BMW i3 review

A revised hatchback shows off its extended electric stall in a sportier tune

It may seem a bit disappointing for some to see how long it takes Europeans to embrace electric cars. This is not because it seems to be a barrier that prevents the breed from improving.

We’ve seen battery capacities and associated cruising distances improve on the Renault Zoe (by 86%), and Volkswagen e-Golf (by 48%), while the Nissan Leaf has experienced a 66% increase of battery capacity in three years. The kidney grille’s blue inner trim has been replaced by matt silver or gloss black. This gives the i3s an unfriendly appearance.

RELATED BMW I3 REVIEWS

nissan These cars will join the UK’s new VW ID all-electric hatchback, and customers from mainland Europe can purchase the Opel Ampera-e. Both of these vehicles promise to have a range of nearly 250 miles.

If these newbies are indeed what they claim to be, it will be difficult for the fledgling EV-hatchback class to reach that mark. Having started in 2010 with the approximately-80-mile Nissan Leaf, that is clearly not progress to be praised.

A once-famous class-leading car in this rapidly changing environment can quickly fall behind. The mould-breaking i3 has been similarly affected. BMW’s electric supermini, the new age, was a delight to us. Its innovative design, distinctive aesthetic, and perky handling earned it five road test stars of recommendation in 2013. Since its inception, the car has been constantly evolving. In July 2016, a model year revision added 50% to its battery power. The car now has a larger, mid-life upgrade programme that includes styling, equipment changes, and countless technical improvements.

The i3 can be purchased in both an all-electric or range-extended petrol/electric version. This allows the car to switch back to a petrol engine when the drive battery is low. BMW also offers an 181bhp performance version of its i3 alongside the 168bhp standard model.

The go-faster version gets lowered, stiffened suspension and widened axle tracks. It also features a pioneering traction controller set-up. It’s the i3s, and it’s this week’s road test subject.

Is it not time to welcome a performance car to the affordable end of the electric vehicle market? This is actually a cleverly designed bit of misdirection by BMW to hide the fact that the speed at which its electric supermini is catching up to its rivals is slowing down.