2014 BMW i3 Quick Take: How BMW Does Electric Cars

By Richard Homan on December 4, 2014 12:26 PM

Motoring around town in the 2014 BMW i3 electric car is like driving in a different world, maybe even a different future world. Like it or dislike it, the 4-door, rear-drive, BMW electric hatchback can't help but affect you the moment you lay eyes on it, and that initial shock sticks with you as you drive it.

The i3's boxy shape got plenty of attention, both pro and con from the crowds it attracted. That cubist exterior, composed mainly of carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic (so light!), was put to very good use inside, where even the tallest among us had plenty of room to drive comfortably. The second row is nothing to brag about, but this electric BMW is a city car by design, not a cross-country family vehicle.

The BMW i3's stylized interior showcases its urban funk factor, as well as its environmental credibility. Oddball but strangely beautiful, the dash design makes the i3 cockpit a little thrilling to drive -- it looks and feels like unique, like something your great-grandkids should be piloting. Built from renewable and sustainable materials and philosophy, the i3 is loaded with recycled plastic (fear not, it feels very BMW), as well as "responsibly" forested eucalyptus (way cool texture to touch) and Kenaf (the latest miracle plant for sustainability). It is even assembled in a German plant that uses wind-generated electricity.

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Bavarian spirit in its soul

Driven with a full charge on local roads, we discovered a lot of BMW integrated into the 2014 i3. The electric hatchback's brisk acceleration earned the car a second meaning to the term "full charge," and the little battery burner also delighted in diving into and out of corners -- not the ultimate diving machine, but still a more-than-worthy reason to smile. The i3's regenerative braking system -- where the car's electric motor slows the vehicle when you lift off of the accelerator and uses the energy created in slowing to recharge the batteries -- is the most aggressive we've seen, but after a few minutes of getting used to, the system makes the actual friction brakes almost an afterthought. And it'll save you a ton of money on brake pads.

You'll also save significant money on fuel because electricity is free (OK, not free, but compared to gasoline, it feels free). The EPA says that the BMW i3 will travel 81 miles on a full charge, which takes about three hours using a 240-volt Level 2 system, 20 hours plugged into a typical 120-volt wall socket, or you can get an 80-percent charge in just 30 minutes if you opt for the DC Fast Charging system option and have local access to an appropriate public charging station. 

Much of that money saved, however, will be spent. The base price of a 2014 BMW i3 is a little over $42,000, but it qualifies for all the electric car incentives you can throw at it -- including a $7,500 federal tax credit. Our Quick Take car came loaded at $48,675 which included several options that are worth considering, like the $1,000 Parking Assist Package and golden-sounding harman/kardon audio system for $800.

More 2014 BMW i3...

See full review and pricing information for the 2014 BMW i3 or build and price your own to unlock its Fair Purchase Price, 5-Year Cost to Own, and more. 

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