It has been six years since I started my journey with BMW’s first electric car – the BMW i3. It has all begun with the “Panda” 2015 BMW i3 REx (60Ah), which was replaced two years later by the “Darth Vader” 2017 BMW i3 REx (94Ah). 2019 came around and it was time to pick another i3. Since I already loved the additional peace of mind provided by the Range Extender, I opted again for a BMW i3 REx (94Ah since the 120Ah wasn’t available yet), only this time painted in the vibrant Melbourne Red Metallic. As you’d expect, over the years, I’ve had the chance to write several BMW i3 reviews. Naturally, most of them focused on the driving experience, charging and electric range. But there was one area I’ve always overlooked – the interior space. This is one of the most common questions I’ve been asked over the years: How’s the interior space, can it fit four adults, can the interior fit a car seat and stroller?
Fitting A Car Seat In the BMW i3
With that in mind, I set on a journey to find the answers to these questions. Our own Chuck Vossler has already proven the versatility and cargo space of the i3, so I focused on the idea of using the BMW i3 as a family car. First on my list to-do was finding a decently sized car seat which could accommodate newborns and infants. My research led me to the Canadian company Clek who manufactures a variety of different car seats. The starting point was their Clek Liing, a rear facing car seat which works for newborns up to 32 inches in length and up to 35 lbs of weight.
I could have always gone with a smaller car seat, but the idea was not to compromise on safety and comfort. And the Clek Liing checked both those boxes for me. The car seat features a metal load leg, rigid metal LATCH connectors, steel base and seven position adjustments for the base. Clek says that the Liing is free of flame retardants and they take pride in the no-twist harness straps. Another appealing factor was its compatibility with most strollers on the market.
“With a background in the automotive industry, we knew that the car seats back then werenâ€™t designed with the same safety technology as cars, which didnâ€™t make sense,” Clek told us in an email. “We also knew that car seats in Europe had additional safety features that werenâ€™t required in North America like the rigid-LATCH systems, anti-rebound features and the fact that kids in Sweden sat rear-facing until they were four. We design car seats the way we want them to be experienced: easy to install, secure as a tank, comfortable to sit in and awesome to look at.”
I also like the fact that Liing’s color-coded base provides an immediate visual cue so you know if the seat is installed properly or not when connecting a LATCH connector or closing the belt tensioner or adjusting the load leg.Â The recline adjustment was designed to allow for easy recline adjustment in a wide variety of vehicles – and takes the guesswork out of another step of the installation process. The fabric on the car seat is almost the same shade as the cloth in the BMW i3, so the Liing already looks like is part of the car.
As far as its size, the Liing is 26.8 inches in height, 16.9 in width and 27.7 in in depth. It’s a detachable car seat so I can use it on a wide variety of strollers. Its base measures 13.2 inches in width and 22.6 inches in depth. Total weight of the Liing – 17 lbs (base) and 9 lbs (carrier).
Now let’s put those numbers in the context of the BMW i3’s interior space and back seat space. According to official BMW i3 technical documents, the back seats offer 37.2 inches in height while the rear shoulder room is 49.2 inches. The legroom is rated at 31.9 inches.Â The i3 is also a strict four-seater and has no seatbelt in the middle of the back seat. Each rear seat has a complete set of LATCH connectors to work with your car seat.
Based on these figures, there is plenty of space to fit the Liing.
BMW completely removed the B-pillar in the i3, so the suicide doors are quite unique in the segment. The downside is that itâ€™s hard to drop off people from the back seat since you need to open the front door first, but for loading things, it’s ideal. Granted, a rear-facing car seat is not as easy to slide in as a front-facing car seat, but it’s not as challenging as it may sound. The door opening is not as wide as on a Rolls-Royce, but in my experience, there is still plenty of space to squeeze in and attend to your child.
Once you move to the front-facing car seat, the “suicide” doors will prove their worth.
In order to test my theories, I “borrowed” baby Oliver from a friend to be my model for the day. Oliver was 6 months old at the time the photos were taken. In order to easily slide in the car seat, I moved forward the front seat and with a slight angle adjustment, it was quite effortless to place the car seat onto the base. But will there be enough legroom for a tall front-seating passenger?
To test that theory as well, I sat on the passenger seat, moved the seat back until there was about an inch left from the car seat. I’m 6″3 tall (around 1.90 meters) and I had plenty of legroom upfront, even during a longer journey. Therefore, it’s fair to say that fitting a car seat in your BMW i3 shouldn’t interfere with personal space and comfort.
My next goal down the road is to also try to fit the larger, convertible Clek Foonf in the BMW i3.
Now that the car seat project has been completed, it’s time to move onto the next item – a stroller.
Lots Of Stroller Options, For All Budgets
When it comes to strollers, you can go long and wide. There is a stroller for every budget and lots of different sizes. Initially, I wanted to test a travel stroller, like the Bugaboo Ant, but I stuck to my original idea – don’t compromise just to make room for the stroller in the BMW i3. After careful consideration, I went with the Bugaboo Bee5, an extremely popular choices, and one that I often see in the back of SUVs or crossovers.
Just like with the Clek Liing, let’s look at the Bee5’s dimensions.
Size & weight
- Stroller width: 53 cm/21 in
- Stroller weight with seat: 8.9 kg/19.6 lbs
- One-piece fold: 90 x 46.5 x 32 cm/35.4 x 18.3 x 12.6 in
- Front wheel dimensions: 6 inches
- Rear wheel dimensions: 6 inches
- Designed to hold up to 18.1 kg/40 lbs
- Underseat basket capacity: 5.8 gal/8.8 lbs
Again, a decently sized stroller which can be used from newborn (with the bassinet) to 3 years old. The seat unit can be used to 37.5 lbs (17kg) when used in world facing mode, and up to 33 lbs (15kg) when used parent facing. As mentioned above, when unfolded, the Bugaboo Bee5 measures in at 21 in (53cm) across the front wheels (and 45cm across the back wheels). It has 35.4 in (90cm) in length (front of wheel to back of rear wheel), and from 38.5 in – 41.3 in (98-105cm) in height, depending whether the seat backrest is extended or not.
With the rear seats in the normal position, the approximate trunk dimensions are the following: 48.5″ length x 25″ height x 35″ width. The rear seats fold down in a 50/50 split by using handles near the headrests that are easy to reach from outside the trunk. Now the length of the cargo space can be extended anywhere from 56.7 in to 66.1 in (1440-1680 mm), depending on the position of the front seat and your required legroom.
The BMW i3 has 15.1 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row and 36.9 cubic feet with the second row folded down. In European units of measure, the trunk space is between 260 and 1,100 liters.
If your only goal is to use the BMW i3 as a city car and at most you need space for the car seat and stroller, then the BMW electric vehicle provide enough interior space. With some cubic feet to spare.
How About We Add More Cargo
But what if you’d like to use the BMW i3 to haul more things? There are a few things you can do to further extend the cargo space. Firstly, you should remove the trunk’s top cover. That will open up a lot of vertical space. Secondly, you can fold down the one of the rear seats and now you have additional depth.
My experiment now brings forward a couple of airline-sized carry-on bags. They’re not on the smaller side, as a matter of fact, they’re beyond what’s acceptable for a European airline. Furthermore, I included a hardshell large bag – the type you have to check-in before flying. With the left seat folded down and the car seat on the right side, I squeezed in all three bags, along with the Bugaboo Bee5 stroller. As you can see in the images below, there was still some room to spare.
Of course, I highly advise against having a baby in the car seat in this loading configuration. This exercise solely tries to show the maximum loading capacity.
Next, I removed the large hardshell from this scenario and with both rear seats up, I effortlessly squeezed in the two carry-ons with the Bee5 on top of them.
My accomplishments are far from what the phtoos I’ve seen on the BMW i3 Worldwide Group which demonstrated how much more you can actually fit in a BMW i3.
It’s not an SUV, but the i3 can hold its own
SUVs, crossover, trucks or minivans will always be the preferred choice for small and large families. These type of cars were built with versatility and space in mind, so the BMW i3 can’t come close to them when it comes to space. But in my opinion, it can hold its own and it can pleasantly be used as a family car. Or even as a hauling car. BMW has designed the i3 to be a city car, yet, thanks to its minimalistic interior design and the lack of an engine, it offers adequate space inside.
It might not look from the outside, but the moment you step inside the BMW i3, you’ll notice a roomy cabin, well crafted and smartly engineered. So don’t be afraid to put the BMW i3 on your list when searching for a family car.
Disclaimer: Clek and Bugaboo provided the demo products for this experiment. The Clek team went even further by going to a local Toronto BMW dealership to ensure that the Liing properly and safely fits in the BMW i3.
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