The BMW i3 recently scooped the Design of the Year Award at the inaugural Cars.co.za Consumer Awards, which were announced in Johannesburg on 14 January 2016.
Whether the topic is cars, architecture, furniture or even mobile devices, good design is never restricted to premium products... The BMW i3 takes design to the next level, and for an electric car, that’s a massive achievement. While there was no price limit to exclude exotica, our focus for the Design of the Year category fell on more mainstream products.
Why did the BMW i3 win?
Design remains one of the biggest hurdles for electric cars. In the past, car companies have either dreamed up weirdly compromised packages or tried to “hide” the futuristic powertrain under a traditional shape, but neither approach worked. The electric car customer is a bold decision maker and (probably) want their car to reflect that. You don’t get much bolder than the BMW i3. The product of a clean sheet design, the i3 uses a fusion of aerodynamics, high-tech materials and sheer bravado to bring the future into showrooms, today.
Unlike some other EV offerings, the i3 is not based on the platform of an existing internal-combustion vehicle. Instead, the LifeDrive architecture is based on a flat floor (incorporating the powertrain), with a passenger cell (made from advanced materials such as carbon fibre) mounted on top of it. Instead of hiding its unique construction, BMW left many of the most important details exposed – such as the carbon fibre weave, which is visible in the door sills.
The so-called “black band”, which is so integral to the unique exterior appearance of the i3, runs from the bonnet over the roof to the rear of the vehicle to create a perception of “lightness”.
The single-minded pursuit of efficiency and eco-friendliness is also evident inside, where the purposeful minimalism is celebrated by the use of materials, such as KENAF, which is a member of the cotton family and very sustainable. These materials sit next to modern touches such as a seemingly floating infotainment screen, beautifully crisp digital instrumentation and a unique rotary gear selector controller located next to the steering wheel.
Opinion from the judges
“Right now I would say the BMW i3 is the single most important car I’ve driven in 15 years of doing this job. I can’t give it higher praise than that. It is exactly the type of car that is needed to break down barriers to greater electric car acceptance. And the design… well, that actually plays a big part in its desirability. It is extremely bold. Very confident. And I like it very, very much” Hannes Oosthuizen
“Perhaps it's the radical choice of materials — much of the interior is recycled and the textiles are bamboo — that inspired the i3's designers to break so drastically from convention, but the i3's interior is the freshest I've seen in a decade. It feels like a concept car that escaped from the design studio before anyone could make it dull. The i3 offers is a wonderfully modern, comfortable cabin to commute in, and hopefully all BMWs (and cars in general) will look and feel like this in the future...” Ciro de Siena
BMW i3 driven and reviewed in South Africa: why it's so good