2014 BMW i3 Hatchback: Interior Materials
January 14, 2015
If you like cars that are different you will probably like the new 2014 BMW i3. I fall into that category too, since I think designers need to strike out in new directions rather than refining the all-too-familiar cues that we hardly even notice anymore. With this in mind, I was eager to experience the unusual interior with its — buzz word alert — "sustainable" materials.
Here are a few impressions from my three-day road trip in this unusual vehicle.
I'm not a huge fan of the exterior design and the way the 20-inch wheels dominate its appearance (19-inch wheels are also available). However, while parking the i3, I had several people rush up to me, excitedly wanting to share their opinions of its look. And everyone seemed quite captivated by the overall appearance. My feeling is that if I had bought the i3 and liked it, maybe I would eventually embrace its exterior design.
I do like the interior a lot. And more importantly, I found the layout and seating to be comfortable and practical. Furthermore, this is the first car I've test-driven in a long time where I noticed how good the rear visibility is (and the rear backup camera was the best I've ever seen). The layout of the two screens — one in front of the driver, one in the middle of the dash — are graphically pleasing without an overload of information. The weight of the knobs and buttons all have that premium German feel.
BMW says the interior door panels use "KENAF fibres" which is "a member of the cotton family (that) is particularly sustainable." Sure enough, small white fibers are visible in this material that is used throughout the interior. It has a matte finish which keeps down the glare but it takes getting used to because it has an unfinished look. Knowing it is made from recycled stuff helped me to accept it.
Here's what BMW says about the sculpted wood dashboard, "Only eucalyptus wood is used, which is primarily grown in Europe and comes from 100 % certified, responsible forestry management." The light-colored wood gives an organic feel (more buzz words) while the upright driving position and high windshield give an excellent view of the road.
BMW claims some of the fabric used in the i3 absorb road noise. Even though our test vehicle came with leather, I was struck by how quiet it is to drive this EV. But once the range extender comes on, and hopefully this doesn't happen very often, the quiet is erased by a steady drone, as if you are being chased by a lawn mower.
My family tells me the back seat is roomy with good legroom. With the front-opening rear doors it was easy to climb into the backseat. And, when I folded down the rear seats there was enough space to load in two sets of golf clubs, two pull carts and luggage for two for three days on the road.
There is a lot of utility in this small, fun-to-drive car. And, with the use of eye-catching design both inside and out, BMW might entice a wider audience to experience this alternative energy vehicle.
Philip Reed, Senior Consumer Advice Editor @ 650 miles