Despite being over five years old now, the BMW i3 is still a trailblazer in the electric hatchback world.
It doesn’t hide away from its green roots like some – when you see an i3, you know it’s an i3. And that’s something to be applauded.
Yes, its styling is divisive, but the BMW all-electric hatchback still looks fresh and modern, no easy task more than half a decade after launch.
To drive, it’s relaxing and nimble. It can be a smooth cruiser or an off-the-mark racer, and with i3’s excellent turning circle and one-gear regenerative braking, it’s great around town, too.
And even though it’s not conventional, there’s nothing about the i3 that’s gimmicky. The interior is bright, airy, simple and spacious, while the exterior makes you feel as though you’re driving a little piece of the future.
Overall, even though it’s not the newest hatchback on the electric scene, and some of the more recent introductions to the market trump it on range and value for money, it’s still one of the best to drive.
What’s Great About This Car?
- Perfect for city driving
- Comfortably room for four
- It’s an electric BMW
What’s Not So Great About This Car?
- Lower range than competitors
- Stiff suspension
Use the titles below to navigate to which section you want to read next.
- Exterior Design & Styling
- Range, Running Costs & Environment
- Engines, Drive & Performance
- Practicality & Boot Space
- Reliability & Safety
- Model Variants
- Cost & Deals
1. Exterior Design & Styling
The BMW i3 is arguably one of the most iconic electric vehicles on sale. Its styling is unique, with sharp edges and unconventional details highlighting the hatchback’s dynamism.
The most recent incarnation, which was released in 2018, featured lots of little design tweaks to counteract some of the criticisms the i3 received in 2014.
A u-shape feature line in matte black and horizontal indicators at the front visually widen and lower the vehicle giving it a more muscular stance.
Full LED headlights at the front and rear now come as standard, with the floating chrome bar at the read emphasising the vehicle’s width to detract from the i3’s height.
The same efforts are applied to the high-gloss matte black roof, with a chrome optic line visually lowering the vehicle’s stance.
As standard, the BMW i3 comes with 19-inch light-alloy wheels, which can be upgraded to 20-inch if you wish.
And the vehicle completes its memorable look with split-opening coach doors to add space and light.
2. Range, Charge Time, Running Costs & Environment
Although newer competitors come with greater, according to BMW, the standard i3 still has an all-electric range of 188 miles.
Real-world tests show that it’s actually closer to 146 miles, but considering the average UK journey is around 30 miles, it’s still more than enough for everyday driving.
Even though its range isn’t spectacular, one area where the i3 does excel is charging. With the optional 7kW BMWi Wall Box, it takes less than four hours to fully recharge the hatchback at home.
With a standard three-pin plug, it’s around 11 hours. And if you’re using a motorway, service station or supermarket fast charger, you can expect a delay of around 35 minutes to reach 80%.
To charge at home, the BMW i3 will set you back around 3-4p per mile, which equates to less than £5 for a full charge. If you’re using a fast charger away from your home, you can expect that cost to rise to about £8.
In comparison to a standard petrol or diesel car, using BMW’s projected range, that’s a saving of more than £22 every time you charge up. Even using real-world figures, it’s still an impressive £17.
As with every all-electric car, the BMW i3 produces zero emissions, meaning you can also take advantage of £0 road tax.
3. Engines, Drive & Performance
The BMW i3 and BMW i3s are powered by a 42.2 kWh 352 V lithium-ion battery.
In the standard i3, the 0-62mph time is 7.2 seconds, while in the i3s, it’s 0.3 seconds faster. But neither tells the story of the vehicle’s rapid 0-30mph speed.
The i3 nor the i3s will break 100mph, with the top speed ranging from 93mph in the standard to 99mph in the sportier model.
To drive, the BMW suffers from stiff suspension in an attempt to counteract what is quite a tall vehicle. In the i3s, it’s even firmer, meaning potholes and uneven road surfaces are definitely noticeable.
And if you upgrade to the larger, 20-inch alloy wheels, you can expect to feel even more.
Around town, the i3 is incredibly nimble and boasts a tiny turning circle, making narrow spaces and parking easy to combat.
The same can be said when on motorways, where the steering feels light and responsive. But push it too hard into the corners on windy roads, and it becomes a bit wobbly.
BMW labels their i3 interior specs as ‘worlds’, and you have four to choose from; Lodge, Atelier, Loft and Suite.
Each is fundamentally similar but gives different styles and tones to suit your personal preference.
No matter your choice, you can’t escape the vehicle’s sustainable philosophy. Recycled plastic is used to craft the dashboard, while leather trims are naturally tanned with olive leaves, emphasising the BMW i3’s eco-minded authenticity.
Away from the natural fibres, the driver has access to a 5.7-inch digital instrument display and 10.25-inch infotainment screen which houses BMW Professional Navigation and 3D Mapping, which both come as standard.
And the passengers are also treated to a luxurious ride, with ample room for four in an airy cabin that even in a dark finish feels spacious.
Thanks to a large windscreen and sizeable rear windows, the BMW i3 enjoys both a lot of natural light and good visibility, making the overall feel of the interior one that’s virtually unmatched by its competitors.
5. Practicality & Boot Space
In terms of practicality, the BMW i3 is spacious and comfortable. Its relatively low range makes it more difficult to live with if long journeys are a regular feature in your life, and there’s only room for four.
But the extra legroom in the front does mean sacrificing boot space, with the i3 coming with just 260 litres of room in the rear – bigger than a Mini but smaller than a Polo or the equivalent to around six carry-on cases.
With the seats down, the i3 does claw some of that back, however, with 1100 litres of boot space available.
6. Reliability & Safety
The BMW i3 received a four-star NCAP safety rating from its test in 2013, although the issues were more around pedestrian safety than passenger, and the results aren’t directly relatable to vehicles today.
As standard, you receive six airbags and electronic stability control. You also have the option to add the Driving Assistant Plus pack, which features active cruise control, city collision mitigation, front collision warning, pedestrian protection, speed limit recognition and traffic jam assist.
On the reliability front, the BMW i3 has less mechanical moving parts compared to a standard petrol or diesel car, so it’s less likely things will go wrong.
The bodywork is a pain point, however, with expensive construction materials meaning any damage will cost more to replace.
The BMW i3 from new comes with a three-year warranty as standard, and the battery receives eight years or 100,000 miles worth of protection.
If you choose a used model, you can upgrade your warranty with Hippo Leasing.
7. Model Variants
The BMW i3 comes in two model variants:
- BMW i3 – 125kW
- BMW i3s – 135kW
8. Specification Variants
The BMW i3 comes with four interior specification variants:
9. Cost & Deals
You can get behind the wheel of a brand-new BMW i3 from just £330 a month with Hippo Leasing.