The top 5 reasons the BMW i3 blew our minds

It's ugly for a BMW, really, but it's revolutionary once you get inside.

Sorry, but cars like BMW’s electric ugly duckling are the future of the car and of our planet. Get inside one, as Fitness First magazine did yesterday, and you’ll be amazed.

Even though BMW has sold more than 40,000 i3s around the world already, it hasn’t made a big deal of the i3 yet in its marketing. Maybe the German automaker feels the mainstream public may not be yet ready for the big departure from conventional motoring that this little polymer/carbon fibre box on wheels represents. Not only does it sit high and square next to a low slung 330i,  but the i3 has a fully electric drivetrain, which means that everything – from driving it to fuelling is completely different to what you and I are used to.

We drove one for the first time yesterday on some country roads in Victoria’s Yarra Valley. And what we experienced was  revelation. These are the top 5 things you instantly notice when you drive a genuine electric car for the first time:

1. The near silence

We’d read about this, but still weren’t prepared for the almost total lack of engine noise. When you accelerate in the i3 all you hear is the wheels on the road surface and air rushing past the car. Its 127 Kw electric motor is a very distant hum in the background. The loudest noise in the cabin is the air conditioner and for a moment we thought that must be the engine. Driving in the i3 is like sitting at home listening to faint noises from your desktop computer.

2. It has unbelievable acceleration for a small car

Put the foot down and the i3 just takes off like a much more powerful, bigger car. While the official acceleration figure of 7.2 seconds for 0-100 km/h doesn’t make it a Ferrari, the actual acceleration still comes as a shock because you are used to wheezy acceleration from cars this size. Best of all, even when you’re doing 40-50Km an hour and you floor the accelerator, the i3 still manages a surprising surge that makes overtaking easy. That’s because electric engines deliver power instantly, without needing to wind up to deliver more.

BMW i3 drive selector.
BMW i3 drive selector. No gears, just Drive and Reverse.

3. You brake very little

Take your foot off the accelerator and the i3 doesn’t coast like all conventional cars. It actually decelerates very quickly as if you’ve put on the brakes lightly. This means you use the brakes far less and once you get used to this unique way of moving, you’re effectively propelling and slowing the car largely with just the accelerator pedal. Your right foot does far less work than in a conventional car. This was the single biggest thing we had to get used to while driving the i3.

4. There is a huge amount of room.

For its size the i3 is surprisingly roomy. That’s because its electric engine takes up far less space than a conventional petrol or diesel engine and there’s also no transmission. It means the cabin can be made bigger than those of conventionally engined cars, and there isn’t a transmission tunnel under the centre console either.

No transmission tunnel creates far more space than in an ordinary car.

5. This is the most perfect city car. Ever.

With a range said to vary between 130 km and 180 km, the i3 will easily deal with a daily commute. But it’s perfect for the city because it’s small size and nippy acceleration means you dart in and out of traffic very easily. Its height gives you good visibility and it’s easy to park.

The fuel gauge shows a visual of the battery power remaining, plus estimated range.
The fuel gauge shows a visual of the battery power remaining, plus estimated range.

In all, this is the future, and it’s faster, cleaner and more fun. Bring on electric cars.