BMW i3 Review 2022

BMW i3 At A Glance

4/5
Honest John Overall Rating
The BMW I3 still looks and feels modern nearly a decade on, with a cleverly-designed and classy interior, enjoyable driving experience and good acceleration. Its range, ride quality and practicality do mark it out as an older model now, however.

+Fun handling and nippy performance. Light, airy and high quality cabin with easy to use tech. Distinctive looks.

-Lacks practicality. Range is off the pace next to newer rivals. Early versions have a choppy ride.

New prices start from £36,350
Insurance Groups are between 21–29
On average it achieves 67% 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.

 

Ask Honest John

Why is the BMW 330e plug-in hybrid zero road tax?
"How is it that the new BMW 330e plug-in hybrid variant can be zero tax rated when after 25 miles it has to run on its petrol engine when my BMW i3 can do up to 140 miles on its battery and only then starts its little petrol generator to charge the battery for up to another 60 miles to get it to a charging station? The petrol powered generator does not drive the car just charges the battery. This is totally irrational and surely cannot be justified."
The road tax VED system before 2017 was based on tailpipe CO2 emission levels. This was designed to lower the UK's CO2 output. As a result, millions of diesel and hybrid cars registered before this cut off date qualify for free VED if their CO2 level is lower than 100g/km. The road tax system was changed in 2017 as the higher diesel car take-up results in dangerously poor air quality in the UK's towns and cities. That means only pure electric cars registered from 2017 onwards qualify for free VED, with hybrids and plug-in hybrids paying an annual fee: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/cheap-road-tax/
Answered by Dan Powell
How reliable is the BMW i3?
"My BMW i3 is just about to exit its 3 year warranty and I have been offered extended warranty at £700-plus per annum. This seems quite a lot of money for a car that has limited to go wrong with it and does not cover the battery which is covered by a BMW warranty for the next 5 years. What is the reliability of this vehicle to date and should I consider this as a good investment? It is a low mileage vehicle, approx. 12,000 miles to date. Are there better value offers elsewhere for this vehicle?"
We have had a very small number of reports of issues with the i3, notably an owner who had done 40,000 miles in theirs who had ongoing charging problems. It is worth bearing in mind that electric cars have fewer moving parts and therefore you might anticipate fewer maintenance issues. The level of cover provided will be key. I would suggest comparing the quote you have been given by BMW to offers from warranty specialists, making sure they are on a similar level. You can read our guide to car warranties here for more advice: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/cheap-car-warranties/
Answered by Sarah Tooze
We love our electric car but the lack of charging infrastructure is depressing. Are other people finding this, too?
"We enjoy driving our BMW i3 very much; we feel good about doing our bit for the planet and find home charging both convenient and economical. However, as we start to go further afield, we find increasing frustration with the system of charge points we must use. It came to a head last week when, in appalling weather, it took three journeys to find a point we could use — even though we'd planned the trip carefully. Our main gripes with the current service are that there are too many different systems to use to get power (we have at least 6 different apps on our phone), lack of charging points and the few charging points we can find which are already being used. There aren't enough rapid chargers and many are miles away from towns. I could go on but it's too depressing. Life is too short. Our frustration has reached the point of no return so it's back to a normal car for us. Are we the only ones reaching this conclusion?"
Not at all. We test new electric cars week in and week out, and our biggest gripe is with the UK's public charging infrastructure. As such, we'd only recommend electric vehicles to people who can charge a car at home and rarely venture further than the range of their EV. That said, the network does seem to be improving quite rapidly. This is promising: https://www.honestjohn.co.uk/news/buying-and-selling/2020-12/uks-first-all-electric-charging-station-opens-with-plans-for-100-more
Answered by Andrew Brady
Can you suggest a reliable family car replacement for our 15 year old Honda Jazz?
"We're looking to replace a 15 year old Honda Jazz - which we bought on your recommendation and it has been perfect for us. But, sadly, it will need a lot of money spent on it to pass this year’s MOT. We do a lot of very short trips, about a mile or less, but also need to drive 30-40 miles at weekends and occasionally go further to visit family. We do need space for 2 growing boys (14 & 11 years old). We're happy to buy secondhand and have a budget of about £15,000. Reliability is important to us, and a few modern touches like Apple CarPlay would be great. My wife would love keyless entry! With short journeys, should we look for a hybrid? The annual mileage will probably be about 6000 miles. What would you recommend? Many thanks."
Can you charge a car at home? If so, an electric car might work for you... it'd certainly be well suited to your regular short journeys. Consider a Nissan Leaf, BMW i3 or Kia Soul EV. All three would make a good introduction to EVs and should be practical enough for your needs. If you can't charge a car at home, it sounds like a hybrid would work well. We'd recommend a Hyundai Ioniq – it's a bit bigger than your Jazz and your budget will get a 2018 model with the remainder of its five-year manufacturer warranty. Consider a Kia Niro, too, particularly if a crossover SUV body shape appeals.
Answered by Andrew Brady
More Questions

What does a BMW i3 cost?