The BMW i3s, First world car, in a third world country.

I’ll start this blog post by saying that I am not a car reviewer. One thing I do love and I am passionate about is technology. Especially on what the future has in store for us.

If there is one thing I am are sure about is that the future requires us to be mindful of our carbon footprint. Hence why Europe is going green and in the next couple of years diesel cars will be banned there. Electric cars are the future there and there’s a fast charging port at every corner. I haven’t been to Europe but every car manufacturer is going electric.

One of the early adopters of electric cars is BMW with their i3 models. They later went on to introduce us to their futuristic hybrid the BMW i8. Some would argue that Tesla has been leading the pack in the electric car department. I can agree to this but they’ve been leading the pack in the USA and they haven’t conquered the global market. BMW are bold enough to take their product to Africa, South Africa a country with electricity generation issues.

The BMW i3s
The BMW i3s

Not your typical car.

The BMW i3 was launched back in South Africa in 2015. I stand to be corrected by saying that it’s the first electric car to be launched in our of beautiful country. Since then it’s been a beautiful sight on our roads and I kept asking myself what kind of person would own one of these. Is it rich white men who own a couple of sports cars and buy the i3 as their “day to day” car.

Until last week, I’ve never driven an electric car before and to my surprise, it’s great. At first the silence of the engine left me wondering whether this thing is on or not. I spent a good 10 minutes figuring out how do I switch this thing on. Once I figured out a couple of things, there I was cruising the streets of Soweto in an electric car. Windows down, sunroof open, blazing the new Rick Ross album.

I was getting all types of stares from people wondering why type of BMW is this. They’ve never seen an electric car in Soweto or they’ve read about it, saw it in a magazine but there it was in the flesh. Being driven by someone who looks like them, speaks like them and stays in the same neighbourhood.

Certain German cars carry a reputation as they make their way around a corner. People can tell what kind of person you are by the car you drive. VW Golf GTi drivers are known as the playboys, the cool kids with the hot girl. Mercedes Benz C Class drivers are the successful ones, who made it out the township.

It’s very different.

It’s different when it comes to the BMW i3s, the looks I got were more WTF is that? What kind of BMW is that? is that even a BMW? This is thanks to the i3’s futuristic styling. Everywhere I went I turned heads, people asked me what kind of car is this? They called me “ngamla” when they saw me in it. Ngamla is township slang for someone who has made it and has lots of money.

I’ve seen the i3 being driven around places like Lonehill and Melrose. These areas are synonymous with “ngamla” and I guess the shoe fit for those couple of days. It’s a smooth drive and I found myself cruising even when I was late. The i3s handles well and even survived a couple of potholes. The ride height inside is high despite the cars size. I don’t know how the guys at BMW did it but the car is also very spacious inside. It leaves me with the thought that I can do a road trip with this car.

BMW i3s charging kit
BMW i3s charging kit

Charging and range!

Since I am on this road trip tip, I don’t know if it’s the perfect car for a road trip. Four adults making their way to Durban for a couples retreat. The distance between Durban and Johannesburg is 567,6 km via N3. It will take us approximately 5 h 39 min to get there. The range on the i3s is 260km and we’ll need to stop and charge the car along the way.

So this is where I challenge BMW South Africa and ask them if it’s possible to take the i3s to the coast? Where do I stop and charge the car? Are there fast charging ports only the way? In really cool milestone for the car, Shaun Maidment who owns the first generation i3 clocked more than 200 000 km in it, that’s amazing.

Many of us have family in rural parts of South Africa and visit them over the holidays. I don’t think the i3 was designed for that reality but it’s more of a city car. A day to day car, go to work and come back. Take your girl out on a dinner date and come back. I managed to charge the BMW i3s I had and it took 3 hours to get from 19% to 35%.

First world car, in a third world country.

Unfortunately I didn’t get time to take the car to a BMW dealership and use their fast charging ports. Those take 40 minutes to charge the car from 0 to 80%. The main question I got while driving the car was, what happens when Eskom initiates load shedding? How do you get around? and that’s a good question? I honestly don’t have the answer for that. My immediate response would be have more than one car? Own an X3 or X5 and use them when the i3 is charging at home or when Eskom is being Eskom.

The technology in the car is also mind blowing. The car takes the kinetic energy generated from braking and charges the battery. This is they type of stuff you see while watching F1. This doesn’t give you an excuse to do hard braking all the time but it’s so crazy that I got to experience it in person. I can wirelessly charge my phone while driving and I have access to Apple Car Play. With BMW iConnectedDrive I can monitor the cars status from the BMW Connected App.

The interior screams luxurious, with wood and carbon fibre finishes. Whatever piece of technology that’s being sold as an added extra in other cars, it came standard in the i3s. Yes this is not the standard BMW i3 I am talking about but I would tell you not to get the standard one, get the i3s eDrive.


It’s an amazing piece of German technology and it feels at home in South Africa’s biggest township. Let alone the bright lights of Johannesburg and the lavish suburbs that surround it. It’s also a fuel saver, not once do you need to go to a service station. It’s also a money saver, you don’t need to buy unnecessary snacks or Pies while waiting for your tank to fill up.

When I have the money, I’ll buy myself a BMW i3s eDrive but it won’t be my only car. I’ll still need another car for the long family road trips and for when Eskom is being Eskom.

I applaud BMW South Africa for bringing this car to our country, your faith my home country makes me believe that South Africa can still be the shining light of the African continent that it’s destined to be.

The BMW i3 price ranges from R614 000 to R799 000, you can checkout this link for more details:

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Super Dave spends most of he's time gaming in his mama's house. *one day he will move out* patiently waits for that day...

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