2014 BMW i3: Big Surprise, It's Great for Commuting
February 20, 2015
It's almost a backhanded compliment to say that electric cars make great city cars, because well, they aren't good road trip vehicles unless you have access to Tesla's Supercharger network, right? But our long-term 2014 BMW i3 is really an excellent commuter car and there's nothing backhanded about that praise.
I don't actually live "in the city" but in a congested suburb that was once considered well outside the city but is now among L.A.'s inner bedroom communities. It takes me an average of 70 minutes to cover 20 miles between home and the office.
Not only did I enjoy using our BMW i3 for my slog, it was interesting as a comparison to our old long-term Mini E. All EVs are still science projects to some extent, but the i3 is a far more practical vehicle than its forbear.
Driving the i3 reminds me much of the electric Mini. As we observed in our BMW i3 road test, powerful regenerative braking kicks in as soon as you breathe off the accelerator pedal. It's surprising at first, but you soon realize it's an ideal characteristic in heavy traffic with more stopping than going because you can drive with one pedal instead of continually jamming on the brake pedal. And of course this regen effect is good for maintaining the batteries' charge so that the range extender engine is more of a backup plan rather than something you'd use all the time.
I also like the i3's quick steering. Clearly, it's larger than a Mini E, but there's nothing lazy about its responses when you're maneuvering through traffic. It doesn't feel like other BMWs per se, but it's fun in its own way.
What I didn't expect to like so much about our i3, though, is the packaging. The driving position is akin to being at the helm of a small minivan, and I love that. You can't see to the tip of its nose, but there's superb visibility in all directions and an amazing sense of space in the cockpit. It's a different feeling than in any other BMW, but it's not different to the point of being weird. The seats are still supportive. The iDrive still works the same way. There's just more negative space than I was expecting, and I mean that in a very positive way.
Erin Riches, Deputy Editor @ 2,430 miles