2015 BMW i3

What's new for 2015? The 2015 BMW i3 now gets heated front seats, satellite radio and an onboard DC fast-charging unit as standard.

Built with lightweight aluminum and carbon fiber, driven by an electric motor (with an optional gasoline-powered range extender) and styled as if it rolled out from Ed Begley, Jr's future garage, the 2015 BMW i3 is truly one of the most distinctive vehicles on the road. These departures from the norm don't make this BMW any less likable, though. In actuality, the BMW i3 is a sharp-driving and very user-friendly vehicle that could work out well for a wide variety of EV car shoppers.

Introduced last year, the i3 features a mechanical undercarriage and battery housing constructed of lightweight aluminum, while the upper body structure is carbon fiber. This combination keeps the i3's weight down by hundreds of pounds compared to other electric cars, and less weight translates to improved efficiency and quicker acceleration. With its 170-horsepower electric motor driving the rear wheels, the i3 can scoot to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds, which is impressively quick for an EV. The i3's relatively light weight and low center of gravity also contribute to nimble handling characteristics and strong braking power.

If you forget all about the high-tech construction and powertrain, the i3 is actually a nice car. There's a classy looking interior, solid build quality and an impressive amount of practicality. Open up the rear-hinged doors and you'll find there's enough space for full size adults, while the cargo area can hold a Costco-sized load of groceries thanks to the fold-flat rear seats. Even outward visibility is very good in the i3.

Exterior Highlights
Four-door hatchback with seating for four, available in base Mega World, Giga World and Tera World trim levels

The 2015 BMW i3 is a four-door hatchback with seating for four passengers. It is offered in equally equipped full electric and Range Extender models. Both come in three different trim packages: base Mega World, Giga World and Tera World.

The entry-level Mega's list of standard features includes 19-inch alloy wheels, LED lighting (automatic headlights, taillights and running lights), automatic wipers, auto-dimming mirrors, cruise control, automatic climate control, heated front seats, "SensaTec" premium vinyl and cloth upholstery, 50/50-split folding rear seats, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a navigation system, the iDrive electronics interface with a 6.5-inch screen and a sound system that includes a USB audio interface, an auxiliary audio jack and satellite/HD radio. A DC fast-charging port is also included.

Stepping up to the Giga model gets you distinctive 19-inch alloy wheels, keyless ignition and entry and upgraded interior upholstery and trim. The top-of-the-line Tera only differs from the Giga with its own unique 19-inch alloy wheels and full leather upholstery.

Options include a Technology + Driving Assistant package that features adaptive cruise control (with stop-and-go capability), a lane departure warning system, forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic braking for frontal collision mitigation, an upgraded navigation system (with a wider screen and enhanced EV-related information), real-time traffic and BMW's Online and Apps services.

The Parking Assistant package adds front parking sensors, a rearview camera and an automated parallel parking feature. Stand-alone options include 20-inch wheels and a 12-speaker Harman Kardon premium audio system.

Distinctive interior, remarkably quiet space, iDrive controller with crisp graphics, raised positioning in fornt seats, rear seats fold flat

Like the exterior, the interior of the 2015 BMW i3 is distinctive and modern. The space is remarkably quiet and the look is stylish, with its thin flat-panel display screens and shifter pod mounted next to the far-telescoping steering wheel. The different trim packages, or Worlds, each provide a different ambience due to their unique mix of renewable, recycled and otherwise eco-friendly materials. As unusual as the cabin is, though, there's still a typical BMW array of climate and infotainment controls. The latest version of BMW's iDrive controller is pretty easy to use thanks to straightforward menus, crisp graphics and quick processing times.

The front seats are comfortable and their raised positioning gives the driver excellent outward visibility. In back, the two-person rear seat offers decent legroom and plenty of headroom. There's also a wide opening to get in and out of (or put your personal items on one of the backseats) thanks to the i3's rear-hinged access doors.

Cargo capacity is on the small side, with just 11.8 cubic feet behind the rear seats and a total of 36.9 cubic feet with those seats folded down. Unlike in most EV competitors, though, the rear seats fold flat . There's plenty of interior storage for water bottles or other small items.

Standard safety features on the 2015 BMW i3 include antilock disc brakes (with brake drying), stability and traction control, front seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Also standard are BMW Assist eCall and Remote Services, which include automatic collision notification, an emergency request button, stolen vehicle recovery, remote door unlock and a remote control smartphone app.

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