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2016 BMW i3 Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2016 BMW i3 was new.


Performance: 8.8

Test drivers say the 2016 BMW i3 starts quickly from a stop and that the motor feels powerful. The steering is sharp despite providing little feedback, and the i3 delivers fairly sporty handling. The regenerative brakes can feel awkward to unfamiliar drivers, but they are effective and make driving around town a more pleasant endeavor.

  • "The i3 even serves up downright respectable acceleration and handling that help it leave most EVs in the dust." -- Edmunds
  • "If you want an EV that engages the driver for less than half the price of a Tesla Model S, the i3 is the one to have. Happily, it's also supple and quiet in normal driving, making for an unmistakably luxurious experience." -- AutoTrader (2015)
  • "So while the powertrain is indeed brand new and interesting, anyone who defines a BMW simply by the way it drives is going to come away confused. It's not that driving dynamics don't matter, but they matter a lot less when you're moving slowly through a city. And that's where the i3 simply shines." -- Autoblog (2014)
  • "Many electric cars have surprising straight-line acceleration. That's just the nature of electric motors -- they have an abundance of torque, which translates to push-you-back-in-the-seat acceleration. It's no surprise that the i3 has similar performance." -- Kelley Blue Book (2014)

Acceleration and Power 

The 2016 i3 features an electric motor that puts out 170 horsepower paired with a single-speed transmission. It gets an EPA-estimated 137/111/124 mpg-equivalent (mpg-e) city/highway/combined, which is good for an electric vehicle. According to BMW, the i3 has a range of 81 miles on a fully charged battery.

The i3 with Range Extender features a two-cylinder gasoline engine that works like a generator to charge the battery once it is depleted. It gets an EPA-estimated 117 mpg-e combined rating and 39 mpg combined rating with the gas engine running.

The i3's overall acceleration is fairly strong, and it feels quick off the line and fast while driving around town thanks to the ample torque from the electric motor and the i3's light weight.

  • "While virtually all battery-powered cars offer snappier acceleration than most people expect (thanks to the instantly available torque that's characteristic of electric motors), their acceleration times usually end up being pretty humble. Not so with the 2016 BMW i3, which sprints to 60 mph as quickly as some sport sedans." -- Edmunds
  • "Truth be told, the car feels even quicker than that around town because there's no waiting for the motor to hit its stride; the full 184 lb-ft of torque is always ready to rock. That responsiveness is par for the course in an EV, though." -- AutoTrader (2015)
  • "With no more than 2900 pounds to push around, the motor feels strong, and it effortlessly flings the car into gaps in traffic. Figure on a 0-60 time of just under seven seconds, although the 0-30 sprint will probably be a class above." -- Car and Driver (2014)
  • "Once at speed, the BMW i3's acceleration is still impressive. When we were at freeway speeds and needed to pass slower traffic, for example, the i3 still had plenty of juice for doing so thanks to an electric powertrain that provides instant thrust." -- Kelley Blue Book (2014)

Alternative Fuels/Charging

The i3 charges in about 20 hours when plugged into a 120-volt outlet. An available 240-volt charger reduces charging time to roughly three hours, and the available DC Fast Charging station can charge the i3's battery up to 80 percent in 20 minutes and 100 percent 30 minutes.

Handling and Braking

The i3 is rear-wheel drive. It delivers agile handling and tackles winding roads better than many other small cars. The low center of gravity helps give the i3 a sure-footed feel. The steering is sharp, though it provides little feedback. The i3 noticeably decelerates when drivers let off the gas pedal thanks to the regenerative braking system. Although this may seem strange at first, once familiar with it, you rarely have to use the brake pedal in city traffic.

  • "What is less expected is the i3's exemplary handling, which comes courtesy of a nearly 50-50 front-rear weight distribution and BMW's expertise in rear-wheel-drive dynamics." -- AutoTrader (2015)
  • "The regenerative braking system is pretty strong, so the i3 slows dramatically whenever you lift your foot off the accelerator. While this can be disconcerting at first, you find yourself adapting quickly enough that you'll eventually wind up using the brake pedal only when you need to stop more aggressively. It makes sitting in stop-and-go traffic far more pleasant." -- Edmunds (2015)
  • "The real test of its BMW-ness, if you will, came on the twisty roads of Mulholland. Here the i3 stayed commendably planted, and because it's rear-wheel drive, it behaved more like a sports car when entering and exiting tight turns than, well, your average front-wheel-drive electric car. With its higher profile and shorter stance, the i3 is no 3 Series, but its low center of gravity helps the car stick better than you might suspect." -- Kelley Blue Book (2014)
  • "There's no appreciable feedback from the (of course) electric power steering, but it is nonetheless very quick and precise. On our first pass through a tight slalom course, we clipped two cones because we were unprepared for the i3's quick turn-in behavior." -- Car and Driver (2014)

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