BMW i3

BMW i3 review (2013-2022)

BMW’s futuristic i3 electric hatchback offers an enjoyable drive and is surprisingly nippy. With a luxurious interior, it’s also highly practical with lots of space for its size.

Pros

  • Eye-catching styling and presence
  • Strong performance from an electric motor
  • Great build quality

Cons

  • It doesn’t have the best driving range
  • Interior isn’t particularly practical
  • It’s not cheap to buy

Summary

“If you want an electric car for short trips, then the nippy and compact BMW i3 is a brilliant choice.”

If you’re considering buying a small electric car, the BMW i3 is a good choice. It’s easy to drive in town and its looks have agred brilliantly – more than a decade after it was first introduced, it still looks completely different from anything else on the road. Using a carbon fibre reinforced plastic structure covered in two-tone panels, which add to the futuristic feel, its as upmarket as anyother BMW. It’s a strict four-seater, though, and the boot is small.

The i3 has a powerful electric motor which feels very fast in town. The range it can travel between charges varies depending on the model year, with post-2018 models travelling an impressive 153 miles between charges according to official figures. The early pre-2016 cars have a range of 81 miles, and cars which came out in 2016 and 2017 have 115 mile range.

The REx (Range Extender) hybrid version of the i3 has a small petrol engine as well as its electric motor, which keeps the batteries topped up if they begin to run flat. Production of this version ended in 2018, but it’s worth considering if you’re worried about how far you can get on a single charge.

What's the interior like?

“The BMW i3 has a bold interior design with a mix of eye-catching touches and eco-friendly materials.”

The i3 has a minimalist dashboard, large windows and a choice of light colour schemes, which create a bright and airy atmosphere. There’s a large centrally mounted screen for the infotainment and sat nav, while the speedometer and range gauge are housed in a smaller screen ahead of the driver. Everything looks good and is easy to use.

It’s not the most spacious car, but it doesn’t feel cramped. The interior is designed for a maximum of four adults. Those in the back won’t have huge amounts of legroom, and while there are small openings similar to back doors they can only be opened when the front ones are too, so the i3 feels a bit like a three-door car. The boot is small at 260 litres, but it’s a good shape for lifting shopping into. The boot can fit a couple of suitcases, but isn’t the most practical for fitting other items, such as a baby buggy. You can also fold down the rear seats to increase capacity to 1,100 litres.

Lots of features came as standard, including cruise control, sat nav and much more. Popular options include leather trim and heated seats, so keep an eye out for those on used cars.

What's it like to drive?

“The electric motor provides instant power for a strong performance, while compact dimensions help make the i3 easy to get through tight spaces.”

If you’ve never driven an electric car before, then the BMW i3’s performance will come as a pleasant surprise. It offers instant power from the moment you hit the accelerator. The i3 moves as quickly as a high-performance hatchback. What makes it more remarkable is how little noise it makes. It also has no gears so the acceleration happens smoothly.

The faster you go the more energy you use, so the range could be less than 100 miles on 2016 and 2017 cars. Even the realistic distance between charges of the improved post-2018 versions is around 150 miles. Regenerative braking, which slows the car by absorbing its energy into the batteries, helps to maximise range on longer trips.

The i3 is best around town where its high driving position, great visibility of the road and narrow dimensions make it easy to drive. It feels composed on the open roads, with its quick steering and strong grip delivering excellent agility.

It's hard to compare the i3 to other cars of its type, because... well, there aren't any. Other small electric cars that you might want to check out include the Honda E, which is much newer and also has standout looks. But it's likely to be considerably more espensive, and has a lower electric range than many i3s.

Is it cost-efficient to buy and run?

“It’s not cheap to buy, but if the BMW i3 fits into your lifestyle then it should drastically cut your bills.”

The BMW i3 is getting on in years now, so early cars in particular are available for relatively little. Newer ones will be comparable to the likes of the Honda E, but may be slightly pricier than the Peugeot e-208 and Renault Zoe, reflecting the BMW's premium badge.

Running costs should be very low. A full charge will take more than 12 hours from a domestic three-pin plug. A wall box fast charger reduces this to around four hours, while cars fitted with the optional DC charging unit can be topped up at a high speed public charger in less than an hour.

Insurance costs are affordable, despite the i3’s complex construction. Servicing costs are likely to be low compared to a petrol or diesel car, as there are fewer moving parts to service.

An easier way to find or sell a car

You’ll find lots of used cars for sale at Cazoo, all available to buy through our trusted dealers.

Cazoo makes selling a car just as easy – just enter a few details for an instant online valuation. If you accept the offer our partners will get in touch to arrange payment and collection of your car at a time that suits you.

Which one is best for you?

There are effectively just two trim levels to choose from – the i3 and the i3S. Both are similarly equipped with all the kit you’ll need, including climate control, sat-nav and Bluetooth. There were also a wide variety of options when the car was new, so it’s unlikely that two used i3s will have the same spec.

The i3S looks sportier with its wider arches and wheels, along with bespoke badging, but otherwise there’s little that’s changed on the i3 over the last few years. On newer cars it’s worth looking out for the DC fast charging option which could prove valuable, and the battery size and range improved as the years went on.

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