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2014 BMW i3: First Drive

 
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2014 BMW i3 (German-market version), Amsterdam, Oct 2013

BMW enthusiasts have had several years to get used to the tradition-breaking SUVs and crossovers which infiltrated the once sedan-only range, but electric cars are a different proposition altogether. Particularly short, upright electric cars like the 2014 BMW i3, the firm's first true production electric vehicle, following on from MINI E and 1-Series ActiveE trials.

Those enthusiasts and traditionalists are only a small part of the automaker's customer base though, and the badge alone is responsible for a healthy proportion of BMW sales. The i3 may even improve the electric car's reputation as a whole, and early European orders are a testament to that.

Still, BMWs are also about the ownership experience. And if the review from our colleagues at Green Car Reports is anything to go by, those early owners will find plenty to like from their new electric car. Indeed, for those living in a city it could be the best vehicle they'll have ever driven.

Much of it centers on the i3's ambiance. The interior is like that of few other cars, a result of the designed-from-scratch approach BMW took. This is no mere conversion of a regular model like the ActiveE--instead, it's an electric car through and through, with a carbon-reinforced plastic chassis and styling that breaks free of BMW's existing range.

It adds up to a surpremely relaxed driving environment. While Green Car Reports isn't so sure about the environmentally-friendly cloth used in parts, the design itself and the airy cockpit are both praised. The top of the dash is low, the TFT displays appear to float above the dash, and all the most important functions are controlled via a pod behind the steering wheel, with starter, parking brake and gear selector all a fingertip-reach away.

That the i3 is also so easy to drive is a major bonus. Once underway it's entirely possible to drive using just one pedal, with keen acceleration and a smooth, precise regenerative braking ability offering enough retardation to forgo the left-hand pedal entirely.

Handling is less accomplished--the narrow tires and tall profile see to that--but for city-bound buyers, that might not matter so much. Perhaps the highest praise is that the car "actually makes the driver willing to tolerate congestion and chaotic urban traffic." And how many other cars really do that?

Head over to Green Car Reports for the full review.

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