Monday, 24 February 2014

“i” for intelligence?

STUFF / MOTORING

By Ossie Mustafa

In 2009 BMW showed off a new line of car, one which looked as if it had been transported from the future with the promise of high performance and planet-saving credentials: a hybrid with stunning looks and stats to match. Fast forward four years and this car has a name – the all new “i8” due out at the end of this year – along with a price tag of around £100K.

If you don’t have a spare £100K to spend on BMW’s idea of future performance driving, then you can go for its little brother the i3 for a snip at £25,000, which will be available even sooner. Yes it is slower and yes it is a five-door hatchback, but there are a few plus points, the most obvious being that the i3 has zero emissions with a fully-electric drive train built from the ground up. Designed from scratch, this car has benefited from lots of clever tricks to achieve its decent range of 100 miles per charge (180 if you opt to have the hybrid engine fitted); carbon fibre body parts and a lightweight lithium-ion battery pack to mention but two.

Now let us talk about some of the other numbers related to the i3. A higher voltage battery pack means that BMW can sell the i3 with 170hp, not quite the 1001hp you get with a Veyron, but more than double that of the new VW Golf Blue motion. The 0-60 time in 7.5 seconds is also faster than even the 1.4 TSI VW, largely achieved by a kerb weight that is below 1.2 tons. However, 7.5 seconds is not groundbreaking and that’s where the balance tilts back to the VW. The BMW i3 is advertised with having five doors, but in fact the rear doors are half the size of the competition, making it more like a three-and-a-half-door hatchback. BMW has also decided to give the rear passengers more seat space by doing away with the middle seat and slotting a rather ugly pair of cup holders. Given that the i3 is some £8K more expensive than the VW, it rapidly starts to lose some of its charm.

Overall the i3 is more about the direction BMW is taking its cars regarding the real changes faced by everyone in the automobile industry; in the near future, you can expect some drawbacks. As time goes on and the price of the new technology goes down, these cars will get better and cheaper, but the sporty direction BMW seems to be heading towards with their “i” range is good news. 

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