Everyone and their uncle have been testing the i3, and the reports are in. So, does it drive like a BMW?
An entertaining driving experience quite unlike any other series-production existing electric car.
With 168bhp and 184lb ft of torque the moment you brush the throttle, the new BMW is more than merely brisk. In fact, its performance is good enough to match some big name hot hatches.
Indeed, in the cut and thrust of city traffic, the new BMW is extraordinarily agile and fun to drive.
The ride is quite firm and tends to become frigid on anything but smooth road surfaces. The damping, on the other hand, is relatively soft, leading to rather exaggerated levels of lean when you pitch the new BMW into a bend. The tall but narrow tyres provide relatively strong adhesion, but with so much performance on hand it doesn’t take much to get the traction and stability control systems working mid-corner
Yet even though it's rear-wheel drive, those expecting lurid BMW M3-like sideways moments will be disappointed; find the limits of the skinny tyres and the i3 will push on in understeer rather than oversteer. Still, the rear-drive set-up does give the handling a purity.
The steering is surprisingly weighty and full of feel, allowing you to place the car exactly where you want it, while the low centre of gravity means that it remains composed during quick direction changes.
It makes you feel better. It really does. It's one of those cars that changes the way you drive.
In most normal suburban driving the i3 is somewhere between quick and actually fast. Normally it eases its way from rest with impeccable smoothness, but floor the thing and it departs as if high-voltage electrodes have been applied to its derrière. Which of course they have.
It weighs 1200kg, which is 350kg less than the Nissan Leaf, which gets by on just 109bhp. That's why the 170bhp BMW goes so well.
And it corners like a BMW. Sort of. OK, a short, wide BMW with narrow tyres. Pile into a bend and it'll understeer. Jam the accelerator hard in a tight bend and the front end goes light and it'll understeer. But be smooth, or give a slight lift to dig the front tyres in, and it's neutral, the driven rear wheels finding plenty of traction. The chassis gives you good feel for what's up, the steering less so. But the steering is direct and the wheelbase short, so the i3 is always agile.