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  • 2014 BMW i3

#4

in Upscale Small Cars

MSRP: $41,350 - $45,200
Invoice: $38,040 - $41,585
MPG: N/A
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BMW i3 Performance

With its nimble handling and peppy electric motor, test drivers say the 2014 BMW i3 has surprisingly entertaining driving dynamics. Critics think the BMW i3’s steering system is accurate, and they say the i3 stays very stable and flat during cornering thanks to its low center of gravity.

  • "So while the powertrain is indeed brand new and interesting, anyone who defines a BMW simply by the way it drives is going to come away confused. It's not that driving dynamics don't matter, but they matter a lot less when you're moving slowly through a city. And that's where the i3 simply shines." -- Autoblog
  • "Many electric cars have surprising straight-line acceleration. That's just the nature of electric motors -- they have an abundance of torque, which translates to push-you-back-in-the-seat acceleration. It's no surprise that the i3 has similar performance." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "In practice, the i3 turns in to bends eagerly and holds a steady line through them, but the nose will wash wide if those bends are attacked with too much gusto. In other words, it's kind of fun within strict parameters of safety and predictable handling." -- AutoTrader

Acceleration and Power 

The 2014 BMW i3 has a 170-horsepower electric motor and a single-speed transmission. On a fully-charged battery, BMW says the i3 has a range of 80 to 100 miles. An optional range-extending gasoline engine can act like a generator and charge the battery, extending the i3’s range to 160 to180 miles, according to BMW.

Critics say the BMW i3 has strong acceleration and can easily dart around in city traffic and pass at highway speeds. Test drivers point out that the range-extending gasoline engine can’t extend the i3’s range by much, making it more suitable for small side trips than cross-country excursions.

  • "With no more than 2900 pounds to push around, the motor feels strong, and it effortlessly flings the car into gaps in traffic. Figure on a 0-60 time of just under seven seconds, although the 0-30 sprint will probably be a class above." -- Car and Driver
  • "Once at speed, the BMW i3's acceleration is still impressive. When we were at freeway speeds and needed to pass slower traffic, for example, the i3 still had plenty of juice for doing so thanks to an electric powertrain that provides instant thrust." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Overtaking is easy, as is urban cut-and-thrust." -- AutoTrader
  • "… the range extender doesn't morph the i3 into a true plug-in hybrid with cross-country functionality, like the Volt. It's better to think of it as a means to keep the party moving should you decide to make a spontaneous side trip, reside slightly outside the normal i3 electric range or suffer a power blackout while charging." -- Edmunds

Alternative Fuels/Charging

BMW says the 2014 i3’s high-voltage battery can be charged in 20 to 24 hours using a 120-volt household outlet, or roughly three hours using a 220-volt outlet. The i3 can be equipped with an optional 50kW fast-charging system that allows it to charge from empty to full in 30 minutes.

Handling and Braking

Critics agree that the 2014 BMW i3 has a low center of gravity that makes it remarkably stable during cornering. The i3’s rear-wheel drive makes it feel like a sports car when it enters and exits tight corners, though test drivers admit that it’s still no match for the BMW 3-Series. Automotive journalists say the i3 has quick, accurate steering and a small turning radius, which makes it easy to maneuver on narrow streets and in crowded parking lots.

  • "The real test of its BMW-ness, if you will, came on the twisty roads of Mulholland. Here the i3 stayed commendably planted, and because it's rear-wheel drive, it behaved more like a sports car when entering and exiting tight turns than, well, your average front-wheel-drive electric car. With its higher profile and shorter stance, the i3 is no 3 Series, but its low center of gravity helps the car stick better than you might suspect." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The turning circle is a compact 32.4 feet -- ideal for getting around tight streets and squeezing into awkward spaces." -- AutoTrader
  • "There's no appreciable feedback from the (of course) electric power steering, but it is nonetheless very quick and precise. On our first pass through a tight slalom course, we clipped two cones because we were unprepared for the i3's quick turn-in behavior." -- Car and Driver
Review Last Updated: 5/14/14

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