What's the used BMW i3 hatchback like?
Provided they fit into your lifestyle, an electric car is an exciting and bang-on-trend proposition. The only problem is some haven't been terribly exciting to look at, though, often being based on rather humdrum conventionally powered models or being deliberately a tad conservatively styled.
Enter this BMW i3, launched in 2013, which looked and still looks as futuristic on the outside as the electric tech it hides underneath, with a distinctly eye-catching shape and rear-hinged back doors. In fact, it uses what are still state-of-the-art construction techniques, too, including super-light carbonfibre and aluminium, to offset the inevitable weight of the battery pack that’s mounted beneath its floor.
The standard electric-only i3 is available now on the used market in three different flavours: early examples had a 60Ah, 22.6kWh battery pack and a mere 80 miles of range; 2017 introduced the bigger 94Ah, 33kWh pack that increased the usable range, and finally, there was an even bigger 120Ah, 42.2kWh battery pack installed in 2019 that improved the range further still. There was also a range-extender version available from launch and discontinued in 2017. This had a two-cylinder petrol engine that acted as a generator when the battery is depleted, effectively banishing range anxiety.
The main trim level comes with plenty of equipment: sat-nav, heated front seats, rear parking sensors, climate control, a digital radio, a USB socket, Bluetooth, and automatic lights and wipers are all fitted as standard. We’d recommend adding the upgraded Professional sat-nav system with its larger screen, however, along with the Loft interior, which includes lighter cabin materials with blue highlights to help brighten the interior.
The i3s version benefits from all the standard kit on the i3, plus 20in sports wheels, an additional Sport driving mode, an A-pillar and roof painted in high-gloss black, a more aggressive front bumper, a black kidney grille and, most importantly, sports suspension.
It can be fun to drive, though. The later 2019-on i3 has a healthy 168bhp, enough to whisk you up to 62mph in 7.3sec and making it a doddle to keep up with fast-moving traffic. The i3s is even faster thanks to an extra 13bhp and feels extremely nippy around, hitting 62mph from a standstill in just 6.9sec.
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, and most of its more modern rivals ride better. 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.
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, in some of those earlier versions, the range-extender engine housed beneath it, so overall volume is no better than that of a regular small car.
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