BMW i3 review – the city car perfected?

The BMW i3 is a genuinely impressive take on the electric city car.

Evo rating
  • Brilliant performance, great interior, stand-out looks
  • Range extender engine noisy, limited range without it

evo Verdict

BMW's i3 city car was one of two new vehicles to launch the Bavarian 'i' brand - alongside the seminal i8 sports car. While the latter is more of a traditional evo kind of car, the i3 still holds a lot of appeal, especially for those that spend most of their time in a big city but - importantly - don't want to be limited to city travel.

It looks like nothing else on the road even three years after its launch, has a surprisingly spacious and yet genuinely interesting cabin, plus the instantaneous maximum torque makes its performance a hoot. Lack of ultimate grip aside, it's even entertaining in corners. The only thing holding it back is its overall range - though recent revisions and the availability of the range-extended model make that less of an issue than it otherwise might be.

evo Tip

We'd be flabbergasted to find a BMW i3 buyer that doesn't have a smartphone, so assuming you do, it's worth installing the bespoke BMW i Remote app, as it enhances the ownership experience no end. A particularly useful feature is remotely checking how a charge is getting on, while it's also possible to pre-set the climate control temperature for when you return to the car. There's also what BMW claims to be a world first intermodal route planning system - i.e. it'll guide you whether you're in the car, on foot or using public transport... perish the thought.

> Read our BMW i8 review here

evo Comment

If you like the idea of further range in the i3, BMW will happily sell you one with a 'range extender' engine built in that can generate electricity when the battery charge runs out. Great in theory as it nearly doubles the effective range, but that still means a real-world range of under 200 miles as the fuel tank for this engine is tiny - and the extra weight means a reduced electric-only range. It does make the i3 more usable for more people, but it also comes at a hefty £3150 premium over the already expensive base model.

> Performance and 0-60mph time - Instant electric torque makes the i3 quite brisk despite its unusual proportions - 62mph arrives in 7.3sec, or 8.1sec for the slightly heavier range-extended model. Read about the BMW i3's performance here

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> Engine and gearbox - Only the range-extender car actually has an 'engine' - both use a 168bhp electric motor for propulsion, through a single-speed reduction gearbox. The battery from 2017 onwards is a 33kWh lithium-ion pack, 50 per cent bigger than before. Read about the BMW i3's engine and gearbox here

> Ride and handling - It doesn't feel much like a traditional BMW, but the i3 is nicely balanced, if lacking outright grip. Ride is very firm, given its city car aspirations. Read about the BMW i3's ride and handling here

> MPG and running costs - A full charge is unlikely to cost you more than a few quid, for around 80-100 miles of driving. Range-extender uses fuel too, but not much of it, and goes further. Read about the BMW i3's MPG and running costs here

> Prices, specs and rivals - The government's £4500 plug-in car grant makes the all-electric i3 a £30k car. Options can be expensive, but (worthy) rivals are few and far between. Read about the BMW i3's prices, specs and rivals here

> Interior and tech - One of the i3's true highlights. Interior looks and feels great - truly a product from the future. Interior 'world' options make it even better. Read about the BMW i3's interior and tech 

> Design - The i3's looks will divide opinion for some time to come, but it stands out on the road more than most supercars. Read about the BMW i3's design here

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