The BMW i3 - Eco-friendly Urban commuter

The 2016 BMW i3—the German automaker’s premium four-seater electric vehicle hatchback. It’s certainly a standout.

  • BMW i3

My wife doesn’t care about cars. As long as it gets us from Point A to Point B, then—generally speaking—it’s the right car for us. So when I hear her say things like, “This is a perfect car for our life,” I definitely pay attention.

The car in question? The 2016 BMW i3—the German automaker’s premium four-seater electric vehicle hatchback. It’s certainly a standout. Whether you like how it stands out is a whole other question. Over my week with it, however, its quirky design grew on me.

Inside you’ll find door panels made from kenaf plant fibres instead of plastic; leather tanned with olive-leaf extract; eucalyptus wood across the dashboard. Outside, BMW utilizes carbon fiber throughout its structure. Regardless if you’re a critic or fanatic of EVs, BMW has done its darndest to ensure they’ve created as green a car as possible with sustainable and lightweight materials.

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My wife couldn’t stop talking about the sound system. Again, something she never talks about, much less cares about. The i3 I tested had the optional Harman Kardon system, which is part of the $2,500 Technology Package. Its crisp, powerful and turns this silent EV into a cathedral.

bmw i3 interior

Speaking of cost, the base BMW i3 starts at $49,300. With the aforementioned tech package, Suite Interior World package (includes review camera, 19-inch wheels, navigation and more) and range extender the price bumped up to $56,800.

The range extender introduces a 34 HP two-cylinder gas engine that powers the i3’s battery pack. It was a welcomed addition. On a chilly morning I decided to take a day-trip to Guelph. On a full charge it was showing a range of 85 km. BMW says it can achieve a range up to 160 km, likely without using any major systems in the car (the highest range I saw was 135 km after a full charge, with the heat turned off).

The range extender introduces a 34 HP two-cylinder gas engine that powers the i3’s battery pack. It was a welcomed addition.

From Etobicoke I reached Guelph with range to spare—its powerful regenerative brakes undoubtedly created more range than the car was showing. On the way back I dipped into the gas reserve. I didn’t notice when the gas engine kicked in; it was silent and undetectable (I did have the sound system turned up to 11 at the time, though…).

Obviously, on the road the i3 can really move. Off the line it’s incredibly quick, with all of its torque available from zero. Its size allowed me to zip in and out of lanes with confidence; squeeze into street parking spots I otherwise would not fit into; and it had enough cargo space for a couple of carry-on bags in the trunk, plus a few smaller boxes in the back.

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The sum of all these parts made my wife fall in love with the i3. It fits our lifestyle—dual income, no kids, living in a major urban centre. There’s no need to gas it up during the week for our commute to work and the range extender means we could take weekend trips in it. It really works for us and the aggregate of those elements really spoke to her—and to me.

Sure, when the “no kids” section of our combined bio changes the i3 won’t be the family car, but it would serve us well as our go-to commuter. I’m still not sure if the $50k-plus price tag is worth it for us, but the i3 has done a great job of at least making me consider its merits—and turning my wife into a true believer.

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