It's going to be a great year for electric hatchbacks. Between the BMW i3 and the recently announced Chevrolet Bolt, there are some great competitors in this market. But that led us to a bit of a disagreement in the office: between the i3 and the Bolt, which is the best looking? Fight!
Luke Hopewell, BMW i3:
In my opinion, the BMW i3 wipes the floor with the Bolt on the looks front. It's the epitome of futuristic elegance.
The i3 is made up of a crazy array of recycled materials, infotainment gadgets and science, all sewn together with BMW quality. The body shell is a flexible thermoplastic designed to save weight while being rigid and tough, the wheels are forged aluminium for strength and lightness, and the headlights and tail lights are LEDs to save power. Meanwhile, on the inside, everything is recycled and put on display in a New York loft-style design (exposed beams, etc) which looks breathtaking. The glove box lid is made of eucalyptus wood which actually changes and becomes more rich as it ages. The leather on the seats and doors is tanned using olive leaves rather than formaldehyde, and the cloth is made out of old water bottles and wool. Even the roof is made up of off-cuts from other BMW cars. When an off-cut is made from say a 1-, 3- or 5-Series for example, it’s thrown into a recycle bin, melted down and recast into parts for the BMW i3.
I have had the rare privilege of driving one, also, and I can say that not only is it beautiful to behold, it's remarkable to drive too. The way this thing handles on the road is incredible. Moving the steering wheel is a joy, as it gently sails around corners without a hint of obnoxious body roll which you normally find on some small cars, and as you put your foot down, you almost immediately forget it’s an electric car. Bam. Zoom. Straight to the moon. While it’s not the fastest accelerating car in the world, its definitely the smoothest accelerating electric car I have ever driven. The maximum torque delivery is immediate due to the fact that it’s an electric motor and not a traditional engine, and the power is immediate.
You’re reminded that it’s an electric car when you hear this little whirr from behind your head like a the world’s most adorable jet is chasing you up the freeway. It’s a beautiful little sound that makes you feel like your driving the world’s most civilised fighter jet.
If it was my money buying an electric car in 2015, I would sign on BMW's dotted line in a heartbeat.
My esteemed colleague Campbell Simpson, however, disagrees.
Campbell Simpson, Chevrolet Bolt:
The Bolt is better than the i3 for plenty of reasons. For one, even though it's a concept, it looks more normal and usable in everyday life. It has four doors, it has so much more glass for so much more visibility when you're driving. And it may have a bit of an ugly bonnet and front bar, but it's at least smooth and aerodynamic and inherits that Volt design language.
The interior of the Bolt is equally usable and friendly, too, and that translates nicely into clean and smooth lines across the dashboard and front seats. A properly integrated digital dashboard and touchscreen centre panel round out what is by far the more rational choice of these two vehicles. And that's even before getting into the fact that the Bolt concept is all-electric and promises around 320km of driving per charge, where the i3 will get you only half of that (unless you buy the range-extender model, but that's a compromise in and of itself).
If you're driving an i3, there'll be some people that turn and stare in awe, but that's because they already know what an i3 is and what it does. The other people will stop and stare because the front end of your electric BMW looks like you've run into the back of a shopping trolley in the Coles car park.