What's the used BMW i3 hatchback like?
Provided they fit into your lifestyle, an electric car is an exciting and forward-thinking proposition. However, if they have had a problem up to now it’s that most of them, such as the Nissan Leaf, haven’t been terribly exciting to look at, and some, including the Volkswagen e-Golf, have even retained the bodyshell of an existing petrol or diesel-engined model.
Enter the BMW i3, launched in 2013, which looks as futuristic on the outside as the up-to-date tech it hides underneath, with an all-new and distinctly eye-catching shape and rear-hinged back doors. In fact, it uses state-of-the-art construction techniques, including super-light carbonfibre and aluminium, to offset the weight of the battery pack that’s mounted beneath its floor.
This added lightness means that BMW claims a range of up to 186 miles for the i3 range-extender, which differs from the electric-only i3 because it has a two-cylinder petrol engine that acts as a generator when the battery is depleted, effectively banishing range anxiety. Trouble is, it isn’t the most refined of engines and it only has a nine-litre petrol tank, so we’ve found that the actual range on both a full charge of electricity and on petrol power to be nearer 120 miles.
The standard electric-only i3 is available in three different flavours: early examples had a 60Ah, 22.6kWh battery pack and 80 miles of range; 2017 introduced the bigger 94Ah, 33kWh pack that increased the usable range to 121 miles, and finally, there was an even bigger 120Ah, 42.2kWh battery pack installed in 2019 that improved the range further still to 165 miles.
It’s pretty up-to-date inside, too, with an airy interior, excellent visibility and a pin-sharp screen display in front of the driver, rather than conventional dials. Even the coach doors seem like a futuristic feature; however, they can be annoying to use because the front door must be opened first before you open the rear ones, and the high floor means that access to the back seats can be a bit restrictive. The boot is also compromised since the floor is quite high to accommodate the batteries and range-extender engine housed beneath it, so overall volume is no better than that of a regular small car.
It can be fun to drive, though. A brisk turn of speed from a dead stop is highly addictive, and the handling is pretty secure, though in fairness in that area it’s not to be compared with BMW’s more sporty mainstream products. Its ride is a little firm, especially on 20in wheels. If you can afford to do so, look for an i3 from 2018 onwards because these cars received suspension alterations that did wonders for improving ride comfort.
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