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heycar review

      Launch year
      2014
      Body type
      Performance
      Fuel type
      Hybrid
heycar editorial team

Written by

heycar editorial team

00/10
heycar rating
Fast and frugal hybrid coupe

Best bits

  • Redefines hybrid performance
  • Incredibly low CO2 figures
  • Stunning futuristic design

Not so great

  • Tiny 154-litre boot limits practicality
  • Petrol-powered rivals are more thrilling
  • Needs charging regularly to maximise its performance

Read by

BMW i8 Exterior

Overall verdict

BMW i8 Interior

On the inside

BMW i8 Driving

Driving

BMW i8 Driving Back

How much does it cost to run

BMW i8 Driving Side

Prices, versions and specification

Overall verdict

"The BMW i8 is a technological tour de force. Its pioneering hybrid powertrain broke new ground in the supercar world, mixing impressive performance with ultra-low CO2 emissions. Although it looks and feels like a six-figure sports car, it drives more like a grand tourer, but there's still nothing like it."

BMW i8 Exterior

In years to come, the BMW i8 will come to be regarded as the missing link in the evolution of the sports car. When it was first launched it was a stunning blueprint for what a futuristic, electrified performance machine could offer - although now it has ceased production, it feels a bit more like 'yesterday's car of tomorrow.'


Its dramatic looks - all sharp angular lines and aerodynamic curves - are as head-turning today as they were on its debut, but the plug-in hybrid powertrain under the skin is not as ground-breaking as it once was. Using a small turbocharged petrol engine in combination with a powerful electric motor to boost performance and improve fuel economy is now common place in big SUVs, but only BMW has tried this combo in a sports car.


The 1.5-litre 231bhp engine from a MINI is mounted in the middle of the car, paired to a six-speed automatic gearbox. This three-cylinder unit is ably assisted by a 144PS electric motor under the bonnet. It provides a big acceleration boost, helps drastically reduce fuel consumption, or takes over driving duties altogether.


The result is a truly unique vehicle. It has urgent performance and impressive traction thanks to its innovative four-wheel drive setup, with the electricity powering the front wheels, and fossil fuel driving the rears. Yet with a fully charged battery pack, it can drive from Trafalgar Square to Gatwick airport without starting its engine.


Pair this divergent set of abilities with its miraculous (and rather misleading) official economy of 128.4mpg and CO2 emissions below 50g/km and the i8 promises supercar thrills with supermini running costs. Does that all sound a bit too good to be true? Thought so. The reality is a car that can't quite fulfil that promise in its entirety.


For starters, the sheer cost involved in the i8's development makes it a very expensive alternative to a petrol sports car. A price tag north of £100k puts it up against some very talented competition, like the Audi R8, Honda NSX and Porsche 911. These cars are quicker, more exciting and (except the Honda) smarter inside.


The everyday running costs of the BMW will be a tiny fraction of what the others will need in super unleaded alone. However, with a real-world economy closer to 40mpg, weak residual values, and new government rules making pure-electric cars the cheapest company cars, that advantage is not as large as it once was.


A cutting-edge battery electric car like the Porsche Taycan 4S is faster, roomier inside and just as advanced, with the ability to carry four adults in comfort and even cheaper daily costs. If you're interested in the coupe, with its restrictive 2+2 layout, then we'd highly recommend looking at one of these instead. 


If you only need to carry two, the i8 Roadster is in a class of one. It has a stylish interior that still feels modern and comes highly equipped. Practicality is severely limited though, with a minuscule 88-litre boot. A truly innovative sports car that proved for good that hybrids can be fun as well as frugal, the i8 has been left behind by advances in battery technology. Potentially a future classic, it remains an interesting used buy.

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BMW I8

2Dr Auto

  • 2017
  • 9,950 miles
  • Letchworth SEAT Letchworth Garden City
  • Hertfordshire, SG61BP
Price:£56,994
HP: £1,509.19/mo

Representative example: Contract Length: 36 months, 35 Monthly Payments: £1,509.19, Customer Deposit: £8,549.00, Total Deposit: £8,549.10, Total Charge For Credit: £5,895.94, Total Amount Payable: £62,889.94, Representative APR: 7.9%, Interest Rate (Fixed): 7.87%

BMW I8

2dr Auto

  • 2014
  • 29,484 miles
  • HR Owen Specialist Cars Cheltenham
  • Gloucestershire, GL519TU
Price:£42,950
HP: £1,137.75/mo

Representative example: Contract Length: 36 months, 36 Monthly Payments: £1,137.75, Customer Deposit: £6,442.00, Total Deposit: £6,442.50, Total Charge For Credit: £4,451.50, Total Amount Payable: £47,401.50, Representative APR: 7.9%, Interest Rate (Fixed): 7.9%

Is the BMW i8 right for you?

If you're shopping for a £100,000 sports car then the chances are that the automotive world is your oyster.

Choosing a BMW i8 over a long list of loud, fire-breathing, tyre smoking competitors like the Porsche 911, Aston Martin Vantage and Audi R8 becomes a philosophical decision. It says: 'I want to try a different way'.


Its advanced plug-in hybrid powertrain means you can enjoy a guilt free zero-emission city commute, then shift it into sport mode, use the 369PS total output and four-wheel drive for a back road blast home again.

No other sports car on sale can offer those two seemingly wildly opposing experiences in the same day.


Enthusiastic drivers will likely turn their noses up and the i8's lukewarm performance and restrained driving dynamics, but futuristic design and sheer mechanical complexity make it an intriguing alternative choice.

It's not as affordable to run as a pure battery electric car, but it doesn't always need charging like one either.

What’s the best BMW i8 to choose?

There is only one powertrain option in the i8. That's understandable given how complex the combination of a mid-mounted 1.5-litre petrol three-cylinder turbo engine and powerful electric motor must have been to build.


Not all i8s are alike though, and it's worth buying a car built after the mid-life facelift (BMW calls this an LCI). That's because the later car has a more powerful 144PS electric motor and larger 11.6kWh battery pack. It makes the i8 better at its hybrid party tricks, increasing the zero-emissions range and improving economy.


The handling was also tweaked over the course of the car's life, with thicker anti-roll bars and improved adaptive dampers added to the later cars to make them sharper through corners and more supple in town.


Roadsters get these changes as standard, and that's part of the reason we'd recommend the drop top over the coupé. It adds an extra dimension to the i8's curious mix of talents, and while a strict two-seater is not much less practical than the (already fairly cramped) coupé, it helps that it looks absolutely stunning, too.

What other cars are similar to the BMW i8?

Even after six years on sale there are no plug-in hybrid rivals to the i8 - that's how much it broke the mould. Battery technology has moved on though, and buyers with deep pockets who need a high performance car without the guilty conscience (and running costs) are now better served by a pure battery electric vehicle.


The entry-level Porsche Taycan 4S is more four-seat GT than sports car, but has mind-bending performance, a beautifully built cabin, futuristic design and a lot more space on board than the smaller, lighter BMW.


Extroverts looking to turn heads with a hybrid supercar could be tempted by the re-incarnated Honda NSX, but it uses its electric motors to boost its petrol V6's performance rather than save fuel or lower CO2 output.


Thrill seeking drivers who prioritise pin-sharp handling and maximum performance for the biggest adrenaline rush possible should opt for a larger engined, petrol-powered rival like the McLaren 570S or Audi R8 V10.

Learn more

BMW i8 Interior

On the inside

BMW i8 Driving

Driving

BMW i8 Driving Back

How much does it cost to run

BMW i8 Driving Side

Prices, versions and specification

Ask the heycar experts: common questions

Is the BMW i8 electric?

While the plug-in hybrid i8 is a ground-breaking sports car, it is not electric. It does have a battery pack and an electric motor that allows it to cover short distances using just electricity, but also a 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine that takes over once the battery is depleted.

Russell Campbell

Answered by

Russell Campbell

What is the difference between a hybrid and a plug-in hybrid?

Hybrid cars use a combination of a petrol engine and an electric motor to create drive. In a hybrid the battery is quite small and the pure electric range is short, while in a plug-in hybrid, you get a more powerful electric motor, larger battery, and smaller engine. This big battery needs to be charged up regularly (by plugging it in), but delivers much stronger performance.

Andy Brady

Answered by

Andy Brady

Is the BMW i8 a supercar?

With its futuristic styling, dramatic butterfly doors and a starting price of over £100,000 the i8 ticks a lot of supercar boxes. However, its brisk (rather than brutal) straight-line performance and a relatively conventional interior mean it feels more like a sports car to drive and own.

Andy Brady

Answered by

Andy Brady

Can I get the i8 as a convertible?

Yes, finally. Although BMW previewed an open-top version of the i8 with a concept car as early as 2012, it didn’t arrive in production form until 2018. It has a folding fabric roof, and unlike the coupe the i8 roadster is a strict two-seater, but also gets a slightly bigger battery.

Dan Powell

Answered by

Dan Powell

What is the electric range of the BMW i8?

The brand claims that with a fully charged battery you can travel up to 34 miles in the i8 using the electric-only ‘eDrive’ mode. In our experience, it is difficult to match that figure in real world conditions, especially in colder weather, when driving over 60mph, or going uphill.

David Ross

Answered by

David Ross