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Published Date: 16/10/2017

BMW’s distinctive and avant-garde i3 was received with worldwide acclaim when it launched a few years ago; as the first mainstream compact luxury electric vehicle on the market. It has since gone on to perform consistently well in EV sales charts and presents an excellent case for aspiring BMW drivers to embrace environmentally-friendly motoring. How does it compare to the brand’s other similarly-sized models?

Sizing the i3 up

BMW’s funky, eye-catching i3 is a four-seater that’s most closely matched in size by the 1-Series. It’s shorter than the 1-Series at 3,999mm in length - compared to 4,329mm - but the two are very similar in width with a difference of just 10mm. The i3 is actually taller than the 1-Series at 1,578mm verses 1,440mm, and its elevated ride even exceeds that of the 2-Series Active Tourer MPV, making the electric car a great choice for drivers who like sitting that little higher up with a better view of the road. The i3’s boot offers 260 litres of luggage capacity, suited for businesspeople and ample for those city breaks, and the clever design of its windows and seating arrangement has created a spacious, light and airy interior free from many of the controls that often clutter other cars.

Conclusion: Although it’s the smallest BMW on sale, the i3’s futuristic, minimalist design philosophy and raised seating position are highly attractive to drivers who appreciate modernity and airiness.

An interior like no other

Whereas the BMW 1-Series is available in 3-door Coupé and 5-door Hatchback guises, the i3 comes as a 5-door, making easy entry for rear passengers a given, even before you realise that there’s no B-pillar between the front and back doors. Similar to the 1-Series’ interior ethos- based on ambience and a sporty vibe - the BMW i3 is also thoughtfully themed inside with distinctively trimmed sports seats in the front, while the rear bench is angled to maximise headroom.

Highly contemporary, with many components made from renewable and recycled materials to reinforce the i3’s environmental credentials, its drivers can customise the unforgettable experience even further by selecting from Atelier, Loft, Lodge and Suite trims, the latter adorned with full leather. Just like the rest of the BMW range, the i3 is packed with a raft of cutting-edge infotainment and safety technology, beautiful screens and intuitive controls, along with various readouts helping drivers get the most out of electric motoring.

Conclusion: As the cleanest, greenest mainstream BMW, the i3 retains the brand’s sporty, modern and inspirational aura and is a joy to drive or be driven in.

The advantages of electric power

Electric cars present wide-ranging benefits from near-silent driving and a relaxing vibe with their automatic gearboxes, to relatively rapid acceleration from the instant torque available – and, of course, zero emissions.

The fully electric BMW i3 ‘eDrive’ produces 125bhp, accelerates to 62mph in an impressive 7.3 seconds and can achieve a plentiful top speed of 93mph. Although the i3’s maximum speed is less, its power output exceeds the BMW 116i 5-door’s 109bhp, the electric car feeling much punchier thanks to the immediacy of electric power.

Many drivers seeking a compact, fuel efficient BMW often consider the 116ed EfficientDynamics, and compared to the fully electric i3, its diesel engine produces slightly less horsepower and its 0-62mph time is still longer than the i3’s. The 116ed’s fuel economy of 83.1mpg is impressive but its relatively brilliant CO2 emissions are still up against the i3’s zero-rated figure. The new and updated BMW i3 in 94Ah pure-EV guise has a theoretical all-electric range of 195 miles, but it’s worth noting that a ‘range extender’ model is also available, which sees a modest petrol motor incorporated into the i3 to provide an overall scientific range of 276 miles.

Conclusion: BMW’s fully electric i3 performs as well as if not slightly more zestfully than the popular petrol 116i and diesel 116ed models - and the updated i3’s range is more than adequate for most drivers’ daily routines.

In numbers…


I3 eDrive

I3 Range Extender

Power (HP)



Fuel (comb MPG)


Up to 470.8mpg

Emissions (CO2, g/km)



Top Speed (mph)



Range (miles - theoretical)



0 – 60mph in…. (seconds)






With futuristic, eye-catching exterior styling combined with a roomy, stylish and comfortable interior full of the latest technology, the BMW i3 is an excellent prospect for private and business drivers seeking a blend of pacey performance combined with environmentally-aware economy.

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