BMW i3 review

Category: Electric car

Section: Costs & verdict

Available fuel types:electric
Available colours:
BMW i3 2018 panoramic roof
Add to shortlist
  • BMW i3 2018 front cornering
  • BMW i3 2018 grille rear tracking
  • BMW i3 2018 front seat dashboard
  • BMW i3 2018 doors open interior view
  • BMW i3 2018 panoramic roof
  • BMW i3 2018 right panning
  • BMW i3 2018 grille detail
  • BMW i3
  • BMW i3 2018 control close-up
  • BMW i3 2018 front cornering
  • BMW i3 2018 grille rear tracking
  • BMW i3 2018 front seat dashboard
  • BMW i3 2018 doors open interior view
  • BMW i3 2018 panoramic roof
  • BMW i3 2018 right panning
  • BMW i3 2018 grille detail
  • BMW i3
  • BMW i3 2018 control close-up
RRP £36,025What Car? Target Price from£34,445

Costs & verdict

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2

Even the cheapest i3 is pretty pricey, and that’s after factoring in a £3000 government grant. That said, although the i3 is expensive to buy outright, it makes more sense on a PCP finance deal and won’t cost you much in company car tax.

In terms of list price, the i3 is more in line with the brilliant Kia e-Niro (which has a much longer range between charges) than the Nissan Leaf, but then again you'd probably expect to pay more for a BMW. As of yet, there are no like-for-like electric cars from other premium brands – such as Audi, Mercedes or Lexus – but it’s worth noting that despite the premium badge, the i3 isn't predicted to hold onto its value as well some newer rivals, including the e-Niro. 

A 80% battery charge from a 7kW home wallbox takes less than five hours. The i3 also has the ability to fast charge using a public CCS connector – this can give you an 80% charge in about 40 minutes.

 

Equipment, options and extras

The i3 has a healthy list of standard equipment, but we’d also recommend ticking the box for keyless entry and the must-have Driving Assistant Plus package (see 'safety & security' below). 

It's also worth considering the optional auxiliary cabin heating system, which uses a heat pump to warm the interior resulting for up to 50% better efficiency. This means you'll get more miles from every charge.

 

BMW i3 2018 panoramic roof

Reliability

In theory, the i3 has fewer moving parts than a petrol or diesel car, so it should be more reliable. But there's still plenty of high-tech electrics that could potentially go wrong.

Indeed, the i3 came mid-table in the electric and hybrid cars category of the 2019 What Car? Reliability survey, and the German brand finished 21st (out of 31) in the overall manufacturer league table.

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

Safety and security

The i3 received four stars out of five in its Euro NCAP crash test in 2013, but this was such a long time ago that the rating has since expired. Back then, the organisation explained that the i3's headrests provided ‘marginal protection’ against whiplash in the event of a rear-end collision, while chest protection for those in the front during a side pole impact was rated as ‘weak’. Not great, then, especially when you consider that standards are far more stringent now than they were back then.

Stability control and six airbags come as standard, but you'll need to pay extra for the Driving Assistant Plus package if you want features such as active cruise control, automatic emergency city braking and road sign recognition. Put simply, newer rivals such as the Nissan Leaf, Kia e-Niro and Hyundai Kona Electric are altogether safer options. 

For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here

 

BMW i3 2018 front cornering
Open Gallery9 Images

Overview

The appeal of the i3 is obvious: it's a BMW, for starters, and it looks funky and different, has a posh interior and a cracking infotainment system. The absence of similarly priced rivals from other premium brands only strengthen its case. However, there's no escaping the fact that similarly priced mainstream rivals, such as the Kia e-Niro, offer similar performance and much longer ranges between charges. Practicality is another serious weakness of the i3, all of which means that, objectively, there are better electric cars available for the money.

  • Nippy acceleration
  • Great infotainment system
  • High quality interior
  • Cheaper rivals have a longer range
  • Choppy ride and nervous handling
  • Not very practical

Also consider

Honda E

2020 - present

Great to look at and to drive, but a high price and meagre ran...

Kia e-Niro

2020 - present

A fantastic, practical, comfortable electric car wit...

Kia Soul EV

2019 - present

Small boot and a fidgety ride, but a decent to drive and with...

Tesla Model 3

2019 - present

The Tesla Model 3 is as good as electric cars g...