What is built like a Tesla Model S and looks like an updated Honda Element?

BMW's new i3 looks like an updated, more aerodynamic version of the boxy Honda Element, especially in the arrangement of the four doors. The front doors must be opened to reach the hidden handles of the back doors, which are hinged at the rear and sometimes referred to as "suicide doors."
The hidden handle of a rear door in the BMW i3.


BMW says its new iBrand is "fueled by innovation," but one of the two models seems to have borrowed a number of ideas from Tesla, Chevrolet and Honda.

The BMW i3 is a four-door hatchback built on a battery platform that looks a lot like the one used by Tesla's all-electric Model S.

The i3 is available as an all-electric car with a range of about 80 miles, but buyers can choose the extra-cost option of a 2-cylinder gasoline engine that charges the battery and doubles the range.

With the plug-in Volt, Chevrolet uses a gas-powered generator that performs the same function to extend the EPA-estimated range of 38 miles on the battery alone.

And the hidden handles of the rear "suicide doors" in the i8 mimic the arrangement in the boxy Element sport-utility vehicle, which Honda stopped making in 2011.

Where the i3 and companion i8 have innovated is in the extensive use of carbon fiber. 

In the i3, the passenger compartment is made primarily from molded carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic, the German automaker says. 

The platform of the Tesla Model S.

BMW's plug-in sports car

The other model in the iBrand is the low-slung i8, a plug-in hybrid that sounds and drives like a sports car.

If a BMW is "The Ultimate Driving Machine," the i8's high sills, scissor doors and lack of passenger-assist handles make it "The Ultimate Pain in the Ass" to get into and out of.

The i3 has the same controls you'll find in a conventional BMW, above and below. The base model of the i3 doesn't have touchscreen navigation.

The 17-inch iPad-like touchscreen in the Tesla Model S eliminates many of the buttons and other controls found in a conventional car.

The Model S is a heavy four-door luxury hatchback. Some writers have described the BMW i3 as a luxury car, but the base "Mega World" model I drove for two days was somewhat spartan, with cloth-covered seats and recycled material used on the dashboard and other surfaces.

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