The BMW i3 is not a car. It is a lunar landing vehicle. It is an away-mission shuttle. It is the first starfighter. Okay, maybe it’s just a troop transport, but the i8 could sure be mistaken for a starfighter!
I am rather smitten with the i3. You see, like so many of my generation, I grew up on Star Trek: TNG and Star Wars, and we have been waiting for a car like this for, well, forever. The second-gen Prius was a forerunner, but it only looked a few decades into the future rather than centuries. There is no way the i3 looks like it belongs on the road with F-150s and Civics and Camrys. The two-tone exterior (barely noticeable on this dark grey tester) isn’t just funky looking, though; it is constructed largely of carbon-fibre, and mounted atop an aluminum frame that incorporates the battery housing as a structural component that “improves the rigidity of the vehicle as a whole.”
While fifty grand isn’t cheap for a compact car, it is cheap for one built from aluminum and carbon-fibre, and where the high-tech materials end, an innovative, futuristic yet inviting interior beckons. Truly, there is nothing like this interior on the market, and even more than a year after its launch, it still feels like stepping into a concept car. Although we weren’t lucky enough to be provided one of the two light interior options, but rather the chocolatey brown leather and dark interior accents. The only relief from the dark interior was the eucalyptus-wood dash-top panel and the vivid, bright gauges and central display screen.
Even the doors are inviting, with no B-pillar and swinging out in opposing directions for one large opening, even if it offers limited access to the rear seat because of the narrow rear door. Still, with that wide opening and the front seats slid forward, installing child seats is a breeze and it’s a neat way for children to scamper up into their seats.
Adults relegated to the back seat will appreciate the completely flat floor and the contoured seatbacks prioritizing two passengers (rather than a desperate attempt to squeeze in a third position) even if the seat bottoms are quite short and legroom limited by the car’s compact size. Headroom is just dandy in both rows, and front seats, while manually adjustable, are still comfortable for the most part, although I wasn’t fond of the fixed headrest’s positioning.
Extended-range cage fight: Quick comparison: 2014 BMW i3 vs Chevrolet Volt
If ever there was a car that would have made sense for an F1-like or aircraft-style two-grip steering wheel rather than a big round helm, this is it. As it is, the steering wheel is a chunky unit that relays far more of the driving experience than you would expect for this little space oddity of a car.