BMW has won the Green Car Guide Greenest Manufacturer of the Year Award 2014, for the efforts that the company has made with its mainstream models, but particularly with the BMW i sub-brand.
Since 2006 Green Car Guide has existed for one clear purpose: to seek out and report on cars that are great to drive and that also demonstrate class-leading efficiency. BMW has many models that fit this description – see all the BMW Group cars in our Green Car Guide Cars of the Year 2014 feature – but there are no better examples than the BMW i3 and the BMW i8 – which is our top Green Car of 2014. Both of the current models in the BMW i sub-brand have one key defining feature – they make electric cars desirable.
2014 was the year that the BMW i8 hit the streets. When we drove it and photographed it in London, we had a crowd of people surrounding it at all times. There were plenty of other cars around the £100,000 price bracket in the same London streets, but no-one was interested in them; all eyes – and mobile phone cameras – were pointed at the BMW i8.
But the i8 doesn’t just look like something from the future, it also drives like something from the future. A high speed day from London to Bath and back, via Salisbury Plain, showed that the i8 was great fun to drive, and extremely capable. But thanks to its all-electric driving ability from its plug-in hybrid powertrain, it also expelled zero emissions in London, and averaged 53.7mpg overall in real-life driving. No other sports or supercar in existence can compete with that. Which is why the i8 is a key reason for BMW winning our Greenest Manufacturer of the Year Award 2014.
However we have to acknowledge that although the i8 benefits from a £5,000 government plug-in car grant subsidy, it still has a £100,000 price tag, and it’s not the most practical of cars for the school run – but the company also has that angle covered with the BMW i3 – the electric car by BMW. Like the i8, the company has started with a clean sheet of paper in order to address the challenge of electric powertrains being very heavy, and as a solution both cars contain a large proportion of carbon fibre in their structures in order to save weight – so improving efficiency as well as handling.
Light weight along with a torquey electric powertrain and rear-wheel drive means that the i3 is fun to drive – and like the i8, it’s also a highly innovative design statement. And if the i3’s pure electric powertrain doesn’t meet the needs of everyone, the range-extender version offers a more practical real-world solution for many people.
So BMW is rewarded for being a leader with the i-brand. However the company also has other models that offer a rewarding driving experience and efficiency. Top of our list is the BMW 330d xDrive Touring. We rate this as the world’s best all-round car. It’s a performance car, an economy car, a luxury car, a practical family car, and an all-weather car (if fitted with the right tyres).
The 330d Touring has important virtues that are shared with most BMWs – you can usually get a great driving position, and the dashboard layout works brilliantly from an ergonomics point of view. iDrive is the easiest to use system of its type in the business, and BMW’s head-up display is excellent.
If you want the practicality of an estate but want a body style that is sleeker, then the recently-launched BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe may fit the bill.
The BMW M235i (and M135i) may not seem particularly green, but it’s much more efficient than the average supercar, and in our view it’s more fun than most supercars on typical UK B-roads at speeds up to 60mph – ie. the speed limit on most of the UK’s country roads.
Last but not least, MINI is obviously part of the BMW Group and the new MINI Hatch is more refined and more economical than the previous model, with a much better interior – and it’s still great fun to drive.
With practical, long distance, all-weather and economical cruising ability, and zero-emission local school run ability, surely the BMW 330d xDrive Touring and the BMW i3 must be the perfect two-car garage?
So congratulations go to BMW, especially as this is the fourth time in six years that BMW has won the Green Car Guide Greenest Manufacturer of the Year Award.