Here are my Quick Thoughts on the BMW i3 REx | topic #1
BMW don’t always produce odd-looking cars but when they do, they stick out like a sore thumb. I’m not talking about the Bangle Butt on the 2000’s 7-series or even the Z1. I’m referring to BMW’s first, and so far only, production microcar… the Isetta (AKA 250/300). It’s a short, rear-wheel, rear-engine, lightweight, city car with an unusually high-up seating position… just like the i3. While BMW have already made it quite clear that the i8 is the spiritual successor to the M1, it’s very likely that it’s the same of the i3 to the Isetta. Unfortunately, no such official statements have been made because of marketing most likely, which is completely reasonable. I can’t say much more about how the two compare as I’ve never driven an Isetta but the i3, I have.
The umm… “special” proportions of the i3 are a total illusion. Yes it looks like a small city car but its numbers say otherwise. This “little” car is just 27mm shorter than a 3-door Range Rover Evoque, the same width as a Buick Encore, and only 9mm shorter than a Ford EcoSport. Oh, right! It also has 19-inch rims, with an optional upgrade to 20-inch rims. So what’s happening? Are city cars exploding in size or are utility vehicles shrinking? Well, it’s actually both. Canadians have been buying SUVs like there’s no tomorrow and, at the same, have been moving to urban agglomerations at an increasing rate. As a result, most manufacturers, like Ford and Buick, have taken the let’s-make-much-smaller-trucks path. While some of the Europeans, like BMW and VW, have gone on the let’s-give-our-city-cars-some-steroids path. In this case, this theory proves to be very much true with the i3.
You know I wasn’t kidding about the “unusually high-up seating position” right? I was expecting some similarity to the Mazda 3 subcompact I reviewed but, in reality, it felt more like sitting in a Mazda 5 only far more spacious. Weird, right? The floor is (almost) completely flat and there’s also quite a generous gap between the A/C unit and armrest area. Plus with large windows, low(ish) beltline, two-spoke steering wheel, and nearly-transparent-thin seats, I almost felt a bit too exposed to the outdoor elements. The driving experience was a somewhat different story.
I’ve driven quite a few BMWs like the X1, 2-Series Active Tourer, and 330i but none of those drive like the i3. However you should know that during this test drive I was driving electric-only. I will experience the range-extender in my full review. So, how was it? Quite astonishing. For such skinny tyres they do a damn good job at keeping its claws on the road. Compared to the typical city car, the steering is noticeably heftier and more responsive with a firmer suspension setup but would also be considered to be soft for a BMW. However, despite the oddities, their trademark feeling of security and stability is still there but only if kept within its comfort zone AKA (insert your local metropolis here). It’s when you take the i3 on the highway that it starts to get just a teensy bit uneasy. At speeds over 90km/h, the cabin gets a little bit noisy. At speeds over 110km/h, even with the low centre gravity, be prepared to confront any crosswinds. Of course taking any car out of its comfort zone will likely yield negative results but the i3’s highway performance was acceptable and far better than the similarly proportioned Mitsubishi i-MiEV. Until my full review of the BMW i3 REx comes out, for now I’ll say that it’s definitely worth the “city car” title and then some.
Thanks for reading!