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BMW i3 (94Ah) review: Assault and batteries

The car is like the nice kid in school, but not one the jocks would ever make fun of.

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The newly updated BMW i3 this year has a bigger battery that boosts its range to around 180 to 240km, roughly 50 per cent further than before.

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The BMW i3 seats are set quite high so the car's small stature does not detract from a good view of the road.

Singapore

IF you are the parent of a teenage daughter, you will recognise this guy. He's the nice boy you wish your daughter would choose.

That slightly geeky kid, consistently at the top of his class. Comes from excellent lineage, although his family members are better known for their flashy achievements.

This boy is different: always neatly turned out, but the pairing of his clothes looks like he has more important things to worry about than his appearance. Like saving the environment.

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Notwithstanding the nerdy exterior, everyone likes him because of his easy and comfortable manner. He may be small in stature, but the jocks in his class stopped making fun of him once they discovered that in the 100m sprint, he's a speed demon.

So while you know your precious child will move in the best of circles, this is not someone who will tempt her to push the limits. She will be safe with him. In fact, she won't even need to step on the brakes to have him backing off to a gentlemanly distance.

Introducing the BMW i3, newly updated this year with a bigger battery that boosts its range to around 180 to 240km, roughly 50 per cent further than before.

This was my first time getting behind the wheel of an electric car. With the current pushback against dirty energy, there's an unspoken expectation that good global citizens will switch to a more environmentally friendly vehicle. Like the societal pressure, a decade back, for new moms to breastfeed their newborns, getting into my gas-guzzling roadster these days feels like I'm pushing a bottle of milk formula into a baby's mouth when there's a perfectly serviceable nursing room available.

Hence my three-day flirtation with the i3. I figured that if you have to lose your electric car virginity, you should at least insist on sturdy German handling.

The i3 isn't much to look at. It's short and snub-nosed, encased in a strange colour block of blue and black. I can't decide if its appearance is meant to be space-age or is a defiant reverse snob way of trumpeting the car's green credentials. But it is hard to hold this against the design team, when you discover that everything - from the size of the car to the lack of electronic seat adjusters - has been optimised for fuel efficiency. Carbon fibre-reinforced plastic gives the frame a strength that its lightness belies.

The interior is a millennial hipster's vehicular wet dream - dark oak trim undulates on the dash supporting an upsized display that helps with navigation and parking, while much of the interior has been made from recycled materials.

The i3 has, for a little guy, a whole lot of torque and an impressive turn of speed. He handles smoothly and braking only requires you to lift your foot from the accelerator. The action of letting the car stop without applying the brakes actually charges the battery, which gives you a sense of accomplishment. Timberland-wearing tree huggers may be saving the earth by protecting the Amazonian rainforest, but the i3 lets you do your bit by driving a BMW. Stylish yet environmentally responsible, you mentally hashtag yourself.

The cabin is so silent that conference calls do not require you to put the phone on "mute" to block out background noise. The seats are set quite high above the ground so the car's small stature does not detract from a good view of the road. The back seats are relatively roomy, allowing four of us to make a quick lunch foray. The car even has a small but serviceable boot.

The BMW i3 is the smart luxury car for the future. It starts at the push of a button, and another button gets you a concierge who will program your route into the navigation system. The car will, if asked, assist you with parallel parking, and should you get too close to the vehicle in front, a red flashing light alerts you with a quiet efficiency. It's a much better driving companion than the histrionic spouse whose main contribution is shouting hysterically that you're going too fast.

This is the next generation vehicle - a personal mobility device with doors, if you will - that the wealthy entrepreneur buys his daughter for getting into medical school. It's the environmentally responsible choice for the newly married couple choosing their first car. If you want an "easy to get around in" vehicle, then this golf buggy on steroids is a good bet.

BMW takes pride in having created the most successful electric vehicle in its segment. And it has cause to be proud. But it will take some time for a widespread adoption in Singapore.

BMW gives buyers a charging unit to be installed in their homes, but unless you reside in landed property, you will require your condo management's approval to install this; good luck with that one, given how it sometimes takes an entire condo committee to change a lightbulb (one to screw it in, and everyone else to argue about it).

My office building has a charging station but it accommodates only one vehicle and as the owner of the much flashier BMW i8 arrives much earlier than I, I would have difficulty muscling in. In any event, the type of charger installed in the building is not compatible with the i3. BMW may be future ready; our smart nation, unfortunately, is still a few steps behind.

The i3 has ... a whole lot of torque and an impressive turn of speed. He handles smoothly and braking only requires you to lift your foot from the accelerator.


BMW i3 REx

  • Electric Motor 170hp, 250Nm
  • Battery 33kWh lithium-ion
  • Range approx 180-240km
  • Top Speed 150km/h
  • 0-100km/h 8.1 seconds
  • Electricity consumption 11.9kWh/100km
  • CO2 47g/km
  • Price S$219,888 including COE
  • Agent Performance Motors Limited
  • Available Now