BMW i3 (2013) Review

BMW i3 (2013) At A Glance

5/5
Honest John Overall Rating
What the i3 manages to achieve is impressive, ticking all the boxes you expect from an electric car - acceptable range, zero emissions and an environmental mindset thanks to its recycled material content.

+Available as a range extended version, impressive performance and handling, superb interior design, eight year battery warranty, UK Car of the Year 2014.

-Styling is best described as 'complex', boot is a touch on the small side, lack of standard active safety equipment

New prices start from £36,350
Insurance Groups are between 21–29
On average it achieves 67% of the official MPG figure

The BMW i3 was a brave first step into electric cars for BMW when it was first introduced in 2013, designed to compete with other EV offerings such as the Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe. Like its key rivals the i3 is a clean-sheet design, but with a premium BMW feel as well as an advanced lightweight body made from carbonfibre, a material normally reserved for expensive supercars. The i3 is available in standard and higher-performance S versions, while both models can be specified with a range-extending 0.6-litre engine that can be used to recharge the batteries.

Back in 2013 the electric car market was still in its infancy. The Nissan Leaf and Renault Zoe were the only pure EVs on the market outside of the considerably more expensive Tesla Model S, and with charging networks also in their early days, electric cars were still seen as a niche choice.

BMW’s approach to creating an electric car showed serious intent. The compact i3 was designed alongside the hybrid i8 model, and both are made from carbonfibre for light weight and strength, even building a new factory to manufacture the base material.

The i3 was also one of the first premium electric cars to go on sale, staying true to the values of the BMW range. While the design is unlike any of its stablemates, with a clean, minimalist interior and an exterior that is quite unlike anything else on the road, the quality still shines through. The materials are attractive and the build quality is exactly what you would expect from the brand.

Those looks may not be for everyone - the i3 has almost no overhangs, is short in length but tall in stature - but it is distinctive and modern, and makes the most of its compact powertrain by offering generous interior space.

At launch the i3 was offered with a 60Ah battery in pure EV form, giving a range of approximately 120 miles on a full charge, while the range-extending model (badged REx) increases the range to approximately 200 miles.

In 2017 all versions of the i3 were fitted with a larger 94Ah battery pack to  increase the range, and the i3S model was introduced in 2018 as a sportier take on the standard car with stiffer suspension, bigger wheels and tyres, extra power and an additional driving mode.

In 2019 BMW increased the capacity of the battery once again, with a 120Ah as standard pushing the range for the pure EV model to approximately 220 miles, 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.

You certainly don't feel like you're having to make any compromises because it's an electric car. It rides well too and thanks to its incredibly low weight - helped by the fact the body is constructed entirely from carbonfibre - it's fast, one of the fastest electric cars this side of a Tesla or Porsche Taycan.

Ask Honest John

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
I want an electric car to replace two diesel cars. What do you suggest?
"I drive a 2011 Ford Galaxy auto, mostly for transporting grandkids to school and long motorway journeys. I have a 2007 Fiat Panda for local runs around town. I get 44mpg and 60mpg respectively, both diesel engines. Choosing a new car has been a nightmare for me, so any good advice welcome. I want one car - possibly a good quality used car. Ultimately, I would like electric, I just feel they are too expensive at the moment. My total yearly mileage is usually 11,000. My budget is £15,000-20,000."
You can certainly get a good electric car within budget. How about an MG ZS EV? It's a versatile electric vehicle with a range of 163 miles. Prices for a new one start from £25,495 but you can pick up a nearly-new one for less than £19,000. If you'd prefer something more premium (but less practical), consider a BMW i3. If you're not ready to make the jump to an electric car, we'd recommend a hybrid model. A Toyota C-HR or RAV4 could be a good choice. Or a Kia Niro.
Answered by Andrew Brady
Is buying a low mileage electric car as risky as buying a low mileage diesel?
"I've seen a 2017 BMW i3 range extender at a main dealer with only 4363 miles on the clock. It didn't have its first service til June 2020 with 3136 miles but I'm told that it will still come with a warranty. Should I steer clear of such a low mileage or will it be okay? It looks like a new car, as you would expect."
Probably not a huge concern in an electric car like the i3 (even the range extender model). There are fewer moving parts than a petrol or diesel car - and it's the sort of car that someone will buy for low city miles. I'd be a little concerned about the warranty issue because of the missed service but then the warranty would be nearly up anyway. Don't pay over the odds because of the low mileage, but it sounds like it could be a good purchase.
Answered by Andrew Brady
What's the best electric car for £35,000?
"We are contemplating going full electric with our next car. At present we have a BMW Active Tourer PHEV. My problem is that I prefer a light (ivory, beige) interiors, I really don’t like black interiors! My budget is about £35,000 max so this figure precludes Lexus or Jaguar. Range requirement would be circa 200 miles. Is there anything out there that might meet my expectations?"
Your budget is enough to get you a Tesla Model S which is quick, comfortable and practical, and grants you access to Tesla's excellent Supercharger network. Tesla also offered the Model S with the light interior you're after. If you want a newer electric car, you'll need to go smaller – we rate the Hyundai Kona EV and the BMW i3, both are available with light interior finishes.
Answered by Russell Campbell

What does a BMW i3 (2013) cost?