The BMW i3 and i3s are small, but beautifully formed EVs
Introduction to the BMW i3
The BMW i3 was launched in 2013, just before its exotic big bother, the BMW i8.
The i3 was built from the ground up as an electric car (BEV). It was an instant hit. The BMW i3’s incredible, futuristic exterior and its beautiful, eco-friendly interior made it the small EV to die for.
This BMW electric car still turns heads today, and a recent face-lift maintains its appeal.
- Stunning internal and external design
- Solidity and reliability of a BMW
- Built as an EV from the ground up
- Very easy to park
- A little expensive
- Only a 4-seater
BMW i3 – Range
There are two versions of the BMW i3:
The ‘s’ is the sporty version. Both versions come with a 42.2 kWh battery. So, what’s the difference in range between the i3 and the i3s?
The BMW i3 has a real-world range of about 174 miles. The i3s has a range of about 159 miles. The i3 range in miles is therefore a little better than the i3s range.
BMW i3 – Price
The BMW i3 costs from £31,680, including the PiCG grant.
Its sportier brother the i3s comes in at £34,170, including the government grant. That makes the i3s £2,490 more expensive than the i3. Is it worth it?
Hard to say. The i3s is a bit more exciting to drive, with better handling, but has a shorter range on a single charge. The i3 seems to be better value.
BMW i3 vs i3s
Although the i3 has a better range than the i3s, the i3s has a more powerful motor.
The BMW i3s has a 135 kW electric motor which provides 181 bhp. Its top speed is 99 mph and it can go from 0 to 62 mph in 6.9 seconds.
On the other hand, the i3 has a 125 kW motor (168 bhp). It can do 0-62 mph in 7.3 seconds and enjoys a top speed of 93 mph.
So, although the BMW i3s price is higher than the i3 and comes with a lower range, it’s all down to the performance. You get better acceleration, a higher top speed, and superior handling.
In fact, there are some more differences between the BMW i3 and i3s. The sportier, more expensive i3s has wider wheels and it sits lower on the road, with a harder suspension. There is also a sport driving mode which makes it more responsive than the standard i3.
BMW i3 Range Extender
This BMW electric car used to be available with a ‘range extender’. You will sometimes see this referred to as the BMW i3 REx.
Although you can no longer get the range extender on new models, this section is relevant if you are considering buying a second hand i3 or i3s.
The BMW i3 range extender (REx) was an option on both the i3 and i3s models. But what is it?
The range extender or REx on the BMW is a 2-cylinder, 8-litre petrol engine. What? A fossil-fuel engine in an otherwise pure battery electric vehicle (BEV)?
The i3 range extender acts as a generator. It doesn’t actually turn the wheels of the car. Instead, the BMW i3 REx charges the battery when it’s getting low.
In other words, it extends the range in miles that the battery is able to provide. Effectively, it charges the battery with a fossil fuel (petrol) rather than electricity.
Why would you want to burn fossil fuels in your EV? It’s a get out of jail free card. If you are on a long trip without many charging points along the route (less and less of a problem these days), the BMW i3 range extender will allow you to travel a greater distance between charges.
However, the range extender version costs about £2,000 more, adds weight to the car, and shortens the battery only range.
Who is the BMW i3 for?
This BMW electric car is a rear-wheel drive, 5-door supermini with 4 seats.
As with the Renault Zoe, although classed as a supermini, the i3 is OK in the back row. Headroom is good for kids and adults, and legroom is also fine. The big square rear side windows mean it doesn’t feel claustrophobic. Remember though: it’s a 4-seater, not a 5-seater.
If you drive a BMW i3 or i3s as a company car you will definitely be a happy bunny. Both models have great handling and look superb. If you have to drive a client somewhere, they will be intrigued by the experience. It also feels very solid and responsive on the motorway.
If you don’t have loads of kids, this could also be your only car, especially if you do most of your driving around town. It’s easy to park, agile, and fun. The turning circle is superb.
It is more expensive than other small EVs such as the Renault Zoe, VW e-up!, VW e-Golf, and Smart EQ forfour, but if your budget can stretch far enough, it would also be a lovely second car for your family, although the boot isn’t enormous.
- If you would like more information about EVs in general, please see our main Electric Cars page.
- For specific details about the i3 and i3s, see the main BMW UK i3 website.
- Otherwise, please scroll down to the Reviews section below for independent analyses.
BMW i3 – Reviews
We have searched around the internet and brought all the best video and text reviews to you here in one place.
Click on the links below for reviews of the BMW i3 from respected car reviewers:
- Reviewer: Nicki Shields
- Organisation: CarBuyer
- Date published: 9 March 2018
- Length: 5 minutes 24 seconds
BMW i3s v. Mini PHEV
> Fully Charged Live
- Reviewer: Jonny Smith
- Organisation: Fully Charged Live
- Date published: 29 September 2018
- Length: 18 minutes 56 seconds