BMW i3 (2013 – 2022) Review
BMW i3 (2013 – 2022) At A Glance
Insurance Groups are between 21–29
On average it achieves 69% of the official MPG figure
Think the BMW i3 still looks modern and distinctive now? Now think back to 2013 when it first came out and you'll get some idea of how radical and forward-thinking it was. Aside from the similarly futuristic Tesla Model S, it was only really the rather unexciting Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe occupying the mass-market electric car sector then. Things have moved on quite a bit, but the quirky i3 is still very appealing as this review will show.
BMW’s approach to creating a small electric car showed serious intent and real forward thinking at a time when EVs weren't exactly mainstream. The compact i3 was designed alongside the hybrid BMW i8 sports car, and both are made from carbon fibre for light weight and strength, with BMW even building a new factory to manufacture the base material.
Other than the Model S, which had only just arrived on the scene, the BMW i3 was pretty much the first premium electric car on the market. It looks totally different to any other BMW (in fact anything else on the road) with its quirky and bold exterior design. While it was certainly controversial in the early days, harming sales, the striking look has aged well and sales improved as time went on.
There's nothing controversial about the cabin. BMW mastered the minimalist look before it was cool, but unlike Tesla there's still plenty of design flair and an infotainment system that doesn't rely on a touchscreen for every single feature - BMW's iDrive rotary controller is still superbly easy to use. The bright, airy interior is also full of upmarket materials (some of them recycled) with excellent build quality.
You'll have no complaints regarding space up front, but the rear-hinged rear doors can only be opened if if the fronts are. Once back there it's not exactly roomy by the standard of today, either, but a couple of adults will be fine for shorter journeys, and kids will be fine. The boot is supermini-sized, however.
At launch the i3 was offered with a modest 22kWh battery in pure EV form, giving a range of up to 120 miles (75-80 miles in the real world) on a full charge. There was also a range-extending hybrid version (badged REx) with a little 650cc two-cylinder engine able to provide power to the electric motors when the battery is depleted, although with a nine-litre fuel tank it only added about 80 miles of range.
In 2017 all versions of the i3 were fitted with a larger 33kWh battery pack to boost the range in the face of newer rivals, while in 2018 the i3S came along. With more power, stiffer suspension and bigger wheels and tyres, it added some driver appeal at the expense of comfort.
In 2019 BMW uprated the battery capacity once again, with a 42.2kWh battery as standard boosting the range up to 193 miles (160-odd real-world), while the REx model is no longer offered in the UK.
What really marks the i3 out is the way it drives. If you’re new to electric cars it will be something of a revelation, as it is not only undemanding to drive but also a great deal of fun. The ride is firm, especially in early cars, but it is well-damped.
The i3 is easily one of the lightest electric cars on sale - it's up to 500kg lighter than a Volkswagen ID.3 - thanks to its unique carbonfibre construction. That means despite its modest power it's pretty rapid away from the line. Alright, so it's not a Porsche Taycan but it's easily one of the fastest electric cars below £50k.
Looking for a second opinion? Why not read heycar's BMW i3 review.