cost-per-point score to a much more favorable number. We’re also a sucker for the Golf TDI (or just about any Golf in the new generation) and the TDI on the tail of an Audi puts it at the head of any list we’re drawing up. Similarly, Subarus, including the Outback, have long been our choice among compact

2015 VW,Jetta TDI, badge

A badge of honor

all-wheel drives. We’ve seen the new F-150 and are impressed with the leap that Ford has made with the truck’s technology, but have only had a brief chance to put that knowledge into practice in a test session, so we’ll withhold judgement in the truck category. What we do know from past tests of the Chevy Silverado and drives of the Dodge Ram is—they have some tough competition in the Green Truck category.

The bottom line is, even if we quibble with some of the details of the AAA process and decisions that process leads to, we applaud their willingness to do hands-on testing of vehicles and their approach that looks beyond a simple “green” label based on the type of fuel or propulsion unit for the car. Factoring in the value is another critical step that every smart consumer makes, which is probably why the AAA remains such a valuable resource for some many people.

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Road Test: 2015 Toyota Yaris SE 5-Door

Road Test: 2014 Golf e-Golf

Road Test: 2015 BMW i3

Road Test: 2014 Subaru Outback

Top 10 Stories of 2014

Top 10 Stories of 2014

Electric Cars, Fuel Cells; Diverse Paths to Fuel Efficiency Highlighted

Here at Clean Fleet Report we had a great year, seeing and reporting to you on a record number of cars, trucks, SUVs and even some two-wheel fuel-efficient vehicles. We had plenty of stories on electric cars, plug-in hybrids, conventional hybrids, clean diesels and very efficient gas-powered vehicles. Beyond that, we reported on significant news and trends you need to know about to plan your next car purchase—or just keep up on the conversation about what’s happening on the leading edge of the automotive world.

So, here, in reverse order, are our Top 10 stories for the year from among the record 69 we published in 2014.

10. Two Wheels Go Electric. We had a sneak peak at the Tesla of electric motorcycles, the aptly named Energica Ego. It has a price up in the “if you have to ask” territory, reflecting its Formula

Carrying on a family tradition

Two wheels go electric, too!

1 engineering roots and extensive use of carbon fiber and top-brand components. We also noted that Harley-Davidson showed off an electric Harley concept that could indicate they’re looking at the same territory. 

9. Ford’s Aluminum Pickup. Ford spent a good portion of the year talking about one of the most revolutionary moves in the truck sector—a weight reduction campaign for its best-selling F-150 pickup that involved a move to an aluminum body and the use of lighter weight high-strength steel. With a lighter pickup, Ford was able to drop in a smaller EcoBoost engine and still maintain expected towing and hauling capacities. The truck has just gone on sale at the end of 2014, but the move boosted fuel economy by almost 30 percent, a move needed to counteract competitors like the Ram, which took the diesel route to the top fuel economy in the sector. Not to be left out, GM introduced a pair of new midsize pickups that also will be adding diesel power in 2015.

8. Compact SUVs Crack the 30 MPG Mark. It was hard to pick just one of new breed of compact SUVs/crossovers. We may need to up the ante for the 30 MPG Club because these guys are making it look easy. This year’s batch was led by the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape and Mazda CX-5, but you could throw in a Subaru or two and not be disappointed. The combination of fuel economy, interior utility, high-tech features and all-wheel-drive capability should help this class to continue to be popular in 2015.

7. Tesla on the Battlefield. We didn’t dive too deeply into the almost daily drama emanating from Palo Alto (just up the road from our headquarters) because we like to focus on the hardware2013-Tesla-Model-S[1] and the significant news that affects that hardware. But we couldn’t avoid a couple articles on Elon Musk’s battle to establish a different sales model of direct sales. He had some success, some losses (sort of like the company’s balance sheet). We’ll continue to follow the company’s progress on this front and any developments on product, which will likely be led by the introduction of the Model X late in 2015.

6. Clean Diesel’s Leader—VW Jetta. Let’s be honest, we love great fuel economy, but really don’t want to give up the fun of driving. Diesel engines are one of the best methods of having the best of both worlds. Hundreds of miles of driving on a tank and the power to effortlessly take on anything the road has to offer. We sampled several diesels this year, but have settled on the Volkswagen Jetta as the standard-bearer of this segment. We like the compact size, the power, the upscale appointments and most of all, an easy 40+ mpg out on the road.

5. The Prius Quartet. You can’t know the Prius. It has led the way for a decade and a half and blazed fuel-economy trails that most other cars have not been able to match. So Toyota decided to make it a family and there are now four variants, all four of which Clean Fleet Report road-tested this year. It’s a challenge figured out which might work the best, but ranging from the diminutive c to the wagon-like V with the traditional Liftback and Plug-In sandwiched in-between, Toyota figures to have the market well-covered.

4. Fuel Cell Electric Cars Arrive! Of course we’ve heard this one before. But this time they mean it! Consider this the second coming of the fuel cell car. We’ve had prototypes running around

toyota,fuelcell,future,FCHV

An aggressive year for fuel cells

for a decade or more, but now you can buy an FCEV. That is, if you live near the just-beginning refueling infrastructure. Hyundai hit the market first, but Toyota is close behind and Honda not long after them. Mercedes already has dozens on the road and VW and Audi showcased potential challengers. We’ll be keeping an eye of these cars, but from what we’ve driven so far, there is no question about the seriousness of the automakers in bringing FCEVs to market. Hyundai’s fuel cell “engine” was even named by WardsAuto as one of the 10 Best of the year.

3. Kia Soul EV. Cue the hamsters! Electric cars are now cool. The Korean automaker is dipping its toes in the all-electric market (they’ve got a hybrid on the market and a plug-in hybrid coming) with its popular little mini-wagon. We had a fun first drive with the Soul EV and expect to spend some more time in it in 2015.

2. BMW i3. We should have seen this one coming as the Bavarian merchants of speed first dropped a cobbled Mini-E on us, followed up by a pedestrian-

2015, Kia, Soul EV,electric car

Here come the hamsters!

looking but competent performer in the Active-E. Finally, the real deal arrives and it is every bit the BMW we would expect. Except maybe in its looks, which are more squat than BMW’s SUVs.

When it comes to performance and technology, the i3 is ground-breaking and delivers the driving experience you would expect from a BMW, but without the gasoline (unless you get the REX version that carries a small engine and extends the range 50 miles).

1. Top 10 Electric Cars. This is the big story. We have to choose to pick the Top 10 electric cars available today. It’s still a mix of pure electrics and plug-in hybrids, but the list is growing quickly and the variety of vehicles is looking better than ever. Everything from two-seat mini-sedans to six-figure luxury sports cars are now crowding this list, which we keep updated on a regular basis. The progress being made by automakers is encouraging and the response of the public has been likewise. It’s getting easier to find an electric car that works for your lifestyle and pocketbook. The new players like the VW e-Golf, Kia Soul EV and BMW i3 are making a statement that this is a segment destined to hold a growing portion of the market. Clean Fleet Report will continue to be there in 2015 to make sure you have all the latest news on this group and all of the others out there.

Happy New Year!

Here on links to our Top 10 Stories of 2014

  1. Top 10 Electric Cars.
  2. BMW i3.
  3. Kia Soul EV.
  4. Fuel Cells Cars Arrive!
  5. The Prius Quartet: The c and V; Liftback and Plug-In.
  6. Clean Diesel’s Standard-Bearer—the VW Jetta (2014/2015).
  7. Tesla’s Battles at the Dealershiptwo engagements.
  8. Compact SUVs Crack the 30 MPG Barrier: Ford Escape, Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5.
  9. Ford’s Aluminum Pickup. Pickups Pick Up MPG. First Drive: Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon.
  10. Two Wheels Go Electric.
10 Best Engines of 2015 the Most Diverse Ever

10 Best Engines of 2015 the Most Diverse Ever

Fuel Cells, Electric Motors Join Gas & Diesel Engines

It’s a whole new world. WardsAuto World has been calling out the 10 Best Engines for 20 years. The list has been dominated by the basic internal combustion engine configurations—V8s, sixes and fours, usually fueled by gasoline. During the past decade, hybrid-electric and diesel engines have joined the crowd and a few electric powertrains have been honored. But 2015 looks like a watershed—two traditional (though very modern) and very powerful V8s were picked along with a turbodiesel V6, three four-cylinders (including one in a boxer configuration), two three-cylinders, an electric motor and, for the first time, a fuel cell powerplant.

Wards may be fast-approaching the point where they will need to rename the award and drop the “engine” moniker. Traditionally, electric motors are not described as engines and fuel cell

Hyundai,Tucson,FCEV,fuel cell,electric car

Hyundai’s fuel cell electric takes a prize

“powerplants” are really electrochemical reactors designed to create the electricity to run the electric motors found in fuel cell cars.

The bigger import of this year’s 10 Best Engines is its reflection of the diversity of choices the American consumer now faces in the showroom. No longer is the choice between bigger or smaller engines with a commensurate amount of horsepower. Small, turbocharged engines now offer power as impressive as much larger ones, but with the added benefit of excellent fuel economy. Even big gas engines like the two V8s picked this year deliver 20+ mpg highway miles (along with up to 700+ horsepower!). Diesels don’t smoke any more, but continue to offer great torque and significant fuel economy improvements compared to similar-sized gasoline engines. A variety of hybrid powertrains are now joined by pure electric motors capable to head-snapping acceleration without using any petroleum. Finally, fuel cells have entered the mix and because of their technological achievements are likely to make regular appearances in Ward’s lineup.

Here’s a list of this year’s winners with some key notes are their significance:

  1. Hyundai’s fuel cell. Ward’s may be rewarding Hyundai for its aggressive marketing as much as its technology, but fuel cells are remarkable machines, taking in hydrogen, creating the electricity to run the Tucson for more than 250 miles and emitting water vapor out of the tailpipe. I suspect next year we may see another fuel cell “engine” from Toyota, Honda or maybe Mercedes in the mix.
  2. BMW’s ground-breaking i3 electric motor. While the motor is impressive, BMW also may be singled out for the package it comes in as well. We just road-tested the i3 and the motor
    BMW,i3,EV,electric car

    BMW’s electric is among the 10 best engines

    may be the most BMW part of that package.

  3. Ford Fiesta’s 1-liter turbocharged three-cylinder engine. Well, now we’ve moved back to the traditional engine, except in a tiny three-cylinder configuration, something previous to this decade relegated to loss-leader econoboxes, East European machines of dubious quality and motorcycles. They’ve grown up now, not in size, but sophistication. The Fiesta engine is a great representative of the genre; we’ll have a road test of it coming up soon, but we can give you a hint—it really works great.
  4. Mini’s 1.5-liter turbocharged threecylinder engine. Minihas a reputation to keep up as a “fun” car, so it took three cylinders and made them fun and
    Ford Fiesta,1-liter,EcoBoost,mpg

    Small but mighty

    powerful enough to keep up the Mini tradition while also delivering more than 30 mpg.

  5. Subaru’s 2-liter turbocharged boxer four in the WRX. Subaru’s engine may be a fairly traditional four-cylinder but its configuration is not traditional at all. The boxer format, usually only found in high-end sports cars, helps the engine to crank out excellent horsepower while still delivering good fuel economy.
  6. Volvo’s 1.8-liter turbo four found in the S60. The Wards editors found the power output and fuel economy of this engine exceptional. It stood out from among the 15 turbocharged four-cylinder engines considered for this year’s awards.
  7. Volkswagen’s 1.8-liter TSI turbo four found in the Golf. This engine is the poster child for the advancement of gasoline-fueled engines in their quest to try to emulate the efficiency of diesels. Since VW is one of the world leaders in diesels, it looks like they have done quite a job of applying some of the technological advances from compression-ignition engines to the spark world of gasoline, with a trifecta of great results in power, fuel efficiency and emissions. We’ve driven this engine and it gives no quarter to any of its challengers.
  8. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ turbodiesel 3-liter V6 found in the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500 pickup. Last year Wards had three diesels among its final 10; this year one made the cut, but it’s one that’s tearing things up. We’ve been in the Jeep powered by this powerful but fuel-sipping engine and we’ll have the test up soon. Suffice it to say, it deserves its place in the group.
  9. Corvette’s 6.2-liter V8. What can you say? Here’s a push-rod V8 cranking out 455 horsepower and still delivering more than 21 mpg on the highway. Where’s the sacrifice? Where’s the
    Jeep,Ram,EcoDiesel,fuel economy

    Torque & fuel economy is the diesel’s forte

    pain at the pump that comes with exotic-car level performance. It’s so last century, GM seems to be saying. I’ve driven this car with the seven-speed manual and it’s a blast—not Clean Fleet Report material, but plenty of fun.

  10. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ V8 found in the Hellcat Dodge Challengers and Chargers. Does anyone really need 707 horsepower or a 204 mph top speed? Of course not! But is it a fun challenge for a mass market car company to crank out a car or two with an engine packing those performance stats? Not even a rhetorical question. This supercharged V8 takes an already potent Hemi engine and changes up to 90 percent of its components and software to boost its performance up into the stratosphere. Oh, but did we mention this engine also delivers 22 mpg highway if you lay off the throttle? Such is the way of performance in the 21st

It’s quite a group and one that is likely the forerunner of many to come with a variety of different powertrains all delivering the delicate combination of power and fuel economy that consumers demand. We at Clean Fleet Report think the quest for best ways to move a car down the road is going to continue to turn up great new technologies and we look forward to reporting on those as they arrive on the scene.

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2014 LA Auto Show: A Hydrogen Milestone

Road Test: 2014 BMW i3 & i3 REX

Top 10 Electric Cars for 2014



Road Test: 2014 BMW i3 & i3 REX

Road Test: 2014 BMW i3 & i3 REX

BMW Gets Into the Electric Car Game For Real with the 2014 BMW i3

The 2014 BMW i3 is the Rorschach test of electric cars. What you see says more about you than the car you’re looking at – or even driving.  Here are some examples of reactions we’ve seen:

  • Is it the latest must-have piece of technology, designed not to be mistaken for any other mere mortal internal combustion engine car? Then you’re a classic early adopter or EV-evangelist ready to scoop up something that might have the cache of a Tesla for one-third the price. And, of course, you know all about the carbon fiber cabin coming out of a carbon-neutral production plant downstream from the Grand Coulee Dam. Like the first generation Toyota Prius and Honda Insight, you will not be mistaken for anyone other than a person driving a new BMW i3 when you tool down the road in this.
  • Is it just the latest piece of Munich-based hardware? Then the roundel on the leading edge of the front is all you need to know. If BMW is willing to put its badge on this car, then the assumption is that it must the “ultimate electric
    2014,BMW,i3,electric car,EV

    Headstrong entry into the electric car market

    driving machine.”

  • Do you love EVs as much as you love your children, but can’t get beyond the “unique” styling? Well, this could not be further from a MINI-E or Active-E. From 40 feet away either of those two earlier BMW electric car programs could have been mistaken for a gasoline-drinking Mini Cooper or BMW 1-Series sedan. Even with the quick-start the i3’s sales have had, this car will not be blending in anytime soon.  To be honest, even if it did become ubiquitous, it would probably still stand out in the same way a Model S does in its home territory of Silicon Valley.

So there you have it. Take a look and let us know where you stand. In the meantime, we’ll let you know what we thought of the i3 in our week-long test.

First, we should disclose that our BMW i3 experience was not limited to the week’s test drive. We had the opportunity to spend the better part of a week in three different pre-production i3s last year and more recently also took an i3 on a short freeway run to get a better sense of that part of its character. Everything we experienced in our earlier drives was confirmed and reinforced in the most recent i3 drives.

The “Ultimate” In Electric On-Road Performance

2014,BMW i3,tires,road handling

Skinny but surprisingly stable

The 2014 BMW i3 is a true BMW, delivering an on-road experience that belies the car’s tall, skinny, low rolling resistance (155/70-19) tires. Handling is on par with the BMW 1-Series sedan, which is a similar length. With 450 pounds of lithium-ion batteries built into the floor of the high-riding car that weighs in at 2,635 pounds (2,899 for the Range Extender version we had) total, road-hugging has some assistance from gravity and smart planning. (More on the weight tricks of the i3 later.) Macpherson struts up front and a five-link rear suspension deliver the rest. The short i3 also offers a very tight turning radius in line with its projected urban residency.

The other part of the BMW driving experience is power, in this case 170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque coming from a synchronous electric motor. In the Range Extender version we had there is also a two-cylinder 650cc gasoline engine that serves as a battery charger when needed (we didn’t need it in our time in the car). Power is delivered full-strength from zero rpm up to the redline of 11,400. The 22 kWh battery stores the electricity, enough for 80-100 miles of range in the real world (with the gas engine added another 50 miles of backup).

The i3 is zippy and very responsive. as you would expect from a BMW. Matching its aggressive acceleration is regenerative braking strong enough to stop the car without touching the brake pedal from low speeds. But stopping is not what the i3 likes to do. It will tackle hills and corners with as much gusto as you want to apply, cleverly showing the sporty BMW lurking underneath a tall, functional exterior.

An Exotic Interior

Like the exterior, the interior may be another of those Rorschach moments. We would predict you’ll either be entranced by the exotic materials or put-off by the uniqueness of it all. There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground. Every time you approach this vehicle you will be challenged to either welcome it as (as BMW says) “the future” or reject it for the same reason.

2014,BMW i3,dash,environmental

Exotic and environmental but functional

Enter the interior and you’ll see bits of exposed carbon fiber, just to let you know how BMW was able to shrink the heft of the vehicle (since CFRP, or carbon fiber reinforced plastic, is about half the weight of steel while maintaining as good or better strength as steel). Some additional weight loss came from the use of an aluminum chassis and other lightweight components you can’t see. The size of the interior is impressive. BMW claims it has the interior space of a 3-Series while the exterior footprint is closer to a 1-Series. After noticing the spaciousness and exotic materials, you’ll be struck by the quietness. Electric cars tend to be quiet, but the i3 takes things up a notch to a Lexus-like level of interior stillness. For a small car, it’s doubly impressive and a marker of the luxury brand that the BMW represents.

The instrument panel surround and door trim use fibers from the Kenaf plant, the dashboard wood trim is crafted from eucalyptus and olive-leaf extract is used to tan interior leather surfaces. Those are details behind the striking insides of the i3, all designed to reinforce its environmental aesthetic and in some cases aid the cars prime directive—reduce weight.

Inside the i3, you’ll note there is no key slot; a start-stop button is all that’s needed, augmented by a gear-selector similar to that found in other BMW vehicles, but a far cry from a traditional “gearstick.” A touchscreen “floats” in the center of the dash above the eucalyptus wood and offers a variety of information on all of the electronics in the car. Redundant controls for key elements can be found in the dash below the screen. Around the steering wheel are a variety of levers, several of undetermined function. The i3 presents itself like many European models as a car that will demand some research to be fully appreciated and used to its full capacity.

For technology, the base (Mega World) model features BMW Assist eCall, Remote Services and BMW TeleService, BMW Navigation system and SiriusXM Satellite Radio. The next level up (Giga World) adds a universal garage opener and

2014 BMW i3,interior,doors

Open for business

Comfort Access. The top-of-the-line Tera World upgrades the leather upholstery. Each level has unique wheels.

Like most BMWs, the i3 focuses most on the driver. That seat is placed high for great road visibility and has plenty of comfort features. Likewise, the front passenger seat offers a place of honor. The front end of the cabin is spacious since there is no transmission hump. When you move to the rear bench, things change. First, there’s the matter of entry through the half doors found on each side. Ingress and egress is easier than a typical two-door, but far from the ease of a four-dorr sedan. The bench seating angle is a little more abrupt than usually found and the comfort level down a notch. It’s not a place you would want to have a friend spend much time.

Pricing & Warranties

2014 BMW i3  $41,350

2014 BMW i3 with Range Extender  $45,200

A federal tax credit of $7,500 is also available and some discounted financing and lease arrangements are being offered.

The i3 comes with BMW Ultimate Service that provides four years of no-cost service, along with a 4-year/50,000-mile new vehicle limited warranty, 4-year/Unlimited mileage roadside assistance and an 8-year/100,000-mile high-voltage

2014,BMW i3,range extender,electric car

Looking for the right home

battery warranty.

Bottom Line

If electric cars are not for everyone, then the 2014 BMW i3 is the poster child for EVs. Its styling, price and features place it at the upper end of the class. And you get a lot for that upper end positioning. But the i3 is not a blend-into-the-crowd kind of car. It’s is a true BMW, at least in everything but styling, and even with that BMW has gone to great extremes to create a distinctive look that will make sure everyone who sees the car will recognize it as an electric.

As mentioned above, the BMW i3 is a car that presents itself in some ways as a science project. there is much to learn about it. A week is not nearly enough to fully appreciate all of its technology and potential. But it was enough to understand it is a fully functional electric car and a great representative of the BMW brand. Based on that, it’s not surprising to see why the buying public is snapping up these cars as soon as they arrive on dealer lots. A lot of people are clearly seeing themselves in the i3.

2014 BMW i3 4dr Hatchback | FindTheBest