The i3 is the first dedicated electric car released by BMW but while it has a revolutionary structure, the appearance remains unmistakably BMW which will delight brand aficionados. While it is the more or less the same size as a Ford Fiesta, it feels a lot roomier and is approximately 300kg lighter than a Nissan Leaf due to its lightweight aluminium and carbon fibre structure.
The i3 comes with a Range Extender but if you purchase this electric car without one, your range will be in the 80-120 mile area while the aforementioned extender almost doubles the range. Continue reading to find out if the BMW i3 should be your ticket into the world of electric cars.
The carbon-fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) construction is designed to strike a balance between being lightweight yet strong. This helps offset the large 230kg 22kWh battery which is responsible for most of the vehicle’s power.
There are lightweight cabin fittings, hollow driveshafts, a honeycomb windscreen wiper and forged aluminium suspension and wheels which combine to keep the i3 light. Even the extended range version won’t weigh much above 1300kg which is much lighter than other EVs.
The interior of the i3 is different from typical BMW fare as you are faced with a light-toned dashboard instead of the traditional dark one. The instrument cluster is gone and replaced by a 6.5 inch windscreen display which is controlled by the iDrive at thigh height, something familiar to BMW drivers.
The interior is also laden with PUR-Sensatec which is a recycled trim material that looks a lot like moulded packaging. The switchgear layout is excellent but the aft of the slim backrests is not as appealing. B-pillars have been removed and coach doors are in place but the opening is a bit far from the floor and is a tad inconvenient. You must also open a front door to access the back which is a pain.
The electric motor of the BMW i3 is connected to its rear wheels so you get excellent power delivery. When you put your foot down, the i3 responds fast and there seems to be no lag at any speed. You can go 0-62mph in 7.2 seconds and its top speed is 93mph. The i3 will drive you around 75+ miles on battery power alone before you need to recharge.
Once the charge goes below 75%, you can hold the battery charge and get the i3 to run on electrical power provided by its petrol generator. You can also get about 40 miles per gallon on generator power which is handy if you’re without electrical back-up for a while. If you have a full tank and battery, you should be able to travel 150 miles before needing a new power source.
If the BMW i3 was just an electric vehicle, it would not be the best purchase as it would be expensive but add in the filler cap and you have an EV worth considering. While the fuel tank is small, it is still a vital part of the car’s design. Overall, the BMW i3 is aesthetically pleasing, drives well and is economical enough to be worth a second look.
- Rating: 4/5
- Price: £30,680 ($51,000) – Range Extender is £4,000 extra.
- Miles Per Gallon Equivalent (MPG): 124 MPG
- Official Driving Range (Miles): 81 miles
- Standard Charging Time (Hours): 3 hours with fast charging system, 10 hours from domestic power supply.
- Practicality (Seats & Doors): 5 door hatchback
- Engine Size: 25 kW 647 cc two-cylinder generator with 130kW electric motor
- Engine Power: 170hp
- Transmission: Single speed with fixed audio
- Acceleration (0-60mph): 7.2 seconds
- Top Speed (mph): 93mph
- NCAP Safety Rating: 4/5