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BMW i3
BMW i3
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BMW i3
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BMW i3

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  • Launched in 2013
  • Family hatch
  • EV, Range-extender EV
  • Launch year
    2013
  • Body type
    Family hatch
  • Fuel type
    EV, Range-extender EV

Interested in buying a BMW i3?

View BMW i3 cars for sale
heycar editorial team

Written by

heycar editorial team

00/10
heycar rating
Fun and frugal electric car

Best bits

  • A blast to drive but still capable of 200 miles on a charge (just not at the same time)
  • Eye-catching design is thoroughly modern and clever with it
  • Still feels like a BMW through and through

Not so great

  • Expensive compared to EVs of a similar size
  • End of range-extender version means 200-mile range might be too little for some buyers
  • Standard equipment is short on active safety systems

Read by

BMW i3 Exterior Front

Overall verdict

BMW i3 Interior

On the inside

BMW i3 Driving Back

Driving

BMW i3 Driving Front

How much does it cost to run

BMW i3 Exterior Side

Prices, versions and specification

Overall verdict

"If any car could convince you that EVs are a good idea, the BMW i3 is it. It has sufficient charm and appeal to make you want one regardless of the engine under the bonnet, yet delivers all the big EV plus points too."

BMW i3 Exterior Front

Pure electric cars have become fashionable - helped in part by that ex-Mr Paypal guy - and the idea that they are only suitable for eco-crazies or nerdy engineers is long gone. In 2013 however it was quite a different story. If you were brave enough to take the plunge you had three choices: the Nissan Leaf, the Renault Zoe and the Telsa Model S.


BMW strode confidently into the electric car arena with a grand plan. It introduced two electric cars, not just one,  and built them out of lightweight composite materials, whilst also ensuring they included lots of recycled materials. Plus, they ensured that they were as much fun to drive as a regular BMW. An impossible dream? Well, when the i3 arrived alongside its big sister BMW i8 hybrid, the world sat up and took notice.


At launch, the i3 came in two versions, each with a 60Ah battery and an electric motor, offering 170PS and 250Nm of torque. The pure EV version had a range of between 80 and 100 miles on a full charge, while a range-extender version (called REx) included a small 647cc engine that could only be used to recharge the batteries, extending the potential range to 186 miles.


In 2016 the battery capacity was increased to 94Ah, increasing the range to 195 miles and 276 miles respectively, while in 2017 BMW introduced the i3S model, with a slight increase in performance, revised suspension and styling upgrades. 


Most recently, all i3 models received a bigger battery in 2018 with a capacity of 120Ah. Range was increased to 223 miles for the standard i3, while the REx model was discontinued.


With just two models and no trim levels to choose from, the i3 is a car that requires little deliberation. The exterior design is as modern as they come, with short overhangs, body panels that don’t appear to meet each other and black plastic where you might expect a grille. 


The same goes for the inside, which is a lesson in minimalism and can be decorated in a variety of earthy shades and materials, alongside the usual suite of display screens for infotainment and instruments.


The i3 is a strict four-seater, but thanks to the way it is packaged the amount of room on offer is impressive. Legroom is generous for front and rear passengers while headroom is good enough to sit taller adults even in the back seats. The boot is relatively small with 260 litres on offer, but this is to be expected from a car so short and you still have the option to drop the rear seats if need be.


The driving experience will be something of a revelation if you haven’t experienced an electric car before. Forget any notion of expensive milk-floats. The way the i3 can blast away from a standstill up to 30mph and beyond will change your mind very quickly. 


The rest is equally grown up, with light and accurate steering that makes it easy to nip along with traffic. It’s comfortable too, and although the suspension is relatively stiff to make sure it handles well and doesn’t roll too much, only really bad bumps make it through to the cabin.


The i3 is not a cheap electric car to buy. When it was new it started at more than £36,000 while the i3S was closer to £40k. It has held its value strongly, but you at least get a lot for your money and will continue to hold its value. Standard equipment levels are decent, it’s cheap to run and you also get a car that’s a pleasure to drive

Ready to get your top quality BMW i3?

  • All cars come with a warranty
  • Selected dealers only
  • All quality checked
BMW I3
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BMW I3

135kW S 42kWh 5dr Auto

  • 2020
  • 7,980 miles
  • Ocean Group BMW Penryn
  • Cornwall, TR108AD
Price:£30,350
PCP: £542.54/mo

Representative example: Contract Length: 36 months, 35 Monthly Payments: £542.54, Customer Deposit: £4,552.00, Total Deposit: £4,552.50, Optional Final Payment: £12,296.42, Total Charge For Credit: £5,487.82, Total Amount Payable: £35,837.82, Representative APR: 9.9%, Interest Rate (Fixed): 9.9%, Excess Mileage Charge: 9.55ppm, Mileage Per Annum: 10,000

Is the BMW i3 right for you?

If an EV is on your shopping list and you don’t need a massive boot or to carry five people, the i3 is worth serious consideration. If anything it makes for an ideal stepping stone from a conventional petrol or diesel because it drives so well and offers comparable performance. Enjoying the drive while running on electric power has never been so much fun.


If you can live with the price, the i3 also makes a strong financial case for itself. Not only will it cost peanuts to keep topped up with electricity, it is one of the best-performing pure EVs in terms of depreciation, and insurance costs should be modest too.


It may cost a little more to buy than some of its rivals, but the i3 has the edge on most of them in terms of its design, its image and how it drives.

What’s the best BMW i3 model/engine to choose?

With just two versions to choose from, you don’t have to think too long or hard about what model to choose. The basic i3 should tick all of the necessary boxes, with plenty of performance, the best range and most of the equipment that the more expensive i3S gets.


If you have some budget to play with and want the sharper-looking and driving i3S then there are no major downsides, but your extra money might be better spent on a few choice upgrades for the standard car.


As well as fractionally decreased range compared to the standard i3, the i3S has stiffer suspension that makes the car ride less comfortably. The range extender is sought after but usually costs more.

What other cars are similar to the BMW i3?

In many ways the i3 is something of a loner in the EV class. Similarly-sized EVs are significantly cheaper while EVs for similar money are bigger inside and out. Crucially, none of its premium rivals offer an EV in this class.


City cars like the Volkswagen e-Up can carry four people in similar comfort, with a good quality cabin and a lower purchase price, but the e-Up can’t match the i3’s range or its impressive performance and handling.


The Nissan Leaf is closer to the i3 in terms of price but its bigger footprint means seating for five and a larger boot, although it is less fun to drive than the BMW. Go for the top spec version and you can have over 200 miles of range too.

Learn more

BMW i3 Interior

On the inside

BMW i3 Driving Back

Driving

BMW i3 Driving Front

How much does it cost to run

BMW i3 Exterior Side

Prices, versions and specification

Interested in buying a BMW i3?

View BMW i3 cars for sale