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Cars BMW i3s

Published on November 24th, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan

8

Review: BMW i3 (+ VIDEOS)

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November 24th, 2013 by Zachary Shahan
 

Originally published on EV Obsession.

So, I got the opportunity to test drive the BMW i3 one week ago in Barcelona. The following is my full BMW i3 review. I included an initial review of the BMW i3 alongside reviews of the Volkswagen e-Up! and Nissan Leaf a few days ago, comparing the three electric cars. I lifted a bit of what I wrote there for the “Driving the BMW i3″ portion of the review, but I also added quite a bit of additional information. Hope you find this useful!

BMW i3 and me at Arc de Triompf in Barcelona, Spain.(This image is available for republishing and even modification under a CC BY-SA license, with the key requirement being that credit be given to Zachary Shahan / EV Obsession / CleanTechnica, and that those links not be removed.)

BMW i3 and me at Arc de Triompf in Barcelona, Spain.
(This image is available for republishing and even modification under a CC BY-SA license, with the key requirement being that credit be given to Zachary Shahan / EV Obsession / CleanTechnica, and that those links not be removed.)

One-Line BMW i3 Review

If I had to put it in one line, I’d just say that the BMW i3 is my favorite car I’ve ever driven — smooth, quick, super comfortable, super fun, extremely eco-friendly, stylish, cool, and strong but quiet.

I love this vehicle.

BMW i3 at Arc de Triompf in Barcelona, Spain. (This image is available for republishing and even modification under a CC BY-SA license, with the key requirement being that credit be given to Zachary Shahan / EV Obsession / CleanTechnica, and that those links not be removed.)

BMW i3 at Arc de Triompf in Barcelona, Spain.
(This image is available for republishing and even modification under a CC BY-SA license, with the key requirement being that credit be given to Zachary Shahan / EV Obsession / CleanTechnica, and that those links not be removed.)

BMW i3 black & silver/black at Arc de Triompf in Barcelona, Spain.(This image is available for republishing and even modification under a CC BY-SA license, with the key requirement being that credit be given to Zachary Shahan / EV Obsession / CleanTechnica, and that those links not be removed.)

BMW i3 black & silver/black at Arc de Triompf in Barcelona, Spain.
(This image is available for republishing and even modification under a CC BY-SA license, with the key requirement being that credit be given to Zachary Shahan / EV Obsession / CleanTechnica, and that those links not be removed.)

Driving The BMW i3

The BMW i3 clearly comes at a higher price point and quality than most electric cars on the market. (Though, it’s still significantly cheaper than a Tesla Model S, and seemingly a few bars below that vehicle when it comes to performance.)

The interior was what you’d expect from BMW. Actually, there was a great deal of space in the foot area in the front, something that stood out to me as very comfortable. (Indeed, I later found this line from BMW: “The passenger compartment in high-strength and extremely light carbon fibre reinforced plastic (Life Module) is connected to the aluminium chassis (Drive Module) via a state-of-the-art bonding process. Revolutionary vehicle architecture dispenses with the need for B-pillars and a centre tunnel, thus allowing the new BMW i3 to offer unprecedented, class leading spaciousness.”)

Because there are no center B pillars, the view out the window from the back seat is quite good. Also, there is a lot of space in the back seat. I’m sort of surprised BMW didn’t make the back 3 seats wide, since it seems there’s enough space there for that.

The visualizations and dashboard are very nice and clear. The i3 I drove didn’t have the reverse driving visualizations that the Leaf or the e-Up! have, but similar features are available as add-ons.

BMW i3 front and back interior at Arc de Triompf in Barcelona, Spain.(This image is available for republishing and even modification under a CC BY-SA license, with the key requirement being that credit be given to Zachary Shahan / EV Obsession / CleanTechnica, and that those links not be removed.)

BMW i3 front and back interior at Arc de Triompf in Barcelona, Spain.
(This image is available for republishing and even modification under a CC BY-SA license, with the key requirement being that credit be given to Zachary Shahan / EV Obsession / CleanTechnica, and that those links not be removed.)

BMW i3 front interior at Arc de Triompf in Barcelona, Spain.(This image is available for republishing and even modification under a CC BY-SA license, with the key requirement being that credit be given to Zachary Shahan / EV Obsession / CleanTechnica, and that those links not be removed.)

BMW i3 front interior at Arc de Triompf in Barcelona, Spain.
(This image is available for republishing and even modification under a CC BY-SA license, with the key requirement being that credit be given to Zachary Shahan / EV Obsession / CleanTechnica, and that those links not be removed.)

BMW i3 steering wheel at Arc de Triompf in Barcelona, Spain.(This image is available for republishing and even modification under a CC BY-SA license, with the key requirement being that credit be given to Zachary Shahan / EV Obsession / CleanTechnica, and that those links not be removed.)

BMW i3 steering wheel at Arc de Triompf in Barcelona, Spain.
(This image is available for republishing and even modification under a CC BY-SA license, with the key requirement being that credit be given to Zachary Shahan / EV Obsession / CleanTechnica, and that those links not be removed.)

The BMW i3′s drive was smoother than any car I’ve ever driven — of any type. (Though, I’m yet to drive a Tesla.)

The i3 has excellent acceleration. It goes from 0 to 100 km/h (0 to 60 mph) in around 7 seconds, a few seconds faster than the Nissan Leaf or VW e-Up!, which do so in around 10 seconds. My experience driving the vehicle was that it could throw you back quickly if you really stepped on it, a quality that it’s nice to have from time to time. :D Certainly, accelerating into traffic is very easy and quick with the i3. Merging into traffic is one of my least favorite things to do when driving, and I’d greatly appreciate what the i3 offers in such times.

BMW i3 black at Arc de Triompf in Barcelona, Spain.(This image is available for republishing and even modification under a CC BY-SA license, with the key requirement being that credit be given to Zachary Shahan / EV Obsession / CleanTechnica, and that those links not be removed.)

BMW i3 black at Arc de Triompf in Barcelona, Spain.
(This image is available for republishing and even modification under a CC BY-SA license, with the key requirement being that credit be given to Zachary Shahan / EV Obsession / CleanTechnica, and that those links not be removed.)

BMW i3 + BMW i charging station at EVS27 in Barcelona, Spain.(This image is available for republishing and even modification under a CC BY-SA license, with the key requirement being that credit be given to Zachary Shahan / EV Obsession / CleanTechnica, and that those links not be removed.)

BMW i3 + BMW i charging station at EVS27 in Barcelona, Spain.
(This image is available for republishing and even modification under a CC BY-SA license, with the key requirement being that credit be given to Zachary Shahan / EV Obsession / CleanTechnica, and that those links not be removed.)

Black & silver BMW i3 at EVS27 in Barcelona, Spain.(This image is available for republishing and even modification under a CC BY-SA license, with the key requirement being that credit be given to Zachary Shahan / EV Obsession / CleanTechnica, and that those links not be removed.)

Black & silver BMW i3 at EVS27 in Barcelona, Spain.
(This image is available for republishing and even modification under a CC BY-SA license, with the key requirement being that credit be given to Zachary Shahan / EV Obsession / CleanTechnica, and that those links not be removed.)

Silver and black BMW i3 at EVS27 in Barcelona, Spain.(This image is available for republishing and even modification under a CC BY-SA license, with the key requirement being that credit be given to Zachary Shahan / EV Obsession / CleanTechnica, and that those links not be removed.)

Silver and black BMW i3 at EVS27 in Barcelona, Spain.
(This image is available for republishing and even modification under a CC BY-SA license, with the key requirement being that credit be given to Zachary Shahan / EV Obsession / CleanTechnica, and that those links not be removed.)

Naturally, with the batteries centered below the car, the BMW i3 had solid handling. BMW’s input on this part of the car is worth quoting: “The new BMw i3 has a low centre of gravity which contributes to the driving dynamics of the vehicle. Aluminium chassis, electric motor, lithium-ion battery and Intelligent Energy Management are combined in the Drive module, embedded deep in the vehicle. Thanks to this original way of using the latest materials, the new BMw i3 is therefore not only extremely safe, but also agile and dynamic to drive.”

The car also has a very tight turning radius (under 11 yards / 10 meters), which any driver would surely appreciate.

Overall, the i3 offers the best drive of any car I remember driving. It’s a genuine pleasure to drive.

If you want to watch a rather boring video of the drive, here it is:

This was my first time driving around the Arc de Triompf in Barcelona, and actually my first time driving in Spain at all, so much of the time I was simply trying to make sure I didn’t kill anyone or get in an accident. The top speed there also wasn’t very high, so I couldn’t really fly with the car. Hopefully I’ll have more time with the car soon. :D

BMW i3 Reflections, Survey Answers

After my test drive, the person who supervised and guided me through it all also asked a handful of questions about the vehicle. I was a bit unready for this, but the questions did help me to digest the drive and think more about the experience before forgetting anything. Hopefully the questions and responses are useful to some of you. We got them on video, so here they are:

BMW i3 Price

Price is obviously one of the most important factors for most people, so let’s get to this beast. In the US, the car is supposed to come in at a base price of $42,275 (before the $7,500 federal tax credit and any state incentives for which you’re eligible). The base price of the BMW i3 is €34,950 ($47,360) in Germany and £29,950 ($48,540) in the UK. There are also leasing options.

With the range extender, the UK price goes up to £33,100 ($53,645).

So, the BMW i3 is considerably more expensive than the:

  • Chevy Spark EV ($27,495)
  • Nissan Leaf ($28,800)
  • Ford C-Max Energi ($32,950)
  • Chevy Volt ($34,995)
  • Ford Focus Electric ($37,995)
  • Ford Fusion Energi ($38,700)
  • Toyota Prius PHEV ($39,525)
  • Honda Accord PHEV ($39,780)

However, it’s considerably less than the Tesla Model S ($71,070) or Tesla Model X ($60,000).

For someone looking for an electric car a cut above the pack, but not as decked out and expensive as a Tesla, this seems to be the car.

BMW i3 brothers

BMW i3 brothers at Arc de Triompf in Barcelona, Spain.
(This image is available for republishing and even modification under a CC BY-SA license, with the key requirement being that credit be given to Zachary Shahan / EV Obsession / CleanTechnica, and that those links not be removed.)

Some additional options a customer can choose from to boost the BMW i3 price are:

  • metallic paint (£530)
  • a heat pump for “cold weather cabin preparation” (£530)
  • the “BMW Professional” media package, which includes the 609 Navigation system, 6AM Real Time Traffic Information, and 6AN Information Plus (£960)
  • the “Park Assist” package, which includes Reversing Assist Camera (so, that is apparently an option), Park Distance Control (PDC), and Park Assist (£790)
  • the “Winter Package,” which includes seat heating in the front driver and passenger seats, and pre-heating of HV battery with active air flap control (£260)
  • a BMW i Wallbox Pure (32 Amp), including installation and a 3-year warranty (£315)
  • a 32 Amp public charging cable with a length of 5m, Type 2 connectors (£165)
  • adaptive LED headlights (£710)
  • “Driving Assist Plus” (£790)
  • “comfort access” (£330)
  • an electric glass sunroof (£780)
  • sun protection glass (£280)
  • enhanced Bluetooth telephone preparation with USB audio interface and Voice Control (£430)… in conjunction with ZNP (£350)
  • Internet (£95)
  • Loudspeaker system – harman/kardon (£640)
  • Real Time Traffic Information (£129)

There are also some upgrades available for the wheels as well as a few interior packages that can jack up the price.

BMW i3

Standard BMW i3 at Arc de Triompf in Barcelona, Spain.
(This image is available for republishing and even modification under a CC BY-SA license, with the key requirement being that credit be given to Zachary Shahan / EV Obsession / CleanTechnica, and that those links not be removed.)

BMW i3 Facts

The range on the standard BMW i3 (fully electric) is 81–100 miles (130–161 kilometers).

With the range extender, the electric range drops down to 75–93 miles (121–150 kilometers), but the total range goes up to  150–186 miles (241–299 km).

However, there are three modes available in the BMW i3 that allow you to choose between more efficient driving or “higher performance” driving. The modes are: Comfort, Eco Pro and Eco Pro+. Above the standard 81–100 miles of range that you get in Comfort mode, the Eco Pro and Eco Pro+ modes can increase range by about 12 miles each.

The BMW i3 goes from 0–62 mph (1–100 km/h) in 7.2 seconds without the range extender, and does so in 7.9 seconds with the range extender.

The standard features for the i3 include:

  • 19″ BMW i light alloy Streamline Star-spoke style 427
  • Aragats Grey / Black Neutronic cloth upholstery
  • Bluetooth hands-free facility with USB audio interface
  • BMW ConnectedDrive Services (Comprises: BMW Apps interface; BMW Emergency Call; BMW Online Services; BMW TeleServices; Remote Services)
  • BMW i3 designation, rear
  • eDrive designation, rear
  • BMW Navigation system – Business
  • BMW Professional radio
  • Carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) door sills
  • Conditioned Based Servicing
  • DAB digital radio
  • Dynamic brake lights
  • Heat protection glazing with green-tint
  • High-level third brake light integrated into rear spoiler
  • Illuminated charging socket with visual display of charge status
  • Instrument panel – grained metallic finish
  • Kidney grille, contrast surround in BMW i Blue with High-gloss Black centre
  • LED daytime running lights with BMW i design
  • Multi-function leather steering wheel, two-spoke – Black with unique BMW i Blue accent
  • Park distance control, rear
  • Rain sensor with automatic wiper and headlight activation
  • Rear spoiler, Black with integrated LED brake light
  • Remote control, including integrated key
  • Slide-through light-weight front seats, with contrast highlighting in BMW i Blue

Recycled plastic bottles are used for some of the interior, including the innovative dashboard. “The dashboard is constructed using lightweight recycled materials on top of a magnesium structure which saves 20% in weight versus conventional materials,” BMW writes. Fibers of the kenaf plant are used in other places. Interior leather is treated with natural substances (only), such as olive leaf extract. And one of the interior options includes Eucalyptus wood, which is quite pretty and sustainably grown.

BMW i3 door (made with recycled plastic) at Arc de Triompf in Barcelona, Spain.(This image is available for republishing and even modification under a CC BY-SA license, with the key requirement being that credit be given to Zachary Shahan / EV Obsession / CleanTechnica, and that those links not be removed.)

BMW i3 door (made with recycled plastic) at Arc de Triompf in Barcelona, Spain.
(This image is available for republishing and even modification under a CC BY-SA license, with the key requirement being that credit be given to Zachary Shahan / EV Obsession / CleanTechnica, and that those links not be removed.)

BMW i3 door

BMW i3 door (made with recycled plastic) at Arc de Triompf in Barcelona, Spain.
(This image is available for republishing and even modification under a CC BY-SA license, with the key requirement being that credit be given to Zachary Shahan / EV Obsession / CleanTechnica, and that those links not be removed.)

I hope you found this BMW i3 review helpful!

Even more details on the BMW i3 can be found here or on the BMW website.

Stay tuned for full reviews of the Volkswagen e-Up!, Nissan Leaf, smart fortwo electric drive, Renault Twizy, and some tiny Chinese EVs.

To keep up with all the latest BMW i3 news, keep an eye on our BMW i3 page or subscribe to our free newsletter (top-left side of this page).

Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.



  • Brandon

    test drove it at the auto show and the thousand oaks rusnak bmw dealer, car is amazing and it looks a lot better in person, its a head turner everyone was pointing and looking at it. very fast too

  • wattleberry

    Thanks for these comparisons which make interesting reading, in particular the significant value difference between some of the examples in contrast to the UK prices. For instance, the £25,000 or so net for the i3 pitches it in the midst of some unexciting IC machinery there whereas the net cost of the Volt/Ampera is quite similar in £ to the$ in the US and at the top end of the popular IC range. The VW eUp is not yet shown but I recall being surprised at how huge a premium the projected UK figure was over the standard car, making the BMW an even bigger bargain, provided discipline is exercised with the extras list !

  • Laura

    I haven’t got the chance to drive one yet, but your article is so well written, so many to the point details, that now is really pushing me to try one. no matter how good women are with words, when it comes to men & cars, men rule. i loved the way you wrote the story :)

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      AWESOME! :D Thanks! I put a lot of time into it. :D I actually don’t often find car reviews written in a way I’d think is very useful, so I tried to make sure mine was. :D

  • Doug

    I was able to test drive the i3 a few days ago in LA. It’s a blast to drive – very quick and definitely worth the premium over the competition.

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      Thanks for chiming in, Doug! You’ve got good experience in this arena. Yeah, I loved it and don’t think another non-Tesla compares.

      • Brandon

        the fiat 500e and the smart ED are actually pretty darn quick so in terms of speed those 2 compare and are underrated, i have a smart ED and its incredible

        • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

          i drove the smart ED too. need to get the review written. every EV i’ve driven (except for one small Chinese one that i think had a problem or smth) had a smoother and better drive than gasmobiles. :D

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