The i3 is BMW’s first attempt at a mainstream electric car. While from a distance the five-door family hatchback might seem like a fairly conventional design, it’s packed with clever details to help eke every last mile of range from the electric motors.
The use of lightweight materials throughout its construction help keep weight low, and the layout of the electric drivetrain helps maximise cabin space. In our dimensions guide, we take a look at how these features help the i3 to measure up against more traditional superminis.
The overall measurements of the i3 are very compact relative to other BMW models. At 1 millimeter under four metres in length, it’s marginally longer than a Volkswagen Polo. Thanks to the huge alloy wheels measuring up to 20 inches and the 1,578mm height, the i3 looks deceptively tall and narrow, much more so than many traditional superminis.
The cabin of the i3 is arguably as big a highlight as the car’s clever electric powertrain. It’s bright, airy and contemporary, and despite the modest dimensions, interior space is generous. The back doors look tiny, but they are rear-hinged, which combined with the lack of a B-pillar (the bar which usually supports the back doors) makes access very easy. The i3 is a strict four-seater – there isn’t a centre seat on the rear bench.
|Elbow room (front/rear)||1,392mm/1,281mm|
Relative to other city car rivals, the i3’s 260-litre boot is above average for the class, and adequate enough for a typical weekly supermarket run. Fold the rear bench away (which splits 50:50) and the total volume expands to 1,100 litres.
|Seats up||260 litres|
|Seats down||1,100 litres|
Turning circle and fuel tank capacity
A sub-10 metre turning circle is excellent, and makes the i3 very easy to drive in the urban environment it was designed for. For reference, a 9.9-metre figure means that it turns tighter than a Ford Fiesta (10.1m) but not quite as tight as the Fiat 500 (9.3m).
The fully electric model obviously does without any fuel tank at all – the batteries help to provide a range of 80-100 miles. Those looking for a slightly greater distance between charges can choose the range extender. A small capacity twin-cylinder petrol engine charges the batteries on the move, adding a further 100 miles or so to the total range. With a total volume of nine litres, fuel costs remain minimal.
|Turning circle||9.9 metres|
|Fuel tank||9 litres (Range Extender only)|
Electric cars tend to be generally be quite heavy, simply because battery packs weigh a lot. BMW engineers compensated by making much the i3’s chassis and body panels out of carbon fibre-reinforced plastic. As well as being very light, it’s incredibly strong too.
The range extender’s engine and fuel tank add an extra 120 kilos to the i3’s weight, enough to add 0.7 seconds onto the 0-62mph time.
|1,270kg (EV)||1,390kg (Range Extender)|
Like to know more?
For further details about the i3, take a look at our full review. There, you will find out what the i3 is like to drive in everyday conditions, and what’s it’s like to live with.