The BMW i3 is a rather funky little four-seat electric car! I LOVE electric vehicles so I was very excited to put my family in this futuristic-looking BMW for a week and see how family-friendly it is for BabyDrive!
The i3 is really not like any other car you would regularly come across and considering it came out in 2013 it still feels very forward-thinking.
The most obvious difference is the doors of the i3. There is no central pillar and the rear doors have their hinges at the back to they open the opposite way to most cars. I thought this was going to make life with kids easier but, in reality, I have found the opposite.
In my garage and most car parks, there wasn't always room to open both doors at once. In the end, I found I had to sit my daughter on the front passenger seat while I moved the car out of a parking space, then stop the car and both get out, open both doors and put her in her child seat.
There was always a ridiculous juggle of doors, child and trying to not hit doors on the neighbouring car. We also all discovered how hard and sharp the bottom of the car door is, as during this shuffle you will at some stage definitely hit your shins with it! At a different stage in my life, this car would have been fantastic but with a small child, the doors were my nemesis! Or if I lived with a large open driveway I could throw the doors open with abandon!
In terms of design, the BMW i3 is beautiful! It feels like something I would have studied back at art college and I can imagine my daughter's children pawing over one in an art gallery in the future. Not only is it electric but the materials it is made from inside are sustainably sourced too. For example, its leather seats instead of being treated with chemicals are treated with olive leaves.
The interior body panels incorporate visible kenaf fibres which are grown in the monsoon season. A wool blend is used in the seats, which helps to cool the occupants when hot and warm when cold so you use the climate control less. Sustainably sourced eucalyptus wood is used in the i3's door and dashboard panels and looks fantastic! Made of carbon-fibre, the i3 is light which means it uses less battery power too and it's super nippy and fast. They’ve thought about your children's future with all the sustainable ingredients, but not perhaps how practical it is for getting them about in the meantime.
For such a small car the i3 I found to have poor visibility and even when using the very clear reversing camera I still found it hard to judge where the edges of the car were when reversing. It is as if the objects in the camera and those in the mirrors were different distances away.
There are just two back seats in the BMW i3. Both have ISOFix that are easy to access and connect to and there are top tether anchorages on the back of both rear seats.
Fitting child seats were nice and easy, and with a forward-facing child seat, we found a 182cm passenger could sit in front. But with a rear-facing child seat installed, only a 170cm front passenger could fit.
The galley walkthrough in the back was a great novelty! And in fact, you needed it as I found I had to put my daughter in on whichever side I got in to.
Also, there is no storage in the back except two cup holders in the centre of the seats.
In the front of the BMW i3, storage is well designed, with different cup holders in the front and an elasticated strap in the walkthrough, which I found useful to hold my shoes while driving!
The central console armrest has a cordless mobile charger…
…and the eucalyptus dash opens up to reveal a felt-lined glove box.
The battery of the BMW i3 only took about 250km of charge and it was slow to charge up too. This would be okay if your daily commute was a 20km round trip but on my 130km one-way trip to drop the i3 off I did get a bit nervous when I got stuck in traffic and had left home with 178km!!
Charging the BMW i3 wasn't a problem, we found our family just charged it each night at home and at the shopping centre too as part of our daily routine.
Like everything else, the gear lever is a little quirky in the i3; behind the steering wheel on the right is a stumpy lever you rotate, which is easy to get used to and keeps the central console clear.
The designer would have had a lot of fun with the i3, really being able to move things around and change the normal position of everything. It reminds me of a futuristic and electric bubble car!
The boot of the i3 would hold a double stroller without the parcel shelf.
Or eight shopping bags from empty, which is one less than the Nissan Leaf that fits nine.
The BMW i3 was given a five-star ANCAP safety rating in 2014 and has six airbags as standard, including rear head curtain airbags.