- Engaging drive
- Cool design
- Range extender option
- Only average range
- Options make it expensive
- Jittery ride quality
Not only does the BMW i3 break new ground for the German manufacturer, kick-starting its new electric sub-brand, but it also breaks new ground across the industry. This is the first electric car available in the UK that manages to mix desirability with efficiency.
The project started back in 2007 in a small corner of BMW’s Munich factory with a team of only seven people, and just six years later the production i3 has hit the market, ready to rival Renault’s Zoe, Nissan’s Leaf and Vauxhall’s Ampera range extender.
Pure electric and range extender versions available
Buyers can choose between the pure electric and range extender versions (the latter around £3,000 more expensive), but all models use a lightweight aluminium chassis (Drive Module) and Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastic bodyshell (Life Module).
In its pure electric form this means the i3 weighs less than 1,200Kg – around 200Kg less than its natural competitors. Against the clock the 0-62mph time is only 7.2 seconds, or the same as a MINI Cooper S, thanks to the 168bhp electric motor with 250Nm of torque, the latter available instantly.
The range for the electric-only car is between 80 and 100 miles during normal driving, according to BMW. If running in efficiency boosting ECO PRO mode this increases to 111 miles, and ECO PRO+ mode takes this to 123 miles.
You’ll be able to charge your i3 from a standard plug socket in 10 hours, and as quickly as 30 minutes for an 80 percent charge using one of the fast-charging stations cropping up all over the UK.
If that range puts you off, the range-extender with its 650cc petrol engine increases the vehicle’s capability to up to 180 miles between charges. The petrol engine adds another 34bhp, but this doesn’t add any extra performance; in fact, the range-extended model is slower, taking 7.9 seconds to get from 0- 62mph.
The i3 has two pedals - a throttle and a brake - but can actually be driven in normal conditions using just the accelerator pedal. This is due to the effect of the car's regeneration system, which will slow down the car when the driver comes off the throttle.
This system works in proportion to the speed of the car, so at higher speeds the car will 'coast' with very little retardation, while at lower speeds the decrease in speed is far more dramatic. With a little forward planning this will allow a driver to drive using just one pedal.
It also displays typical BMW handling traits on the road with feelsome steering, very little bodyroll and a balanced chassis. Only the slightly firm suspension allowing for sharper imperfections to make their way into the cabin lets the package down. Otherwise it’s a refined, quiet and comfortable car that were it not for the limited range on a charge would be well-suited to long distance driving.
Technology is standard on the BMW i3, with a smartphone App allowing the driver to monitor the car’s status from afar and even set it charging remotely. Planning your journey can also be done from the comfort of your phone, and routes sent directly to the sat-nav in the car – and if the i3 doesn’t expect you’ll make it on a single charge it will advise you to switch to ECO PRO or ECO PRO+ mode or even locate the nearest charging point.
The firm will install a bespoke BMW i wallbox at your home for £315 including a three year warranty which can charge the car from zero to 80 percent in only three hours.
A range of aftersales packages, including access to a fleet of conventional BMW cars is available at extra cost and there are specially arranged insurance deals for those likely to cover few miles in their i3. On top of that the car qualifies for Service Inclusive or Inclusive+ for the same rate as a standard BMW 1 Series while a dedicated team will look after you if there are any issues with charging or you need roadside assistance.
Read the full BMW i3 review to find out just why this car deserves its full five star rating.
What owners say about this car
Being able to plug in at night and ready to go in the morning no going for petrol . Read owner review