BMW i3 (2013-2022) review - Interior, design and technology
Concept car looks and design-led interior set the scene for a technology masterclass
Sitting on a bespoke platform, the BMW i3 has been designed from the ground up as an EV – and it really shows.
Taking its cues from the BMW i3 Concept that debuted in 2011, the battery-powered car looks like it’s driven straight off a designer’s computer screen, even ten years on.
Tall and narrow proportions give the i3 the look of an MPV rather than a family hatch, but you could argue it stands in a class of its own. Lightweight plastics are used for the heavily sculpted body panels, while the bonnet and glass tailgate get a distinctive gloss black finish. Other highlights include the angular window line, swept-back headlamps and metallic blue trim for the faired-in grille and lower sills.
The futuristic feel continues inside. Access is easy thanks to the rear-hinged doors and lack of a B-pillar – although you have to step over the wide sill. Once in, you’ll be able to enjoy the cleverly packaged and imaginatively designed layout that’s easy to use and beautifully finished. Rear passengers might find it difficult to get into the rear but the front seats do fold forward to make access easier.
Climb into the high-set driver’s seat and the first thing you’ll spot is a pair of large infotainment screens – one ahead of the driver and one that appears to ‘float’ above the centre of the dashboard. These units display everything from speed to sat-nav info, and are controlled via a dial on the centre console. A choice of tactile wooden, metallic, cloth and leather trims are available, bundled into what BMW calls ‘interior worlds’, while the low-set dashboard and vast windscreen create a bright and airy feel.
Because the motor is mounted on the rear wheels and the battery is tucked away in the chassis, the floor is flat. There’s no transmission tunnel dividing the front occupants, leaving just an open space.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
BMW decided not to give the i3 its own bespoke infotainment system, which is good because the standard iDrive is plenty good enough here. The 10-inch screen is set quite far back on the dash, but the graphics are still clear and the response from the iDrive controller on the centre console is crisp.
Elsewhere, there’s a DAB radio, hands-free Bluetooth plus access to a variety of social media, music and email apps. You can also upgrade with a Harman Kardon sound system. Apple CarPlay preparation is included on later cars as well, although you need to register for a free BMW ConnectedDrive account in order to access it.
In this review
- 1BMW i3 (2013-2022) reviewThe BMW i3 is innovative, stylish and good to drive - delivering a premium small electric car with plenty of road presence
- 2Engines, performance and driveSprightly electric performance and good handling make the i3 fun; a compromised ride can’t spoil it
- 3MPG, CO2 and Running CostsThe i3 is reasonably expensive to buy, but day-to-day costs should be minimal
- 4Interior, design and technology - currently readingConcept car looks and design-led interior set the scene for a technology masterclass
- 5Practicality, comfort and boot spaceThe i3 is roomy and comfortable for four, thanks to great design and clever packaging
- 6Reliability and SafetyThere’s an eight-year warranty on the i3's battery, but pedestrian safety costs the BMW i3 vital Euro NCAP stars