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Used test: BMW i3 vs Volkswagen e-Golf costs

Interest is growing in used electric cars, and they don’t come much more usable than the Volkswagen e-Golf. But is it better than BMW’s radical i3?...

Used test: BMW i3 vs Volkswagen e-Golf

Buying and owning

Costs, equipment, reliability, safety

A 2017 BMW i3 or Volkswagen e-Golf should cost you around £19,000, but it’s the i3 that will be more expensive in the long run, according to our three-year running costs. True, it will cost you less per charge (due to its slightly smaller battery), but it will be significantly more expensive to service, at around £1100 compared with the e-Golf's £700. Insurance premiums will be higher, too, due to the cost of repairing the carbonfibre body.

You may be saving a lot of money buying these two cars at this age, but of course, the truth is the range of electric vehicles has come on in leaps and bounds in the time since these two first came out.

Volkswagen e-Golf side

BMW claims a real-world range of 125 miles for this age of i3, while VW says the 2017 e-Golf can cover 124 miles between charges - good but not outstanding figures by 2021 standards. However, in our test it was the e-Golf that came out on top, eking out just 78 miles to the i3’s disappointing 74. That’s a surprise because the i3 has far stronger energy recuperation when you lift off the accelerator, almost rendering the brake pedal redundant.

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Both cars come with the capability for rapid charging, with the i3 able to return to 80% capacity within 40 minutes and the e-Golf taking five minutes longer. It’s possible to charge both cars using a domestic 240V supply, although it’ll take 10 hours in the i3 and 13 hours in the e-Golf just to return to 80%. From a charging station (the home-installed kind), both cars will take around four hours to reach this level.

The e-Golf is the better-equipped car, though. Luxuries such as front and rear parking sensors and LED headlights were standard, whereas if you want them on the i3, you'll have to look for a car where the first owner ticked those option boxes.

Used test: BMW i3 vs Volkswagen e-Golf

Likewise, the e-Golf comes out on top when you consider safety, receiving a full five stars in its Euro NCAP crash test. The i3 scored highly for adult and child occupant protection but lost a star due to its poor performance in both the pedestrian impact test and safety assist section; unlike the e-Golf, the i3 didn't have automatic emergency braking as standard.

As compensation, the BMW brand came in 13th place out of 30 brands in our 2021 Reliability Survey, whereas Volkswagen was down in 20th. The i3 finished in fourth place out of eight cars in the electric car class, with an overall score of 94.1%. The e-Golf didn't feature in the same survey.

And while both cars come with an eight-year battery pack warranty, the BMW’s is marginally longer in distance at 100,000 miles compared with the 99,360 miles of the Volkswagen.