Video: 2014 BMW i3 Review


On October 12-13, BMW brought in a whole slew of European automotive journalists to test out its upcoming i3 in the Netherlands.

BMW i3 Driven

BMW i3 Driven

Reviews are a-plenty, but this 9-plus minute video review struck us as one of the most well-rounded of them all.

You do have to overlook the strong accent though, which is fine by us when the reviewer is so thorough.

Soon, there will be even more i3 reviews, as BMW is now in the process of lining up test drives in the US, though we still reckon this video will be tops, even after the US media gets seat time behind the wheel of the i3.

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23 Comments on "Video: 2014 BMW i3 Review"

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Interesting that the back seat windows don’t open and the tires are fairly narrow. Also, the car is very expensive for what it is.

I don’t think the car is good for coasting either because you must go through P to get to N and R it’s like this: from top to bottom; D P N R and not R N D/Eco with a P button like the Nissan Leaf. Down hill there are some, not me, who coast to gain range over regen’ing which only returns 30% to the battery on a Leaf.

Having said that, I really like the car because the chassis is made of aluminum, the body is carbon fiber and it’s rear drive, all good engineering function over form features.

Coasting seems like a dangerous thing if not wasteful when you could use some of the regen. Volt provides 5KW of regen during “coasting” in D mode. Coasting in a Leaf probably is similar.

Regen on the 2013 and later Volt displays, shows it provides anywhere from 0-45kw, depending on speed and whether you are in ‘D’, or ‘L’. True coasting is always better, wherever you can fit it in. Regen is lossy, as mentioned with the ~30% efficiency rate, or thereabouts.

I agree on the lack of coasting – this is the most efficient way to use the kinetic energy you have “invested” in accelerating the car. When you can coast, you accelerate less to begin with, and when you want to carry speed, easy coasting is great. Sure, use regen when you need to slow down; but regen cannot regain anywhere near all of the energy you used to accelerate, and if you accelerate and then immediately use regen to slow down, you have covered a lot less ground, and used more energy, too. The tires are narrow for several reasons: they have less aero drag, and they have lower rolling resistance. They are also lighter weight, and wheel weight is more important than any other part, because you have to both spin it, and move it forward; so wheel weight sorta’ counts “twice”. Heavy wheels also add to the unsprung weight, which rides and handles less well; all else being equal. Actually, the thing about rear wheel drive with an EV is that you can get less regen from the rear; just as you get less braking power from the rear of any car. Under braking, the weight shifts… Read more »

I’m sure the tires are fully functional, but try telling that to some who will move on from the 155mm funkyness who, much because of BMW’s recent X5 training, feel they still need at least ~255’s surrounding them.

Regen does a lot to equalize biasing in the Volt in ordinary driving, but in extreme situations I believe it’s bypassed. Front bias goes way up, when you late brake from 65-35 in about 40 feet πŸ˜‰ I would bet money the Volt proportions its bias, in balance with regen because front dive becomes no more of a problem in ‘L’, than it is in ‘D’. How they actively did it, I have no clue, but the sensation of ample rear brake during front regen is something they seemed to have pulled off quite well.

My 2 cents about coasting. How to coast in an electric car: hold the power pedal in one place! That being said, I can’t know how easy that is to do without a lot of experience (I don’t have an EV). At least with most EVs, especially the excellent Tesla S dashboard data visualization, you can see your power usage in a very fast and fine grained (practically analog) way. (LEAF on the other hand makes me want to puke with all of 4 bits of resolution on the power meter and no kW calibration. Fortwo is better but the dials are small and far away.)

This display is specifically what changed in the 2013, onward, Volts. The center dash gives you hockey stick indications of both consumption and regen. It isn’t as detailed as the Tesla.

I migrated from a stick VW, and find ‘D’ coasting more free than other automatics, but not like ‘N’, which feels like a true neutral.

It’s not easy, but far from impossible, either. I always drive my i-MiEV in its highest regen mode. If I need to coast, I keep the pedal steady. You can judge whether or not you’re coasting by watching the power/regen gauge or even “by the seat of your pants”. Yes, you can really tell even without looking, with some practice.

Interesting point about the i3 and coasting: They enlarged the “dead” zone on the accelerator specifically for coasting without shifting out of drive.

No doubt based on the Audi A2. It’s a bit odd that they chose those doors

Audi is another company, and the A2 is maybe similar in some ways, it is quite different in others. BMW would not be basing one of their cars on an Audi.

The backseat appears just as cramped as the Volt. πŸ™ The car is pretty sweet overall though.

It is a 4-passenger car, like the Volt and i-MiEV. Unlike the Volt, it can’t carry 3 passengers in the back just because of lack of width, not a battery hump in the middle of the car.

At 5:32 of the video, it’s obvious how much rear trunk space was sacrificed for the range extender engine. If the electronic controls on top of the motor had been mounted in the range extender engine space, the floor of the rear trunk could have been significantly lower.

I was disappointed to learn that the rear windows cannot be lowered. That would almost force one to use A/C in a warm climate if there were rear-seat passengers.

Also, rear seat ingress/egress looks difficult for those who aren’t so limber or thin. Maybe the front seat backs can be easily tilted forward as with normal 2-door cars. If so, the i3 might be considered a 2-door car with better than average rear seat access rather than a true 4-door car. I wonder how much BMW’s choice of 19″ wheels has impacted rear seat access. With smaller wheels, the rear doors might have been a bit wider.

Also, it is awkward for someone to get into the backseat and not be able to close the front door. For all the lack of a ‘B’ pillar, it doesn’t seem to be particularly easy to get into the rear seat.

If it has vigorous fresh air flow through the vents, then I can see that not opening the rear windows would be okay. Often in cars shaped like the i3, when the rear windows are open and the front windows are closed – you get severe “beating” and very annoying air pressure and lots of noise; with just one rear window open, in particular.

Still no demonstration of the range extender….

ya this car is really nothing special

Volt over this

My opinion is that the Model S is got it almost all right compared to this i3. The almost all being due to the fact that a micro AVL Wankel range extender would have made it more flexible for long range being the present situation of no global superchargers presence. But that is about all because aluminum is the best cost weight compromise cfrp being a bridge too far. The odd doors of the i3 are also absent from the Model S (unfortunately the same error is present on the Model X). The size of the i3 is way too small especially compared to the model S where I like the width and the length although this last one could be ok at 4,6 m as well.
Let’s hope the future larger BMW i5 takes back the electric drive of the i3 with a larger 10 gallon tank and an AVL flex fuel Wankel, but leaves the doors like on the conventional BMW 5 series.

“…the present situation of no global superchargers presence…”

Are you really going to drive to the Australian Outback in your Model S? Tesla has done a fine job locating SuperCharger stations where they need to be — typically between large cities.

That being said, comparing the Model S to the i3 isn’t apples-to-apples. Sure, they’re both electric cars, but even without a range extender, the Model S has more range than the i3 WITH the range extender.

Yes, the Model S is more expensive, but how about we compare the i3 with the i-MiEV instead?

i3 price out the door: $40K
i-MiEV price out the door: $16K
i3 has about 50% more range in EV mode.
The i3 weighs more. (Yes, really!)
Both hold 4 passengers.
Both have rear-engine/rear-wheel drive configurations.
The i-MiEV has more cargo room with seats up or down.
The i3 has more power.
The i3’s tires will cost around $300 each to replace.
The i-MiEV’s tires cost around $80 each to replace.
The i3 has an independent rear suspension, i-MiEV does not.
The i3 has the BMW panache. Who cares? πŸ˜‰

Aaron … I like the comparison. And, makes me realize that though I had considered the BMW i3 (with range extender) as our next car, I am just so cheap (and not rich) that I don’t think it could happen. The iMiev is the perfect car for us (my wife drives it mostly). I think the suicide doors on the i3 would be a hassle with our two kids. They love riding in the iMiev! (Of course the relative discomfort/primitive nature of their other option: the stately Lectric Leopard πŸ˜‰ , might have something to do with that).

Anyone else see the reviewer almost get taken out by the motorcycle?!

That is one cold blooded EV reviewer. He just leaned a little to the side as the bike flew by.


Yep, I was really impressed with the reviewer after that! He just leaned, skipped a beat, then continued with the review. Most of us would have been “OMG, did you just see that? That guy just almost hit me!”


The one area that the industry has not addressed seriously, because the public does not want it, is aerodynamics.

The engineers understand that the weight of batteries is a serious constraint on what is possible. Increasing battery size has diminishing returns. You can see it if you look at the EPA efficiency ratings. You can reduce weight in other areas to attempt to compensate, but it is not cheap, and there is ultimately a limit to how much weight you can take out.

We have the same problem in ICE vehicles now. To increase fuel efficiency, and reduce CO2 emissions, we are being pushed to more and more costly solutions. At some point we will have to admit that the laws of physics apply not just to creatures that fly or swim, but to anything attempting to move quickly through a fluid.

I do not were the start button is located it looks cheap and poorly made, I fear if that breaks, it would be very expensive to repair.