BMW i3 135kW S 42kWh 5dr Auto

  • Automatic
  • Electric
  • 5 door hatchback

Ten Second Review

BMW i3 has proved to be a successful first stab at the all-electric vehicle market for its Munich maker and since the original 2013 launch, the Munich maker hasn't stopped trying to improve it. In 2016, the original 60Ah version was replaced with a 94Ah variant that boosted this model's all-electric operating range to over 200 miles. A year later, BMW gave the styling a minor refresh and added a slightly pokier i3s derivative into the range. Then in late 2018, the brand introduced a larger 120Ah battery that promised a driving range increase of up to 30%. The result of all these improvements is a car that's now even harder to ignore in this growing segment.

Background

If you're of the old school and BMW means shark nosed, six-cylinder, ultimate driving machines to you, the Munich company's i3 electric vehicle is going to appear a wholly alien concept. It's a squat little citycar riding on 155mm wide tyres. Yet delve a little deeper and it doesn't take long to find a strand of proper BMW DNA. It's revealed in the thinking behind the engineering and the logic that went into making the various development decisions. Wherever BMW's engineers could have developed a more focused, technically correct solution, they appear to have done so, allowing for certain cost controls of course. Of course, you might well be part of the 99% of British car buying customers that chooses an internal combustion engine over an electric motor. Your next car and maybe the next one after that will probably be powered by fossil fuels. Even if that is the case, have a look at what the BMW i3 now offers, especially in this improved 120Ah form with its long 190-mile (WLTP) all-electric operating range. It's building a case for electric vehicles that is becoming ever more convincing.

Driving Experience

As you might expect from a BMW product, the i3 doesn't want for go. The electric motor is mounted low down within the rear axle which helps to keep a low centre of gravity and also to improve crashworthiness. The power unit weighs just 130kg and produces 170bhp in standard form, which means that the i3's power to weight ration of 141bhp per tonne is just 5bhp per tonne shy of a Honda Civic Type R hot hatch. If you're interested in a comparison of that sort, you'll be interested in the slightly pokier i3s variant, where the electric motor's power output is boosted to 184bhp, plus there's sports suspension with specially developed springs, dampers and anti-roll bars. Whatever i3 variant you choose, as with all electric vehicles, a decisive advantage comes in its amount of torque. In a typical city scoot such as, say, a 1.2-litre Fiat 500, you can count on 102Nm of torque, but this BMW generates a hefty 250Nm of muscle in its standard frm (or 270Nm in 'i3s' guise), offering instant urge with all that torque available from idle. It's sent to the rear wheels via a single-ratio gearbox that offers the choice of three driving modes: Comfort, Eco Pro and Eco Pro+. The i3s has an extra 'Sport' setting. This translates to a car that's certainly not slow off the mark. The standard model will get from standstill to 37mph in 3.8sec and to 62mph in 7.3sec (or 6.9s for the i3s). Either way, any hot hatch driver would have a very hard time keeping pace with an i3. The top speed is limited to 93mph in the standard model or 99mph in the i3s. Extremely direct steering, a low centre of gravity, a clever DSC stability control system and lightweight body structures add up to very focused driving characteristics. BMW has engineered in a little body roll, largely to clue drivers in to where the limits of those narrow tyres are, but this remains a car you can enjoy hustling along.

Design and Build

Think of the i3 as a car in two halves. The bottom half is almost all aluminium, the upper half almost all carbon fibre. Armed with this information, you can rightly surmise that it doesn't weigh very much. Even with the weight of all those batteries - some 230kg comprised of 96 individual cells kept at an optimum 20deg Centigrade by their own air conditioning unit - the i3 only tips the scales at 1,195kg. Compare that to the 1,395kg of the entry-level petrol-powered Mercedes-Benz B Class and you'll appreciate the lengths BMW have gone to keep weight low and efficiency high. The styling is determinedly modern, with the kidney grille being the key BMW styling signature. The black hood, roof and glazed hatch will be characteristic features for future BMW 'I' cars. Adaptive LEDs headlights and floating LED tail lights are standard. The lowered belt line in the rear and absence of a "B" pillar improves visibility, while the rear "coach" doors make entry easier. As before, the i3 really isn't a very big car, measuring just 3,999mm long, which is only a tad longer than a Ford Fiesta. Despite that, thanks to the flat floor, the thin seats and the low window line, the cabin feels surprisingly roomy. The instrument cluster and Control Display comprise two screens, one behind the steering wheel and the other at the top of the centre console. Interior materials are eco-orientated, with the dashboard and door cards made from dried grass fibres from the kenaf plant and eucalyptus wood being optional. The boot measures 260-litres, but fold the rear seats and you get up to 1,100-litres.

Market and Model

Value. That's a really tough one to assess in the context of the i3. Prices start at just over £31,000 for the standard all-electric model once you've taken into account the generous £2,500 government-funded Plug-in car grant. That's a sum you could easily pay for a pokey diesel version of a similarly-sized premium badged model like an Audi A3 or a Mercedes A-Class. There's a £1,000 premium to pay if you want the sportier 'i3s' variant. Sadly, there's no longer the option of adding in a little 'Range Exender' petrol engine. Full-LED headlights are standard, joining heat protective green tinted glazing, auto headlamps and wipers, Park Distance Control rear parking sensors, LED tail lamps, an alarm, power-folding mirrors and of course a standard charging cable, this one 5m in length. Inside, there's air conditioning that you can, if you wish, set with a timer to pre-condition the cabin prior to your departure. Plus you get cruise control with a speed limiter, heated front seats and a multifunction leather-trimmed steering wheel. In addition, there's the 'Drive Performance Control' system that, via 'ECO PRO', 'ECO PRO+' and 'Comfort' modes, allows you to alter throttle response, steering feel and gearchange timings from the standard auto transmission, all of it better suiting the way you want to drive.

Cost of Ownership

Can an i3 really make economic sense? It's tempting to conclude that for a typical buyer covering, say, 7,500 miles a year, simply opting for a cheap citycar with a 1.0-litre engine would be a better bet. However, factor in something like the London congestion charge, which could run you over £8,000 for that period, couple it with the minimal fuel bills and likely strong residual values of the i3 and the BMW comes into its own. Put it up against conventional diesel versions of premium rivals like the Audi A1 and the Mercedes-Benz A-Class and they don't enjoy a massive price advantage, thus making the i3 look increasingly attractive. This car's certainly widened its market scope since BMW gave it an uprated 120Ah powertrain, which on the full-battery-powered model has facilitated an increase in all-electric WLTP driving range from the 112 mile total on offer when this car was originally launched to as much as 190.8 miles in its current standard form - quite a change. It's up to 175.2 miles in the i3s variant. Either way, think around 160 miles in realistic regular use. Recharging times vary, but are much quicker than you'd expect, despite the significantly larger battery capacity. A DC Rapid-charge system is standard and AC charging is multi-phase, meaning full charging can be completed in under 3 hours with the multi-phase system. As before, the car can also be charged at home using a standard three-pin plug or by specifying a BMW I Wallbox. Use the latter and an 80% charge can be reached in 4.9 hours. An 80% charge from a conventional household socket will take 15 hours.

Summary

We said electric cars were going to get better: here's a great example of just how. BMW's i3 was already a very good product. Now, it makes more sense than ever. As before, this model is unashamedly high-end - you only need to look at the materials it's built from to appreciate that - but as a result, it's leagues more exotic than a conventionally-powered rival with a premium badge. Indeed, its carbon fibre and aluminium construction lends it a technical sheen of cool that's quite different to the usual electric vehicle proposition, which all too often gives off the distinctive whiff of anorak. Costing around £2 to charge, with a real world range of up to around 160 miles on batteries alone, the i3 will work for many suburban commuters looking for something stylish and a bit different to the norm. One day electric vehicles will be cool rather than nerdy and if that happens, we think the i3 will be seen to be the car that started that progression.

  • Front and rear side armrests integrated into door trim
  • Illuminated charging socket in visual display
  • Additional detachable cupholder
  • Multi-function controls for steering wheel
  • Glove box with partitioned sections
  • Manually adjustment steering wheel column
  • Conditioned based service
  • Multi phase AC fast charge preparation
  • Electronic drive selector on steering column to select drive, reverse, neutral or park
  • Front and rear map pockets
  • Central cupholder - additional cupholder with clip on function for centre console
  • Luggage compartment access via recessed handle below tailgate
  • Foldable front centre armrest with integrated storage compartment
  • DC rapid charge preparation
  • Gear selector switch on steering column with control lever in chrome pearl grey with leather inserts in black and gear visual indication
  • Rear shelf cover
  • Front and rear grab handles in roof linings
  • Storage compartment in driver and passenger doors
  • Additional 12V power socket in right-hand side of boot
  • 12V power socket in centre console
  • Neutronic Cloth upholstery
  • i3s specific steering characteristics
  • Seatbelt security check for driver and front passenger
  • Crash Sensor - Activates hazard warning/interior lighting, central locking release + 12V and HV battery safety cut-off
  • Electronic tyre pressure monitor
  • Airbags - Front driver/passenger, front and rear curtain head protection, front side, manual deactivation of front passenger airbag
  • Side impact protection
  • Twin horns
  • 2 x 3-point rear seat belts
  • Warning triangle and first aid kit
  • Black with integrated LED brake light in rear spoiler
  • Model designation
  • Flap in rear side panel, right with push function to open with C shaped indication band for battery condition integrated into central locking system
  • High gloss black wheel arch extensions
  • BMW i3s badge on rear tailgate
  • Front floor mat with i3s model designation in the centre
  • Contrast highlights in BMW i Blue - Kidney grille surrounds below doors
  • Black window surrounds
  • High gloss black bonnet, door mirrors, roof and tailgate with chrome optic trim
  • A pillar and roof moulding in high gloss black with no matt chrome optic highlight
  • Black finished door sills
  • Kidney grille high gloss black with contrast chrome edging
  • Visible VIN plate
  • Body colour front and rear bumpers, doors and door handles
  • i3S rear bumper design with wider body colour inlay
  • Shark fin roof aerial
  • Front and rear bumper system with replaceable deformation elements
  • Auxiliary point for auxiliary devices
  • DAB Digital radio
  • AC Fast charge cable
  • ECO PRO mode to improve range
  • ECO PRO+ mode to maximise the potential range (top speed 56mph) significant gains in range through a series of onboard electronic measures
  • Additional SPORT driving mode with sporty throttle response
  • Locking wheel bolts
  • Central locking switches for front doors, bonnet, footwell charging flap, footwell fuel filler flap and tailgate
  • Thatcham category 1 alarm system with remote control and engine immobiliser
  • Remote control including integrated two key
  • Check control system for monitoring of lights and door/luggage compartment open warning
  • Atelier interior world pack - i3
  • Extended storage pack - I3
  • Badge Power: 184
  • Standard manufacturers warranty - Mileage: 999999
  • Alternative Fuel Qualifying: True
  • Safety Concerns: False
  • NCAP Adult Occupant Protection %: N
  • Coin Description: N
  • Timing Belt Interval Frequency - Months: N
  • Man Corrosion Perforation Guarantee - Years: 6
  • Insurance Group 1 - 50 Effective January 07: 29E
  • Service Interval Mileage: 18000
  • Manufacturers Paintwork Guarantee - Years: 3
  • Special Order: False
  • Service Interval Frequency - Months: 24
  • Generation Mark: 1
  • NCAP Child Occupant Protection %: N
  • Special Edition: False
  • Standard manufacturers warranty - Years: 3
  • Vehicle Homologation Class: M1
  • Coin Series: N
  • NCAP Overall Rating - Effective February 09: N
  • NCAP Pedestrian Protection %: N
  • Badge Engine CC: 0.0
  • Timing Belt Interval Mileage: N
  • NCAP Safety Assist %: N
  • Based On ID: N
  • WLTP - Pure Electric Range (miles) - Medium - Min: 244.8
  • WLTP - Pure Electric Range (miles) - Extra High: 125.5
  • WLTP - EC (miles/kWh) - High: 4.3
  • WLTP - EC (miles/kWh) - Low: 5.5
  • WLTP - EC (miles/kWh) - Extra High - Max: 2.7
  • WLTP - EC (kWh/100km) - Comb - Max: 16.5
  • WLTP - Pure Electric Range (km) - Extra High - Max: 201
  • Battery Charge Type 4 kW: 50
  • WLTP - Pure Electric Range (km) - Extra High - Min: 202
  • Battery Charge Type 3 Time (Minutes): 258
  • WLTP - EC (kWh/100km) - High - Min: 14.4
  • WLTP - EC (kWh/100km) - Extra High: 23
  • WLTP - EC (miles/kWh) - City: 5.4
  • WLTP - Pure Electric Range (km) - Medium: 394
  • Battery Charge Type 2 Percentage: 0-100
  • WLTP - Pure Electric Range (km) - Medium - Min: 394
  • WLTP - Pure Electric Range (miles) - High: 198.2
  • WLTP - EC (kWh/100km) - Extra High - Min: 23
  • WLTP - Pure Electric Range (km) - City - Min: 401
  • Battery Capacity in kWh: 42.2
  • WLTP - EC (miles/kWh) - Low - Max: 5.4
  • WLTP - Pure Electric Range (km) - Medium - Max: 385
  • WLTP - Pure Electric Range (miles) - Medium - Max: 239.2
  • WLTP - Pure Electric Range (km) - High: 319
  • WLTP - EC (kWh/100km) - Extra High - Max: 23
  • WLTP - Pure Electric Range (km) - City - Max: 391
  • WLTP - EC (kWh/100km) - Medium - Min: 11.7
  • WLTP - Pure Electric Range (miles) - Low - Min: 256.6
  • WLTP - Pure Electric Range (miles) - Low - Max: 247.9
  • WLTP - EC (kWh/100km) - City - Max: 11.5
  • Standard manufacturers Battery warranty - Years: 8
  • WLTP - Pure Electric Range (km) - Comb - Min: 282
  • WLTP - EC (kWh/100km) - Low - Max: 11.6
  • WLTP - Pure Electric Range (km) - Extra High: 202
  • WLTP - Pure Electric Range (miles) - Ex High - Min: 125.5
  • Battery Charge Type 2 Time (Minutes): 390
  • WLTP - EC (kWh/100km) - High: 14.5
  • Battery Charge Type 4 Time (Minutes): 84
  • WLTP - EC (miles/kWh) - Comb - Min: 3.8
  • WLTP - Pure Electric Range (km) - High - Min: 319
  • WLTP - Pure Electric Range (miles) - Comb - Min: 175.2
  • WLTP - EC (miles/kWh) - High - Max: 4.3
  • WLTP - Pure Electric Range (miles) - City - Min: 249.2
  • WLTP - EC (kWh/100km) - Medium: 11.7
  • WLTP - EC (kWh/100km) - City - Min: 11.1
  • WLTP - EC (kWh/100km) - Comb: 16.4
  • WLTP - Pure Electric Range (km) - City: 401
  • WLTP - Pure Electric Range (km) - Low - Max: 399
  • Battery Charge Type 2 kW: 7.4
  • WLTP - Pure Electric Range (km) - High - Max: 315
  • Standard manufacturers Battery warranty - Mileage: 100000
  • WLTP - Pure Electric Range (miles) - High - Min: 198.2
  • WLTP - EC (miles/kWh) - City - Max: 5.4
  • WLTP - Pure Electric Range (miles) - Ex High - Max: 124.9
  • WLTP - EC (miles/kWh) - Comb - Max: 3.8
  • WLTP - EC (miles/kWh) - Low - Min: 5.6
  • WLTP - EC (kWh/100km) - City: 11.5
  • WLTP - Pure Electric Range (miles) - Low: 256.6
  • Battery Charge Type 1 Time (Minutes): 900
  • WLTP - EC (kWh/100km) - Low - Min: 11.2
  • WLTP - Pure Electric Range (km) - Comb - Max: 279
  • WLTP - Pure Electric Range (km) - Low - Min: 413
  • WLTP - EC (miles/kWh) - Extra High - Min: 2.7
  • WLTP - EC (miles/kWh) - High - Min: 4.3
  • WLTP - EC (kWh/100km) - Comb - Min: 16.3
  • WLTP - EC (miles/kWh) - Comb: 3.8
  • WLTP - EC (kWh/100km) - Low: 11.3
  • Coupler/Connector Type: Type 2
  • WLTP - Pure Electric Range (miles) - Medium: 244.8
  • Battery Charge Type 3 Percentage: 0-100
  • Battery Type: Lithium-ion
  • WLTP - EC (kWh/100km) - Medium - Max: 12
  • NEDC Maximum EV Range Miles: 214
  • WLTP - Pure Electric Range (miles) - Comb - Max: 173.4
  • WLTP - Pure Electric Range (km) - Comb: 282
  • Battery Leased: False
  • Battery Charge Type 3 kW: 11
  • WLTP - EC (kWh/100km) - High - Max: 14.6
  • WLTP - EC (miles/kWh) - Medium - Max: 5.2
  • NEDC Electricity Consumption kWh/100 km: 14
  • WLTP - Pure Electric Range (km) - Low: 413
  • WLTP - Pure Electric Range (miles) - High - Max: 195.7
  • WLTP - Pure Electric Range (miles) - City: 249.2
  • WLTP - EC (miles/kWh) - Medium: 5.3
  • WLTP - Pure Electric Range (miles) - Comb: 175.2
  • Battery Charge Type 4 Percentage: 0-100
  • WLTP - EC (miles/kWh) - Extra High: 2.7
  • WLTP - EC (miles/kWh) - City - Min: 5.6
  • WLTP - Pure Electric Range (miles) - City - Max: 243
  • WLTP - EC (miles/kWh) - Medium - Min: 5.3
  • Battery Charge Type 1 kW: 2.3
  • Battery Charge Type 1 Percentage: 0-80
  • Engine Code: IB1P23M0
  • Camshaft: N
  • Gears: 1 SPEED
  • Transmission: AUTO
  • CC: 1
  • Cylinders - Stroke (mm): N
  • Number of Valves: N
  • Cylinders - Bore (mm): N
  • Compression Ratio: N
  • Catalytic Convertor: True
  • Cylinders: N
  • Cylinder Layout: N
  • Fuel Delivery: N
  • Engine Layout: N
  • Luggage Capacity (Seats Up): 260
  • Max. Roof Load: N
  • No. of Seats: 4
  • Max. Towing Weight - Braked: N
  • Turning Circle - Kerb to Kerb: 10.3
  • Fuel Tank Capacity (Litres): N
  • Luggage Capacity (Seats Down): 1100
  • Max. Loading Weight: 440
  • Gross Vehicle Weight: 1730
  • Minimum Kerbweight: 1290
  • Max. Towing Weight - Unbraked: N
  • Noise Level dB(A): 68
  • HC: N
  • Particles: N
  • CO2 (g/km): 0
  • HC+NOx: N
  • CO: N
  • NOx: N
  • Standard Euro Emissions: EURO 6
  • Width (including mirrors): 2039
  • Length: 4006
  • Height: 1590
  • Wheelbase: 2570
  • Height (including roof rails): N
  • Width: 1791
  • Engine Power - PS: True
  • Engine Torque - RPM: 1000
  • Engine Torque - MKG: 27.5
  • Engine Torque - NM: 270
  • Top Speed: 99
  • Engine Torque - LBS.FT: 199
  • Engine Power - RPM: 7000
  • Engine Power - BHP: 184
  • 0 to 62 mph (secs): 4.3
  • Engine Power - KW: 135
  • Tyre Size Rear: 195/50 R20
  • Tyre Size Front: 175/55 R20
  • Tyre Size Spare: TYRE REPAIR KIT
  • Wheel Style: Double Spoke Style 431
  • Alloys: True
  • Wheel Type: 20" ALLOY
  • Space Saver: False
  • EC Urban (mpg): N
  • EC Extra Urban (mpg): N
  • EC Combined (mpg): N
  • EC Directive 1999/100/EC Applies: N
  • Emissions Test Cycle: WLTP
  • RDE Certification Level: N/A