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Used test: BMW i3 vs Volkswagen e-Golf interiors

Interest is growing in used electric cars, and they don’t come much more usable than the Volkswagen e-Golf. But is it better than BMW’s radical i3?...

Used test: BMW i3 vs Volkswagen e-Golf
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Interiors

Driving position, visibility, build quality, practicality

Not surprisingly, given it's based on the Mk7 Golf, the interior of the Volkswagen e-Golf is distinctly traditional. In fact, apart from some blue stitching on the steering wheel, a bespoke digital instrument panel and extra modes on the gear selector, there’s little to indicate that it’s an electric car at all. And for some, that familiarity will be a major drawcard.

By contrast, the BMW i3’s interior looks far more modern. The upright seating position, low dashboard and large windscreen give you a panoramic view of the road ahead. BMW has also done away with traditional instrument dials, opting instead for a small digital screen ahead of the driver. Most other functions are handled by the central infotainment screen.

Used test: BMW i3 vs Volkswagen e-Golf

Our only real gripe is that the i3’s driver’s seat didn’t offer adjustable lumbar support, even as an option, from new, and despite looking distinctly premium, there are a few areas (such as the leading edge of the glovebox) where the Volkswagen has the BMW beaten for build quality.

Infotainment-wise, the i3 has a 6.5in display as standard, but there was a Professional media package option that was fitted to our test car and added a 10.2in screen, a bigger iDrive rotary dial controller with a touchpad on top (for entering postcodes with your finger), a 20GB hard drive and upgraded sat-nav with real-time traffic info. It's worth seeking out a used car with this option, if you can find one. The rotary dial is easier to use than a touchscreen, but it’s disappointing that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone mirroring weren't available.

Used test: BMW i3 vs Volkswagen e-Golf

The e-Golf receives VW’s 9.2in Discover Navigation Pro touchscreen as standard. It comes packed with tech, including Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink. However, the screen can be difficult to operate on the move, and the gesture control system is more of a gimmick than a genuine tool.

Both cars are spacious in the front, although the i3 feels roomier, because there’s no conventional centre console. The fact that the parking brake switch and drive selector are both located on the steering column also frees up space between the front seats.

Used test: BMW i3 vs Volkswagen e-Golf

Things are different in the rear, though. While the e-Golf offers easy access and enough head and leg room for six-footers, the i3 is decidedly cramped and claustrophobic. And although those rear-hinged doors look cool and open to reveal a decent aperture, a high floor hampers access. What’s more, the fact that you can’t open the rear doors without first opening the front ones is highly inconvenient.

The four-seat i3’s rear seatbacks fold down in a 50/50 split, whereas the five-seat e-Golf’s split 60/40. Both cars have a similarly wide boot opening, and there’s virtually no load lip on the i3, but the e-Golf is in a different league in terms of capacity. The i3’s boot is smaller than a Ford Fiesta’s, with just about enough space to swallow a modest weekly shop.