BMW offers both the 2018 BMW i3 and the new more powerful i3s as pure electrics or as plug-in hybrids with extended range. Both are sporty, quick and quirky with unconventional styling and advanced technology like lightweight carbon-fiber construction. The i3’s open-space interior concept also separates it from the pack, as does its nearly $45,500 entry-level price tag, which is high for the class.
You'll Like The 2018 BMW i3 If...
As a city runabout and daily commuter it’s hard to beat the 2018 BMW i3. If you’re looking for a comfortable, spacious, and fun-to-drive eco-friendly ride with a beautifully finished interior and funky styling, you’ll like the new BMW i3 or the new i3s that offers more power, even quicker acceleration and improved handling.
You May Not Like The 2018 BMW i3 If...
Yes, the 2018 BMW i3 is a 4-door, but its rear doors open front to back, like the rear doors on small pickup trucks. They can be a pain in tight parking spaces and they do not open unless the front door is opened first, so rear-seat passengers can feel trapped. Also, the new BMW i3 costs more than its competition, and the Chevy Volt and the Chevy Bolt EV offer far greater range.
For 2018, BMW has created the new i3s, which is a more powerful and better-handling version of the i3. Like the i3, it’s available as a pure electric or as a plug-in hybrid. The i3s packs 184 horsepower, which is 14 more than the standard model, and gets wider tracks, larger wheels and tires and a sport-tuned suspension. Prices start around $48,650.
Much like the exterior of the 2018 BMW i3, its interior is a design exercise that isn’t for everyone. It’s minimalistic, futuristic and environmentally friendly, and it either touches your soul or your gag reflex. The build quality is exceptional, and some of the materials have the look and feel of fine custom furniture. The responsibly forested eucalyptus dash and wide-screen displays reward the senses. Unfortunately, some of the other earth-friendly dash materials resemble attic insulation. Seat comfort is also high, and the two rear seats are roomier than you may expect, though beware of the i3's high step-in. To accommodate extra cargo, the rear seats split and fold.
This is BMW’s smallest car. It’s about 20-inches shorter than a BMW 230i and at just 157.4 inches long, the 2018 i3 is shorter than a Honda Fit. With its snub nose, short overhangs and black pillars, which make the roof look like it’s floating, the new i3 is futuristic and maybe a bit over the top. Its carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic body helps shed weight and its large-diameter yet skinny wheels and tires minimize wind and rolling resistance. Even the doors of the 2018 BMW i3 are strange yet functional. The rear set opens outward, which makes entering and exiting easier for rear passengers, but they can be cumbersome in tight parking spaces.
With a 0-60-mph time of just 7.2 seconds, the standard 2018 BMW i3 is plenty quick. Quick enough to leave most small cars in its emissions-free wake of self-righteousness. And the new sportier i3s model is even quicker, running from 0-60 mph in just 6.8 seconds. That’s quicker than BMW’s 320i sedan. An electric motor delivers its torque all at once, so the acceleration is instantaneous, and continuous. With no mechanical transmission, the momentum is uninterrupted by gear changes, giving the i3 an almost slingshot-like effect. Power is routed to the rear wheels, which gives the i3 better handling than most of its front-drive rivals, although it surrenders that advantage in snow or on slick roads. Its steering is quick and the i3’s wide stance and short wheelbase give it go-kart-like agility. This is a fun car to drive once you get used to its unique power delivery and the funky feel of its regenerative braking system, which recharges the batteries with the energy captured from the brakes.
The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of the 2018 BMW i3 starts at around $45,500 and with the Range Extender, $49,300. Those prices include a $995 fee for destination and shipping. The BMW i3 is eligible for incentives and federal tax credits. At these prices, the i3 resides in a middle ground among electric vehicles. It is over $12,000 more than a Nissan Leaf, but nearly $30,000 less than a Tesla Model S. Also in this range are the VW e-Golf, Fiat 500e, Chevrolet Bolt EV, Chevy Volt, Toyota Prius Plug-in and Ford Focus electric. Check the Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for an i3. The i3 holds average resale values, better than the Fiat 500e, Ford Focus Electric and Nissan Leaf and on par with the Volkswagen e-Golf and Audi Sportback e-Tron hybrid. Interestingly, the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid holds higher 5-year values than all of these.
The new 2018 BMW i3 is available in three trims, or as BMW calls them, “worlds”: Mega, Giga and Tera. The base Mega comes well-equipped with a navigation system, LED headlights, 19-inch wheels, Comfort Access, DC fast-charging port (allows you to charge the battery up to 80 percent in 20 minutes), heated seats, SensaTec leather-like upholstery, and BMW's ConnectedDrive that syncs to your smartphone to enable the use of apps. The Giga model has a leather-and-wool interior. Top-line Tera models feature full leather upholstery, 19-inch forged alloy wheels and leather-covered dash with Dark Oak or Light Eucalyptus wood trim.
In addition to the range-extending gasoline engine, the 2018 BMW i3 electric car offers other hardware and software to make your commute safer and more comfortable. Among the offerings are a 12-speaker/360-watt harman/kardon audio system and the Navigation Professional System with range assistant, real-time traffic info and Traffic Jam Assist. Other options include a power moonroof, forward-collision warning and pedestrian detection, automatic parking system, and a collision-mitigation feature that can automatically apply the brakes in emergency situations.
ACC STOP & GO + ACTIVE DRIVING ASSISTANT
This advanced safety system is part of the $2,500 Technology and Driving Assistant Package. The autonomous technology maintains the desired distance from the car ahead at speeds above 19 mph. In more congested conditions, it creeps, accelerates and stops the car for you as bumper-to-bumper traffic inches along.
When a proper parking space has been found, the driver activates this autonomous system with the press of a button, and it essentially parallel parks the BMW i3 for you. Parking Assistant takes control of the BMW i3’s steering, braking and acceleration. It even controls the gear selection. This system is optional on the i3 but it is unavailable on the i3s.
Under the Hood
The 2018 BMW i3 electric vehicle uses an electric motor powered by a lithium-ion battery back. Range-extended models have a supplemental 650-cc gasoline engine that acts solely as a generator and has a fuel capacity of 2.4 gallons. The BMW i3's electric-only range is estimated at 114 miles (94 Ah). Extended-range models are said to add another 66 miles to the battery range. Hyper-milers can eke more distance by switching to the ECO PRO mode, meant to increase distance by 12 percent, or ECO PRO+, which adds another 12 percent. The i3 electric vehicle uses a single-speed transmission and is rear-wheel drive. Recharging takes three hours on 220 volts or 20-plus hours on a standard 110-volt outlet.
Hybrid-synchronous electric motor
22-kWh lithium-ion battery
199 lb-ft of torque
Range with full charge: 114 miles
Hybrid-synchronous electric motor (i3s)
32-kWh lithium-ion battery
184 lb-ft of torque
Range with full charge: 114 miles)
BMW offers both the 2018 BMW i3 and the new more powerful i3s as pure electrics or as plug-in hybrids with extended range. Both are sporty, quick and quirky with unconventional styling and advanced technology like lightweight carbon-fiber construction. The i3’s open-space interior concept also separates it from the pack, as does its nearly $45,500 entry-level price tag, which gets you a pure electric vehicle with a range of about 114 miles on a full charge. Add the range extender, which is a small 2-cylinder gas engine with a 2.4-gallon fuel tank, and the price goes up to over $49,000. This setup is good for a total range of 180 miles, which is more than the Fiat 500e, VW eGolf and Nissan Leaf, but shy of the range offered by the less expensive Chevy Volt and Bolt or Toyota Prius Plug-in.