BMW i3

BMW i3 review

Cost & verdict
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In this review

Cost & verdict

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

BMW i3 hatchback running costs

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.

BMW i3 hatchback equipment

The i3 has a healthy list of standard equipment. Climate control, rear parking sensors, heated front seats and automatic LED lights and wipers all come as standard. However, similar-priced rivals such as the Volkswagen e-Golf also offer adaptive cruise control, adjustable lumbar support and front parking sensors for no extra cost.

The BMW i3's options list is long and includes luxuries such as keyless entry and access to a scheme that allows you to borrow a conventionally powered BMW when you want to travel longer distances or need greater practicality.

The subscription comes as part of a pack that can also include access to charging points and even maintenance, but it's quite an expensive monthly bill. If you're happy to drive cars without the BMW badge, you'd be better off just paying for a regular hire instead.

BMW i3

BMW i3 hatchback reliability

In theory, the i3 has fewer moving parts than a conventional petrol or diesel car, but much of the technology involved (in particular, the battery pack and the energy recuperation system) is relatively untested.

Still, the i3 received a four-star rating in our latest reliability test, behind only the (previous-generation) Nissan Leaf in the electric car category. BMW as a brand finished mid-table in our rankings – ahead of Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar, but below Audi.

The i3 is covered by a three-year, unlimited-mileage warranty, while the battery is covered for eight years or 100,000 miles.

BMW i3 hatchback safety and security

The i3 received just four stars out of five in its Euro NCAP crash test in 2013. It scored highly for both adult and child occupant protection but lost a star because of a poorer performance in the pedestrian impact and safety assist sections (scoring 57% and 55% respectively). This is particularly disappointing given that the car is primarily designed for use in urban areas.

Stability control and six airbags come as standard, but you'll need to pay extra for features such as a speed limiter, forward collision warning and road sign recognition. Put simply, a Leaf is an altogether safer option.

The i3 gets an alarm and engine immobiliser as standard and it received the maximum five stars from security experts Thatcham Research for resisting theft. It scored four out of five for guarding against being broken into.

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Electric motoring doesn't come much more desirable than the BMW i3, but there are better (and cheaper) alternatives

  • Eye-widening acceleration
  • Upmarket interior
  • Superb infotainment system
  • Very expensive
  • Bumpy ride
  • Not very practical
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