BMW i3

#9 in Luxury Small Cars Overall Score: 8.4 / 10
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2017 BMW i3 Overview

The 2017 BMW i3 ranks 9 out of 20 Luxury Small Cars.

Though it's more expensive than many rivals, the 2017 BMW i3 is a worthy contender among electric vehicles for its high-end interior, quick acceleration, poised handling, and top-tier predicted reliability score. The i3 also has plenty of range to get you where you're going. 

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See full 2017 BMW i3 specs ยป

Pros & Cons

  • Brisk acceleration
  • Good mpg-e compared to rivals
  • Sharp handling
  • High predicted reliability score
  • Less electric range than some EV competitors

Notable for 2017

  • Larger 90 Ah battery now available

 

BMW i3 Rankings and Research

The 2017 BMW i3 ranking is based on its score within the Luxury Small Cars category. Currently the BMW i3 has a score of 8.4 out of 10 which is based on our evaluation of 23 pieces of research and data elements using various sources.

Scorecard

Overall: 8.4
Critics' Rating: 8.5
Performance: 8.3
Interior: 7.8
Safety: 9.9
Reliability: 3_5

2017 BMW i3 Pictures

2017 BMW i3 Review

By Nate Parsons August 4, 2017

Though it's more expensive than many rivals, the 2017 BMW i3 is a worthy contender among electric vehicles for its high-end interior, quick acceleration, poised handling, and top-tier predicted reliability score. The i3 also has plenty of range to get you where you're going. 

Is the BMW i3 a Good Car?

The i3 is worth considering if you're looking for a commuting car. Its electric range is more than enough to handle most daily drives, and it provides a comfortable ride. There's plenty of features too. Thanks to the optional gasoline-powered electric generator, range anxiety won't be much of a concern, and compared to other EVs, the i3 is pretty fun to drive. There's also plenty of space for both passengers and cargo.

Should I Buy the BMW i3?

If you want an EV with a luxury badge, the i3 is a great choice. It has solid performance, decent range, and a comfortable, upscale cabin. The i3 with Range Extender (REX) is a nice buy, too, since the added driving distance provided by the gasoline-powered generator lets you take longer trips than some electric-only cars. Still, if you're willing to forgo the BMW logo, you may be better off with cheaper rivals like the Chevrolet Volt.

Compare the i3 and Volt »

We Did the Research for You: 23 Pieces of Data Analyzed

This comprehensive 2017 BMW i3 review was written using various data points, including published automotive reviews, predicted reliability ratings, and crash test scores. We've gathered all the information you need to decide if the i3 is the right car for you.

The i3 was introduced as a new model for the 2014 model year and has seen few major changes since. As a result, this overview uses applicable research and reviews from the 2014 through 2017 model years.

Why You Can Trust Us

The Best Cars staff has 75 years' combined experience in the automotive industry. U.S. News has also been ranking cars, trucks, and SUVs for nearly a decade now. You can trust that our reviews are unbiased since we don't accept expensive gifts or pricey trips from automakers. Furthermore, the advertisements you see on our site are handled by a third party.

How Much Does the BMW i3 Cost?

Prices for the BMW i3 start at $42,400 for the base 60 Ah model. With the larger 94 Ah battery, an i3 costs $43,600, and the i3 REX, which has a small gas-powered generator, is priced at $47,450. Prices for the base model are around $10,000 more than the base trims of rivals like the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt. The Tesla Model S, on the other hand, is about $25,000 more expensive than the i3.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local BMW dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our BMW deals page.

BMW i3 Versus the Competition

The EV and plug-in hybrid market is limited, but it has a wide variety of prices. You can get a plug-in hybrid like the Toyota Prius Prime for around $27,000 or a fully loaded all-electric Tesla Model S for more than four times that much. In the middle are EVs like the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt, Chevrolet Bolt, and BMW i3. The Leaf and Volt are both priced around $30,000, while the Bolt and i3 are closer to $40,000.

Which Is Better: BMW i3 or Tesla Model S?

If you can afford the extra $25,000, the Tesla Model S is miles ahead of the i3 – literally: The Model S can go nearly three times as far as the i3 on a single charge. In addition to the better range, you also get more features for the added cost. The Model S has a tabletlike 17-inch touch-screen infotainment system that blows the i3's 6.5-inch display out of the water. The Model S also comes standard with front- and rearview cameras, lane departure warning, and blind spot monitoring. Similar safety features aren't even available in the i3. Spending more on a Model S can get you Autopilot, which lets the car handle many driving functions – like steering, accelerating, and braking – without input from the driver, though driver attention is always required. Speaking of acceleration, the Model S is shockingly fast. Opt for the P90D trim and add the optional Ludicrous Mode, and the Model S can hit 60 mph from a stop in under three seconds.

Which Is Better: BMW i3 or Nissan Leaf?

Even though the i3 is much more expensive than the Nissan Leaf (by about $10,000), it's worth the added cost. The Leaf earns lower mpg-e estimates, but it has a longer EV range than the base i3. However, the i3 94 Ah will take you farther than the Leaf. The Leaf also isn't available with a gasoline generator that lets you drive farther, so the Leaf is limited to shorter trips. The i3 REX's range will let you travel a bit farther afield for day or weekend trips. Unlike the i3, which has plenty of punch for highway driving, the Leaf can feel bogged down at higher speeds. The i3 also has more available tech features and a better predicted reliability score than the Leaf.

Which Is Better: BMW i3 or Chevrolet Bolt?

The BMW i3 offers more brand prestige than the Chevrolet Bolt, but in practical terms, the Bolt offers you a whole lot more for your money. Despite its lower starting price (of $36,620), the Bolt offers many of the same features you can get in the i3, and a fully loaded Bolt is priced around the same as a base model i3. The Bolt also offers a significantly better EV range: 238 miles versus the i3 60 Ah's 114 miles. Not even the i3 REX can match the Bolt's driving range. You also get more space inside the Bolt than the i3. The Bolt can accommodate five passengers, while the i3 only has seats for four. Folding down the rear seats in the Bolt opens up 56.6 cubic feet of cargo room, which easily bests the i3's maximum cargo space.

Which Is Better: BMW i3 or Chevrolet Volt?

Ultimately, the Chevrolet Volt is a better buy for most drivers than the i3. The Volt's significantly lower starting price (of $33,220) more than makes up for its shorter electric range. Even though the Volt can't go as far on a single charge, its range should be enough for most daily commutes, and the ability to go even farther, thanks to the gasoline generator, gives it further flexibility.

Like the i3 REX, the Volt has a gasoline engine that recharges the batteries. The i3 can go farther on a fully charged battery (97 miles on electric vs the Volt's 53), but the Volt has a significantly longer overall range with the gasoline engine providing backup (the Volt's total range is 420 miles, while the i3 REX can only go up to 180 miles). The i3 gets better mpg-e than the Volt, and it earns higher predicted reliability scores, as well.

Compare the i3, Model S, and Bolt »

i3 Interior

How Many People Does the i3 Seat?

The i3 has seats for four, and there's plenty of space no matter which seat you choose. The front seats are comfortable and mounted high in the cabin, giving those in the front a commanding view of the road ahead. The back seats have sufficient head- and legroom, but getting into them is complicated by the i3's suicide-style rear doors. You must first open the front door before you can open the back door. The i3's floor is fairly high off the ground, making it a bit tricky for children or passengers with mobility issues to climb in.

The Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt each have one more seat than the i3. The Tesla Model S can accommodate up to seven with the optional rear-facing jump seats. The Model S and Volt have less headroom in the back than the i3.

i3 and Car Seats

The i3 has two full sets of LATCH connectors for installing child safety seats. The upper tethers are easy to find, but they look like other mounting hardware so you'll need to make sure you find the right attachment point. The lower anchors, meanwhile, are not too deep within the seat cushion, though the area around them is cramped, making it difficult to maneuver around them.

i3 Interior Quality

Inside the i3's cabin, you'll find a modern design that matches the i3's high-tech powertrain. Many surfaces are covered in eco-friendly materials, like responsibly forested wood or cloth made from recycled materials. The cabin generally feels upscale, but some of the eco materials may seem lower quality than what you'd find in other BMW models.

i3 Cargo Space

You'll get the most cargo space behind the rear seats with the i3 94 Ah, which has 15.1 cubic feet of room for your stuff. The i3 60 Ah and i3 REX have more overall cargo space, however, with 38.8 cubic feet. The i3 has a comparable amount of cargo space relative to most rivals, but the Tesla Model S has more. There's almost as much cargo space behind the Model S' rear seats as there is in the i3 overall.

i3 Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

After a brief learning curve, most drivers should have no trouble using the i3's iDrive infotainment system. Using a console-mounted controller, you can sort through iDrive's straightforward menus to quickly find the settings or functions you want. The system has fast response times, too, so there should be little lag when you use it. The i3 comes standard with navigation, and an advanced navigation system is available that suggests the optimal route to your destination using current traffic volumes along with the charge level of the car's battery.

Even though the i3's iDrive system is easy to use, it doesn't have the biggest screen you'll find in an EV. That honor goes to the Tesla Model S, which has a massive 17-inch touch screen that feels more like a tablet than a traditional in-car infotainment system. The Chevrolet Volt comes with an 8-inch touch screen, along with some features that you can't get in the i3, like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration and a built-in Wi-Fi hot spot.

For more information, read What Is Apple CarPlay? and What Is Android Auto? Then, see the Best Cars With Apple CarPlay and Best Cars With Android Auto.

Read more about interior »

i3 Performance

i3 Engine: Zippy Acceleration Off The Line

The i3 can accelerate briskly from a stop thanks to the immediate power delivered by its 170-horsepower electric motor. There's plenty of punch leftover for passing or merging on the highway too. As spunky as the i3 is, it can't match the quicker acceleration of the Chevrolet Bolt or Tesla Model S.

i3 Gas Mileage: Good MPG-E, Decent EV Range

With the 60 Ah battery, the i3 gets up to 124 mpg-e, which is better than the estimates for rivals like the Tesla Model S, Chevrolet Bolt, and Nissan Leaf. The 94 Ah battery decreases fuel economy estimates to 118 mpg-e, which is still good compared to competitors.

The base i3 60 Ah can go up to 81 miles on a single charge, and the 94 Ah model can go up to 114 miles. The i3 REX has a 97 mile range with a full battery, but with the electric engine acting as a generator, it can go up to 180 miles.

The i3's range is significantly less than the Tesla Model S or Chevrolet Bolt's range. Both rivals can travel more than 200 miles before their batteries are depleted. The Nissan Leaf's range is similar to the i3 94 Ah's, and the Chevrolet Volt only has a 53 mile range in EV mode.

i3 Ride and Handling: It's Nimble

The i3 has athletic handling through turns because it has a low center of gravity, thanks to its battery pack. While the steering is sharp, it doesn't provide much feedback. Like most hybrids or EVs, the i3 has regenerative brakes that not only slow the car but also recharge the battery pack. The i3's regenerative brakes are stronger than most, however, and will slow the i3 significantly when you take your foot off the gas pedal.

Read more about performance »

i3 Reliability

Is the BMW i3 Reliable?

Compared to rivals, the i3 earns a good predicted reliability rating. The Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt both earn lower predicted reliability scores.

BMW i3 Warranty

BMW covers the 2017 i3 with a four-year/50,000-mile new-vehicle warranty and an eight-year/100,000-mile battery warranty. The Tesla Model S has a similar warranty. The limited warranties covering the Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Volt are shorter, but they have the same battery warranty as the i3 and Model S.

Read more about reliability »

i3 Safety

i3 Crash Test Results

The i3 does well in Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests, with top ratings in four out of five crashworthiness tests. The Nissan Leaf earns similar scores, while the Chevrolet Volt does slightly better. The Volt earns an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ designation.

i3 Safety Features

The BMW i3 isn't as well-equipped with safety features as the Chevrolet Volt or Tesla Model S, which are both available with a wide range of active driver assistance features. Still, the i3 is available with a rearview camera, active park assist, and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking. The Model S even has a system called Autopilot, which lets the car take care of most driving functions, including steering, in some situations.

Read more about safety »

Which BMW i3 Model Is Right for Me?

All 2017 i3s come with the same features, so when choosing between models, you have to decide based on driving range. The i3 94 Ah is the best buy because it offers you the best range and only costs around $1,000 more than the base model.

All trims come standard with cloth upholstery, automatic climate control, push-button start, rear parking sensors, Bluetooth, HD Radio, satellite radio, and an infotainment system with a 6.5-inch display and navigation.

A Parking Assistant package is available in all models for $1,000 and includes a rearview camera and front and rear parking sensors. The $2,500 Technology + Driving Assistant package comes with adaptive cruise control, advanced navigation, and BMW Online and BMW Apps, which give you access to internet content like news and weather updates. There are also appearance packages – some of which include leather upholstery – that cost between $1,400 and $2,600. A Harman Kardon audio system is available for $800, and a moonroof is a $1,000 option. You can also get a 240-volt home charger for $1,080.

BMW i3 60 Ah

The i3 60 Ah is the base model, and it's priced at $42,400. The 60 Ah model can travel up to 81 miles before the batteries need charging.

BMW i3 94 Ah

The $43,600 i3 94 Ah has the longest EV range in the i3 lineup. It can go up to 114 miles until the batteries are depleted.

BMW i3 REX

Priced at $47,450, the i3 REX tops out the line. The REX trim's EV range falls in between the 60 Ah and 94 Ah, at 97 miles. However, because there's an electric motor that acts as a generator to recharge the batteries, the REX has a total range of 180 miles with a fully charged battery and a full tank of gas.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local BMW dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our BMW deals page.

See 2017 BMW i3 specs and trims »

The Final Call

Among the limited market of electric vehicles, the BMW i3 stands out for its performance. Most EVs have sedate handling, but the i3 is rather nimble and fun to drive. It has brisk acceleration, too, so it can quickly dart from traffic light to traffic light. The i3 is more expensive than some competitors, but it has a luxury cabin that's filled with features. The i3 has an above-average driving range on a single charge, and there's an optional gasoline generator that lets you drive even farther.

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

  • "The 2017 BMW i3 electric car provides an eco-friendly way to commute as well as makes a stylish statement. With styling and features separate from what other EVs offer, the BMW i3 is unique, and its BMW roots make it more fun to drive than the Leaf or Soul EV." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The i3 isn't about maintaining the status quo; it's about showing that BMW can be an innovator in the EV segment. With its avant-garde styling and available Range Extender gas engine (yielding an estimated 150 miles of range), the i3 certainly breaks with tradition. We think it's one of the most compelling EVs on the road today." -- Autotrader (2015)
  • "For electric vehicle shoppers desiring some sportiness and luxury-brand panache, the 2015 BMW i3 is a very compelling choice. That the i3 is also surprisingly practical only furthers its appeal." -- Edmunds (2015)
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