Electric car of the Year 2017: BMW i3

The BMW i3 is the 2017 Auto Express Electric Car of the Year, with the Renault ZOE and Tesla Model S commended

BMW has made some significant improvements to its i3 baby EV over the past 12 months. Range is a critical factor in an electric car, and thanks to a new, larger-capacity 94Ah battery, the i3 can now go further between charges. It promises a real-world range of over 120 miles – or more than 200 in the i3 Range Extender that uses a small petrol engine to charge the battery pack on the move.

That’s a good couple of commutes for the average British motorist, so you could conceivably charge up every other evening – or even more rarely, if you have access to charging points away from home.

Meanwhile, the rest of the i3 remains as appealing as ever. Its cabin feels smart, clever and sophisticated, with some of the best infotainment in the business and use of sustainable materials reinforcing the car’s eco-friendly theme without impacting on quality.

The refinement of the electric motor is superb as well. There isn’t so much as a hint of whine here and it delivers sprightly performance away from the line, making it ideal for nipping around town.

The set-up of the powertrain also ensures the i3 is incredibly easy to drive. The single-speed electric motor delivers smooth acceleration off the line, while the effect of the regenerative braking is so natural that you adjust instinctively to the one-pedal driving technique, using the electric motor to slow the car by lifting off gently, recharging the battery to add even more valuable range.

BMW i3 - front

BMW has taken a more aggressive approach to the car’s pricing, too, so you can actually get an i3 for less than £290 a month, depending on your annual mileage limit. Factor in the savings you’ll make on fuel and how desirable the package is, and you’re left with a really compelling proposition that proves electric motoring is a genuinely viable alternative to a conventional petrol or diesel-powered supermini or city car.

Our choice 

BMW i3 REx (£31,720)

The range-extending i3’s extra fuel filler flap will be a sign of defeat for some drivers. For the rest of us, it’s peace of mind that the car can still be used for occasional longer journeys, with the small petrol engine recharging the batteries on the move to get you home. There’s such a modest premium, we think it’s still worthwhile, even with the larger battery. 

Commended 

Renault ZOE

Renault ZOE - front

Another EV that’s had a range boost over the past year; the ZOE now claims up to 250 miles on a single charge. The car’s strength is still how normal it feels, with supermini dimensions, easy-to-use controls and compact dimensions that make it easy to park. It’s well specced for the money, plus affordable monthly rates add to the appeal.

Tesla Model S

Tesla Model S - front

The Model S is still attracting new customers to electric motoring, and a constant stream of over-the-air updates means this is a car that continues to improve, even for those motorists who’ve already bought one. Colossal range, jaw-dropping performance and Tesla’s Supercharger infrastructure make it a stunning luxury EV choice. 

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