Even the cheapest i3 looks very expensive, and that’s after including the £4500 government grant. The range-extender version, which almost doubles the car's range, costs even more. That said, although the i3 is expensive to buy outright, it makes more sense on a lease deal and won’t cost you much in company car tax (the electric-only model emits 0g/km of CO2, naturally, and even the range-extender version emits less than 15g/km).
Everyday running costs should be more appealing, because charging the i3 right up to its maximum range of around 125 miles (100 miles is more realistic) should cost only around three quid if you plug it in overnight and you're on an Economy 7 tariff. The range-extender version has slightly reduced pure-electric range but an overall range of 170-200 miles – and, of course, this can be extended if you refill the nine-litre fuel tank. Happily, although the quicker i3s travels a slightly shorter distance on paper, BMW reckons in the real world the i3 and i3s will travel the same distance.
A 80% battery charge from a 7kW Type 2 wallbox takes less than four hours. BMW offers its own charging unit, but it's bulky and expensive; other 32A solutions offer the same charging speed and a more compact design for less than half the price (there are government schemes to help you with the cost of this, too). The i3 also gets a fast-charging capability and a DC cable as standard; this can give you an 80% charge in just 40 minutes.
Use our True MPG calculator and see what your car really does to the gallon
BMW offers fixed-price servicing on the i3; the package looks pretty generous, since it costs about the same as many deals on conventionally powered vehicles but lasts for five years and 60,000 miles instead of the usual three years and 36,000 miles. The i3’s battery is covered by an eight-year, 100,000-mile warranty as standard.