3.8 out of 5 3.8
Parkers overall rating: 3.8 out of 5 3.8

Small electric car is aging gracefully, remaining modern in many ways

BMW i3 (13 on) - rated 3.8 out of 5
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At a glance

New price £33,805 - £37,800
Lease from new From £392 p/m View lease deals
Used price £8,245 - £38,675
Used monthly cost From £206 per month
Fuel Economy 3.8 - 4.1 miles/kWh
Insurance group 21 - 29 How much is it to insure?
New

PROS

  • Futuristic style
  • Smooth, electric drive
  • Excellent acceleration
  • Tight turning circle

CONS

  • Expensive to buy
  • Small boot
  • Lack of space in the back seats
  • Uncomfortable ride

BMW i3 rivals

Written by Keith Adams on

Is the BMW i3 any good?

Without getting too far ahead of ourselves, we're probably safe in saying that the i3 is getting on a little – and in some important areas is falling behind its electric car rivals. But considering it's been around since 2013 and is the car that spearheaded BMW's launch of its i sub-brand, the i3 is still remarkably competitive in many other ways.

It's a compact but pricey hatchback that is up against higher-spec Volkswagen ID.3s, the less prestigious Hyundai Kona and Kia Soul, as well as the Citroen e-C4. With the exception perhaps of the ID.3, the BMW feels more special and bespoke than any of those rivals. That's not to say it's better – but it does feel more up-to date than any car that's been around as long as this one has any right to.

One of the key differences between the i3 and its rivals is its exotic construction, and partial reason for its modernity. It uses materials more usually found in supercars than city cars. The i3 is made from a mixture of lightweight aluminium for the chassis and carbonfibre-reinforced plastic for some structural parts and body panels.

Read the BMW i3 verdict

What's it like inside?

If you like the oddball exterior styling of the i3, you'll love its interior. From its rear-hinged back doors that open up to create a wide, pillarless opening to its dash-mounted transmission selector, the i3 looks unconventional. It's dated in places, such as the centre console, where there's a large number of buttons, but that's offset by the clean-looking twin-screen set-up for the speedo and infotainment.

But once you're used to it, the i3 is easy to live with, with a set of controls and screens that looks bang up-to date, and which is unhampered by needing to use touchscreen controls. It's light and airy inside, and has a large glass area that makes it easy to see out of – and overall, there's an upmarket air inside you just don't get in any comparable electric car.

As for passenger space, consider this a 2+2 and you'll not be disappointed. The rear seats are suitable for children only, although adults can fit in at a squeeze. A lack of knee and headroom are the biggest problem.

Read more on the BMW i3 interior

What's it like to drive?

The zippy i3 handles like a typical BMW, with sharp steering, little body roll and a balanced chassis. Only the firm suspension allowing for sharper imperfections to make their way into the cabin lets the package down; the ride can be quite jiggly.

It certainly feels quick on the road. The standard i3's 0-62mph time is 7.3 seconds (or 6.9 for the i3S), making it as quick as some hatchbacks thanks to 250Nm of instantly-available torque – or pulling power.

The BMW i3 has two pedals, but can easily be driven in normal conditions using just the accelerator pedal. That's because regenerative braking is used to harvest energy under deceleration, slowing the car when the driver comes off the throttle.

At higher speeds the car will 'coast' with very little retardation, but the slower you go, the deceleration when you lift off is more dramatic. With a little forward planning, it means you can essentially drive using just one pedal.

Read more on how the BMW i3 drives

What models and trims are available?

It's a simple model range, with just two versions to choose from. Buyers can opt for the 170hp i3 or the sportier 184hp i3s model, both of which have what BMW describes as a 120Ah battery, which equates to 42.2kWh. This storage capacity puts it well behind most of its rivals, though it's fairly close to the entry-level 45kWh Volkswagen ID.3 or the 50kWh Citroen e-C4.

There are three interior trims to choose from: Loft, Lodge and Suite, which are interior packs (worlds in BMW-speak) that can be opted for £1,000, £1,500 and £2,000 respectively.

It's a well-equipped car out of the box, with the standard i3 coming with sat-nav, heated front seats, LED headlights, rear parking sensors, climate control, a DAB radio, automatic lights and rain-sensing wipers as standard. The i3s adds 20-inch alloy wheels, an additional Sport driving mode, and a contrasting A-pillar and roof, painted in high-gloss black.

What else should I know?

There's plenty of connected 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 to charge-up or heat the cabin remotely. Driving routes can be sent directly to the sat-nav in the car – and if the i3 doesn’t expect you’ll make your destination on a single charge, it will advise you to switch to Eco Pro or Eco Pro+ mode and locate the nearest charging point en route.

The range for the standard i3 is 191 miles according to WLTP testing. That figure drops to 176 miles for the higher-performance i3s model. You’ll be able to charge your i3 from a domestic three-plug socket in around 10 hours, or as quickly as 30 minutes for an 80% charge using a public fast charger.

Owners can also buy a bespoke BMW i Wallbox for their home, which can charge the car from zero to 80% in four hours. The i3’s home charging point is warranted for three years, just like the car.

Best small electric cars: our guide to the compact EVs

Dealwatch special

Our leasing partner, ZenAuto is offering BMW i3s from £392 per month. The usual terms and conditions apply.

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Click through the next few pages to read everything you need to know about the BMW i3 including its practicality, how much it costs to run, what it's like to drive – and whether we recommend buying one.

BMW i3s (2021) rear view

BMW i3 rivals