/> ED I T O R S C H O I C E IN N O V A T IO N A W A R D
X

BMW's lightweight, electric i3 looks like it's from the future (pictures)

More mobile gadget than compact car, there's nothing on the road that looks like the 2014 BMW i3.

antuan-roadshow-headshots-jpegs-1893-007.jpg
Antuan Goodwin
bmw-i3-28.jpg
1 of 27 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

2014 BMW i3 with Range Extender

Although it shares many design cues and materials, the compact 2014 BMW i3 with Range Extender is very different animal from its big sister.

bmw-i3-35.jpg
2 of 27 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

City car, city sized

The compact hatchback is a city car with a small, easily parkable footprint.

bmw-i3-40.jpg
3 of 27 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Design elements

Along with its two-toned design, the i3 shares its metallic blue detailing and U-shaped LED illumination with the larger, more exotic i8.

bmw-i3-43.jpg
4 of 27 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Integrated lights

The tail lights are integrated and flush with the glossy tailgate.

bmw-i3-61.jpg
5 of 27 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Shiny mobility

The i3's design is makes it seem more like a shiny mobile gadget than an automobile.

bmw-i3-67.jpg
6 of 27 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Electric motor

The i3 is powered by a 125 kW electric motor on its rear axle. In more familiar terms, the i3 is good for 170 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque.

bmw-i3-82.jpg
7 of 27 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Belt line

The i3's belt line dips dramatically to enlarge the rear windows.

bmw-i3-88.jpg
8 of 27 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Coach doors

The front doors open like you'd expect, but the back coach doors are rear hinged.

bmw-i3-96.jpg
9 of 27 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Optional range extender

The i3 is available with an optional range extender, a two-cylinder gasoline generator that adds to the EV's cruising range.

bmw-i3-103.jpg
10 of 27 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Electricity goes here

The i3 can cruise for about 74 electric-powered miles after a full charge.

bmw-i3-109.jpg
11 of 27 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Charging

Recharging the battery pack takes about 5 hours from a level 2 fast-charging station. In a pinch, drivers can plug the EV into a standard wall outlet using the included charging cable, but that dramatically increases the charging time to well over 12 hours.

bmw-i3-115.jpg
12 of 27 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Gasoline goes here

When the battery level dips below 5 percent, the optional range extender kicks in to add about 75 more miles of cruising range.

bmw-i3-145.jpg
13 of 27 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Range extender

The range extender doesn't have a physical connection to the powertrain; it just generates electricity. It also can't refill the battery pack, merely sustaining about a 5 percent charge.

bmw-i3-181.jpg
14 of 27 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Regeneration and recapture

The regenerative braking system is very aggressive. As soon as the driver lifts a foot from the accelerator, the vehicle begins to slow, reclaiming energy.

bmw-i3-190.jpg
15 of 27 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Front seats

Inside, the i3's cabin is airy and spacious. The front seats are thinner than in a conventional vehicle, freeing up valuable knee room for the rear-seat passengers.

bmw-i3-194.jpg
16 of 27 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Light interior

The dashboard is low and the windows large, which lets a lot of light into the EV's cabin and aids in driver visibility.

bmw-i3-220.jpg
17 of 27 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Materials mix

BMW uses an interesting mix of materials in the cabin. There's wood, wool, exposed carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic, leather and metal.

bmw-i3-202.jpg
18 of 27 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Premium interior

With its multilevel design and mix of materials, the i3's dashboard is a gorgeous work of art.

bmw-i3-205.jpg
19 of 27 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Infotainment

Floating at the center of the dashboard is the color display for the the standard navigation and infotainment system.

bmw-i3-214.jpg
20 of 27 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

iDrive controller

That central screen is not touch sensitive, so drivers interact with it via the iDrive controller. I'm not a fan, but other CNET editors are enamored of this control scheme.

bmw-i3-226.jpg
21 of 27 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Navigation

Navigation is standard and features routing algorithms that take into account the range and efficiency of the electric powertrain.

bmw-i3-223.jpg
22 of 27 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Steering

The i3's steering is very responsive -- almost to a fault. I found the front end to be a bit too darty and twitchy at first, but quickly got used to the compact's agile handling.

bmw-i3-233.jpg
23 of 27 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Gear selector

To free up space, the i3 doesn't use a standard console shift lever. Instead there's this weird steering-column gear selector.

bmw-i3-236.jpg
24 of 27 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Shifting the i3

The driver nudges the selector forward to choose Drive and backward for Reverse. Park is activated by a button atop the stalk.

bmw-i3-248.jpg
25 of 27 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Eco Pro+

To help the driver to exceed the EPA's estimated 74 mile EV range, the i3 features three driving modes. Comfort is the default setting. Eco Pro adjusts the throttle map for more efficient driving. Eco Pro+ is the most extreme setting, limiting the speed to 56 mph and deactivating the climate control.

bmw-i3-269.jpg
26 of 27 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Instrument cluster

The instrument cluster is another tablet-like LCD which showcases the current speed, estimated EV range, and estimated range extender range.

bmw-i3-272.jpg
27 of 27 Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Driver aid

The i3 is available with some fairly advanced driver aid and intervention tech, but our example was equipped with only a rear camera and parking distance sensors.

More Galleries

iPhone 13 Pro, 13 Pro Max camera testing: Photos from Apple's highest end 2021 phones

More Galleries

iPhone 13 Pro, 13 Pro Max camera testing: Photos from Apple's highest end 2021 phones

66 Photos
The best Nintendo Switch games to play in 2021

More Galleries

The best Nintendo Switch games to play in 2021

39 Photos
2022 Ford Expedition: More than meets the eye

More Galleries

2022 Ford Expedition: More than meets the eye

54 Photos
Movies coming in 2021 and 2022 from Netflix, Marvel, HBO and more

More Galleries

Movies coming in 2021 and 2022 from Netflix, Marvel, HBO and more

65 Photos
Apple's iPhone 13, new iPad Mini and more: Everything we saw at Apple's Sept. event

More Galleries

Apple's iPhone 13, new iPad Mini and more: Everything we saw at Apple's Sept. event

104 Photos
Best dating apps of 2021

More Galleries

Best dating apps of 2021

13 Photos
The 2022 Mercedes-AMG SL Roadster is a fundamental shift

More Galleries

The 2022 Mercedes-AMG SL Roadster is a fundamental shift

25 Photos