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BMW i3 Car of the Year conks out

The latest winner of the world’s oldest Car of the Year award couldn’t complete part of the test, but still took the prize. And experts are concerned it only has a four-star safety rating.

The BMW i3 electric car has won Wheels magazine’s latest Car of the Year award even though it conked out during the test because it ran out of power.

The oddly shaped $65,000 car which is about the same size as a $15,000 hatchback, is one of the most controversial winners of the world’s oldest Car of the Year award since the Leyland P76 in 1973, the Holden Camira in 1982 and the Honda CR-Z hybrid sports car in 2011, of which fewer than 100 were sold last year.

The magazine also admits its latest winner is poor value: “If the i3 has an obvious weakness, it’s value.”

BMW sold just 33 examples of its quirky i3 electric car since it was introduced last year. Even the Leyland P76 sold more examples in its first partial year on sale.

The BMW i3 was criticised by the magazine because it drained power too quickly after it failed to complete one phase of the test.

“BMW could and should do a better job of explaining the range extender functions and the importance of avoiding battery depletion,” the magazine said.

However, Wheels editor Glenn Butler defended the decision to hand the award to the BMW i3 and added "It didn't break down ... it ran out of electricity".

“We aren’t suggesting this is the car for every Australian,” Mr Butler told News Corp Australia.

“Those who do big country kilometres will need something with greater range. But for the average Australian who does just 40km a day, the i3 offers fuel-free, emission-free motoring.”

The BMW i3 is not the first winner to run out of fuel. The Ford Falcon that won in 2002 ran dry and had to be refuelled, said Mr Butler.

Meanwhile safety advocates have criticised the award because the BMW i3 only scores four stars out of five for safety according to European authorities.

Even Wheels magazine admitted: “Like almost any car in production, it could be made a little safer.”

However, in earlier awards, Wheels took safety so seriously that in the year 2000, Holden air-freighted a Barina from Europe to Australia because the magazine insisted all contenders have three-point, lap-sash seatbelts.

Until Wheels introduced the rule, the Barina at the time had a lap-only belt in the middle back seat. It went on to win the 2001 award.

The BMW i3 is the first car with a four-star safety rating to win the award in 10 years.

“Questions have been raised about the i3’s four-star (rating),” said the magazine. “There’s no question, however, that the BMW i3 does a good job of protecting its occupants in a crash.”

The BMW i3 has seven airbags but it was marked down for having a poor pedestrian safety rating.

Last year, 151 pedestrians were killed on Australian roads, accounting for 13 per cent of the total road toll.

The head of the Pedestrian Council of Australia Harold Scruby said: “It’s disappointing that such a prestigious award should not take pedestrian safety seriously. When we get out of a car, we’re all pedestrians.”

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