Parkers overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 4.5
  • A minimalist delight
  • Futuristic feel in cabin
  • Light, airy, roomy

From behind the wheel the BMW i3 manages to feel entirely other-worldly and instantly familiar at the same time. There’s plenty of familiar BMW switchgear and instrumentation and the pedals and switches all feel just like those in a 3 Series, but some of the features are presented and arranged in a slightly alien way.

The iDrive controller remains, and its functions are displayed on a regular 6.5-inch screen – the only differences between the one here and a 1 Series being the specific i3 information offered. It’s an easy system to navigate, even if it may take new users a few extra hours of familiarisation, and houses a huge number of functions and information all in one place.

A column-mounted rotary gearlever for the automatic transmission should be intuitive, rolling it forwards engaging drive and twisting it back selecting reverse, but anyone used to a conventional auto ’box will find themselves selecting the wrong mode on occasion.

Thanks to the large amount of glazing, and predominantly light natural materials used throughout, the i3 feels exceptionally spacious. There’s a natural and honest feel to the cabin that sits well with this car’s eco credentials – many of the materials used look intentionally recycled.

The dashboard, with its layered elements, stretches out far in front of you, the windscreen base seemingly in another postcode, and the lack of transmission tunnel and lower centre console only adds to the feeling, with a clear carpet between the front-seat passengers (this is useful extra storage space). Opt for the Lodge interior trim and the natural eucalyptus wood running across the dashboard makes it feel even brighter.

Quality is right up there with larger or more expensive models in the BMW range. The i3 has an excellent range of adjustment for the seat and steering column – so the perfect driving position is easily achieved.

  • i3 largely a comfy car
  • Seats adjust and support well
  • Ride can be quite bumpy in town

Judging BMW i3 comfort levels isn’t that easy; just like any other electric car they’re skewed slightly by the fact there’s no engine noise to contend with. That means occupants are much more aware of wind and road noise that inevitably filters through to the cabin. It may not be any worse than in a conventional car, but you’ll hear it a lot more clearly in this car.

That quiet cabin does mean that occupant conversation is easier and more relaxed though, and even the gentle thrum of the Range Extender’s engine doesn’t intrude too much.

Those 19-inch (or optional 20-inch) alloy wheels don’t help soak up the lumps and bumps on the road, and sharper imperfections show the i3 to be slightly more rigid and firmly sprung than you might think necessary for a small car. Considering most examples will spend their lives trampling along broken city streets that’s a disappointment and improved high-speed handling is scant consolation.

The interior is a bright space though, with plenty of room on offer, and even the rear seats prove comfortable with adequate headroom and enough legroom for adults to sit behind each other. Just remember there are only two rear seats though, with no seatbelt provision for a fifth passenger.

Comfort is guaranteed in the front seats too, but while the flat bases won’t prove problematic around town the lack of side support can be an issue as cornering speeds increase.