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When the BMW i3 was first launched back in late 2013 it not only marked the start of the German firm's EV model range, it but also moved the game forwards massively for electric car technology.
Three years on and there are still few cars that can compete with the i3's mix of desirability, impressive technology and headline efficiency stats. And now, thanks to a battery update, the i3 manages to widen that gap even further.
BMW has increased its battery capacity by up to 33kWh, doubling the car's range to 195 miles officially on one charge, although BMW believes 125 miles is more realistic in real-world conditions.
Not only will the extended range almost irradiate eradicate range anxiety concerns for most fleets, the i3 is also fitted with a new charging system that is 50% faster. A full charge will take up to four hours using public charging points, plus the previously optional 50kW DC rapid charging is now included as standard, which will charginge 80% of the battery in just 40 minutes.
The range-extender version (REX) of the i3 is also still available, which currently accounts for around half of sales here in the UK. The small, 38hp two-cylinder petrol engine powers a generator to produce more electricity for the car, thus helping extend the range by up to 276 miles.
CO2 for the range extender is at a low 13g/km, a small compromise for the added range;, however, the addition of the engine makes the car heavier, and it costs over £3,000 more than the standard i3, which also gets a significant price rise.
The 170hp and 250Nm deliver a 0-62mph time of 7.3 seconds, and 8.1 seconds for the REX model. Thanks to the lightweight carbon-fibre body and instant torque, the i3 feels agile and quick on the road, while the car's sharp handling and light steering also makes it great fun to drive.
Out on the motorway the car cruises along nicely, and around the city its compact dimensions and nippy nature make it ideal for manoeuvring maneuvering around tight streets. The lack of engine noise means a more relaxed drive too, although the ride is quite firm.
Despite being three years old, the i3 still looks ahead of its time, interior quality is excellent throughout, and inside is roomy and practical too.
The execution of the car's onboard technology is impressive, with standard kit including satnav, climate control, parking sensors, cruise control, LED daytime running lights, online connectivity services, a 6.5-inch screen with iDrive controller and automatic headlights and wipers.,Yoyou can also precondition preset the car to the desired temperature and put a destination in the satnav remotely via the BMW app.
Interior trims are now available as separate options across all four interior worlds - Loft, Lodge, Suite and new Atelier - plus there are some new inserts and trim detailing in this 94Ah model too. The i3 still offers a practical 260-litre boot, extending to 1,100 litres with the rear seats folded flat.
Is it the best electric car?
At the Paris motor show last month we granitekitchen got a glimpse into Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz's electric car future, and impressive though these concepts were, both were still three years away from production.
The BMW i3 is here now and offers a range that will suit most companies' needs.,Iit's a seriously impressive car that manages to answer many of the concerns which that previously discouraged fleets from considering electric vehicles.
A 125-mile real-world range and getting 80% of the battery life back in 40 minutes should be able to suit most people's busy schedules, and then there's the low running costs and tax benefits to consider.
However, with P11D prices starting from over £32,000, it's not cheap to buy and options are expensive too. The range extender is more expensive still, which is and the main reason we'd bypass it and opt for the all-electric model.
That said, let us not forget that this is a premium electric car, and although the i3 seems pricey next to the Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe, both do not offer the same level of interior quality, curb kerb appeal or advanced technology.
Model price range: £32,275-£38,385
Residual value: 30.4%
Service, maintenance and repair: £1216
Vehicle Excise Duty: £0
National insurance: £1292
Cost per mile: 56.3p
Range: 125 miles
CO2 (BIK band): 0g/km (7%)
BIK 20/40% per month: £38/£75
Warranty: 3yrs vehicle; 8yrs/100,000mls battery
Boot space: 260 litres
Battery size/power: 33kWh/170hp
Putting the engineering brilliance of Tesla to one side, the BMW i3 is arguably the best electric car currently on the market, and these latest updates find solutions to almost all the obstacles stopping fleets from investing in the technology.