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SAFETY | 8 out of 10
The high driving position and great visibility are also feelgood assets for threading yourself among tight traffic.
The 2014 BMW i3 is said to have a remarkably strong body shell, made out of carbon-fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) and mounted on an aluminum rolling platform that provides front and rear crash-energy absorption structures and holds the battery, electric motor, and all the car's electronics. Even after a crash at 40 mph, BMW says, the passenger compartment will stay intact, with energy dissipated into the rest of the vehicle.
BMW stresses that the battery--built into the floorpan--is positioned and reinforced for maximum crash safety, with three separate systems to shut down all electric components in the event of an accident.
Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has yet tested a BMW i3 for crash safety. But both entities are likely to do so in short order, given the intense interest in the use of strong, lightweight carbon fiber to reduce weight and improve fuel efficiency in vehicles of all types.
The i3 has the usual quotient of six airbags, including dash-mounted front bags for the driver and front passenger, bags in the sides of the front seats, and side curtains over the windows for front and rear passengers. BMW notes that the bags built into the front seats are a brand-new design that's small enough to fit into the slim, lightweight seat frames.
The electric BMW also has all the mandatory safety systems--including anti-lock brakes, electronic stability and traction control, and tire-pressure monitoring. Optional systems will likely include radar adaptive cruise control, parking proximity sensors, automatic crash-avoidance braking, and other advanced warning and control functions.
The frontal vision from inside the i3 is good, except for the large rearview mirror and camera housing in the top center of the windshield. But the right-side and rear three-quarter vision are only adequate. A rearview camera could assist drivers in seeing what's close behind the tail, especially as the rear load floor is quite high because the motor and drivetrain sit below it; whether the i3's camera will be optional or standard has not yet been decided.
The 2014 BMW i3 hasn't yet been rated for crash safety, but it should rank highly--and it offers many electronic safety systems to boot.