► 2016 BMW i3 EV tested
► Longer range boosts usability
► A costly option, but a good one
Ever fancied an all-electric BMW i3, but been put off by concerns about the original's limited range? Then you're in luck, as BMW has now managed to crowbar in a new 94Ah/33kWh battery – leading to a significant hike in the i3's potential NEDC-tested range in the process.
With the old 60Ah/25kWh battery slung by the wayside, and fed by its uprated new battery pack, the 94Ah i3 is reputed to travel up to 195 miles on a single charge; that's a big step up compared to the claimed 118-mile figure of the 60Ah version.
In reality you’re more likely to get around 130 miles, which is still an improvement compared to its predecessor's real-world 80-mile range – and possibly enough to calm your nerves if you’re anxious about running out of juice.
But when the time comes that you do need to recharge, you’ll be back up and running quicker than before thanks to faster DC rapid charging as standard – the i3 will be fully charged from empty in less than three hours. This system also grants the option of a fast charge, which takes the i3's battery from 0-80% in less than 40 minutes.
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Is the updated i3 still decent to drive?
Yes. Other than its greater range and a new eye-catching Protonic Blue paintjob from the i8 supercar, the i3 remains the same. That means it'll bolt from 0-62mph in just 7.3 seconds, with nothing but a whirring sound and some road noise.
Because its 184lb ft is instantly available, it always feels punchy and eager – particularly around town. Despite its tall body, there’s plenty of entertainment to be had from throwing the i3 into bends, too, aided by its low centre of gravity and tidy handling.
What else do I need to know?
The biggest thing you’ll need to get used to in the i3, if you’re coming from a conventional car, are the brakes. That's because the i3’s regenerative braking system allows the car to scrub off speed itself in a bid to feed energy back to the battery, and the stopping power afforded by this system negates having to use the brakes that often.
It takes a little getting used to, but once you develop the mindset of an EV driver, it’s surprisingly satisfying knowing that you’re getting back a bit of energy. We drove the car on some twisty Alpine roads and managed to get stuck behind an incredibly slow logging truck. While frustrating, if you were trying to make swift progress, following it downhill saw us regain a few extra miles in range because of all the deceleration – it goes some way in making up the difference between the claimed range and the everyday range you can expect to see on the digital trip.
Our only other gripe is the ride – the skinny low-profile tyres cause the i3 to become unsettled by bumps and potholes in the road, the worst of which send shudders through the cabin.
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The i3 continues to boast quirky looks and a suitably futuristic interior, trimmed in high-quality materials – including a choice of eucalyptus or dark oak wood for the dash. Touches like this go some way to justifying its not-insignificant price.
If you’re still not convinced by how far it can go, BMW will sell you a range extender version that also benefits from the new battery – it’ll do 276 miles in total, in theory, but costs around £3000 more over the pure EV.
The appeal of the i3 is only strengthened with its new battery pack fitted. It retains the eye-catching design, spacious interior and engaging driving experience we've praised previously, but now you can enjoy it for longer between charges.
It makes great sense if you’ve got reliable access to charging points, too. It’s just the high price that’s likely to put potential buyers off, given that it knocks on the door of £28k once you've taken the government grant into account. That's a whole lot of coin for what is effectively a small, albeit upmarket, city car.
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