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2017 BMW i3 Review

The 2017 BMW i3 is a fun-to-drive and practical electric car, with energetic acceleration and an airy cabin. It places in the top third of our luxury small car ranking.

Pros & Cons

  • Sprightly and fun to drive
  • Good mpg-e compared to rivals
  • One-pedal driving is convenient in the city
  • Regenerative braking system can feel too aggressive
  • Less all-electric range than some EV competitors




Critics' Rating: 8.4
Performance: 8.1
Interior: 7.1
Total Cost of Ownership: 9.1
Safety: 9.9
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

2017 BMW i3 Overview

Is the 2017 BMW i3 a Good Used Car?

The BMW i3 is an excellent choice, whether you are shopping for a luxury small car or a luxury electric car. It's one of the few EVs available from a premium brand. It has a smaller price tag than the Tesla Model S and a more straightforward ordering process than the Tesla Model 3.

The i3’s unique profile and eclectic cabin materials have a polarizing effect on shoppers. Move past its distinctive looks, and the i3 is pleasantly peppy, surprisingly spacious, and easy to drive and park in the city.

Its all-electric range – from 81 to 114 miles, depending on the battery size – is long enough for the average daily commute. If the range makes you nervous, opt for an i3 outfitted with a range extender. Dubbed REx editions, these i3s come with a small gasoline engine that recharges the battery when you can't get to a plug.

Why You Can Trust Us

Our BMW i3 review includes far more than just one person's opinion. We collected professional evaluations from almost two dozen sources and combined them with concrete data like fuel economy estimates, safety features, and performance specs to help you make an informed buying decision.

The Best Cars team – a division of U.S. News & World Report – has been reviewing cars, trucks, and SUVs since 2007. With more than 75 years of combined automotive experience, our editors, writers, and analysts rank a wide variety of new and used cars and issue three annual awards: Best Cars for the Money, Best Cars for Families, and Best Vehicle Brands. To keep our recommendations unbiased, we decline expensive gifts from carmakers, and a third party handles our advertising.

How Much Is the 2017 BMW i3?

The average price of a 2017 i3 is $36,400, based on almost 50 listings on our used car site. You'll pay more than double that for a used Tesla Model S. Factors such as optional features, vehicle condition, mileage, and regional demand affect the actual listing price, so you may see prices as low as $32,800 or as high as $45,000.

See the Best Used Car Deals »

How Much Does the 2017 BMW i3 Cost to Own?

Expect to pay around $20,600 to insure, fuel, repair, and maintain an i3 for five years. These same expenses are about $1,600 higher for the 2017 Lexus CT Hybrid (a small luxury car). The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV has lower estimated five-year costs by about $2,300. 

Is It Better to Buy a Used or New i3?

The new 2018 i3 is, without a doubt, the better option if you're debating between new and used. At first blush, its starting MSRP of $44,450 seems too high to be a good value. Factor in the available $7,500 federal tax credit, and its price is only $550 higher than the average listing price of a 2017 i3. As an added bonus, the 2018 i3 comes standard with the larger 90 Ah battery, which previously was a $1,200 upgrade.

Beyond its value, the new i3 also comes with some enticing options you can't get with the 2017 model. For $300, you can add Apple CarPlay to any trim. For 2018, BMW also launched the i3s, which is a more powerful model that spirited drivers will enjoy.

Read about the new BMW i3 »

A few years ago, very few EV and plug-in hybrid alternatives existed, and now the market is brimming with options. Among the top choices is the Tesla Model 3 ($35,000), which is slowly becoming more readily available. The Chevrolet Bolt EV ($36,620) is also a top contender. While this isn't a luxury car (as evidenced by its modest cabin), the Bolt's range, handling, and list of features are impressive. When comparing prices, keep in mind that federal and state tax credits can reduce the price of a new vehicle, but these incentives don't apply when buying used.

See the Best New Car Deals »

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Which Model Year of the BMW i3 Is Best? 

The BMW i3 has received few major updates since its debut for the 2014 model year, but there are a few changes to note. You'll want to skip the inaugural year and instead look at models from 2015 or later, which have DC fast charging, heated front seats, and satellite radio as standard features. BMW also added a larger battery as an option for 2017. Because its scores vary little over the years, consider saving some money by shopping for a 2015 or 2016 model year instead (unless you want the larger battery option).

Compare the 2015, 2016, and 2017 i3 »

How Reliable Is the 2017 BMW i3?

The 2017 i3 has an above-average predicted reliability rating of 3.5 from J.D. Power.

Read more about i3 reliability »

2017 BMW i3 Recalls

There are three recalls for the 2017 i3 as of the date of this review. The first recall replaces a potentially faulty seat-mounted air bag. Two more-recent recalls address a problem with the fuel vent line on range-extended models, updating the software for the air bag control unit. Before you buy a used i3, ensure that a BMW dealer has addressed any applicable recalls.

See more information on BMW i3 safety recalls »

Which Used BMW i3 Model Is Right for Me?

For 2017, BMW offered a singular i3 trim. Standard amenities include cloth upholstery, automatic climate control, rear parking sensors, and an infotainment system with a 6.5-inch display and navigation.

Three different mechanical configurations are available. The 60 Ah battery has an all-electric range of 81 miles, and the 94 Ah battery extends the range to 114 miles. The i3 REx combines a 94 Ah battery with a small gasoline engine (called a range extender) that helps charge the batteries on the go. These models have a total range of 180 miles with a full gas tank.

A number of factory upgrades were available, so some i3s may come with advanced safety features (including adaptive cruise control and a rearview camera), leather seats, a Harman Kardon sound system, and a moonroof.

If you take the occasional road trip and don't want to rent a car, spend the extra money and get the i3 REx. However, this version often comes with a sizable price increase, and the range extender engine is heavy and a bit loud. An i3 with the 94 Ah battery offers a nice middle ground when it comes to total range and price, and it’s the best fit for most lifestyles.

See 2017 BMW i3 trims and specs »

What Does BMW's Certified Pre-Owned Warranty Cover?

The BMW Certified CPO program is available on vehicles with between 300 and 60,000 miles on the odometer. The program covers buyers for one year with unlimited mileage after the four-year/50,000-mile new-vehicle limited warranty has expired. This warranty can be renewed for a fee, but there is a maximum of five years of coverage. Each BMW must pass a road test and a 196-point inspection before earning CPO status. Additional benefits like towing and 24-hour roadside assistance may be available. Restrictions apply on transferring CPO coverage to subsequent owners. Read the BMW warranty page carefully.

BMW has one of the less-attractive CPO programs among luxury car manufacturers, according to our research. You’ll get better warranties from Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and Jaguar.

See the best CPO programs »

How Safe Is the i3?

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 2017 i3 the highest score of Good in all but one crash test. The i3 received the second-lowest rating of Acceptable for head restraints and seats. The IIHS also noted that i3 models with the optional front collision warning system offer an Advanced level of frontal crash prevention.

Every i3 comes with rear parking sensors. Optional safety features include a rearview camera, front parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and active parallel park assist.

See i3 safety scores »

2017 BMW i3 Versus the Competition

Which Is Better: 2017 BMW i3 or 2017 Chevrolet Bolt?

Like the i3, the Chevrolet Bolt is a small hatchback EV. On average, it costs about $3,600 less than the i3, and it’s cheaper to insure, fuel, maintain, and repair. The Bolt also has a few niceties that are missing in the 2017 i3, such as Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and a Wi-Fi hot spot. Its interior isn't as plush as the BMW's, though if you opt for the uplevel Bolt Premier, you'll enjoy upgrades like leather upholstery, heated seats throughout, and a Bose stereo. All in all, the Bolt is a better buy. Its 238-mile range is longer than the i3’s, even with the range-extending gasoline engine. The Bolt is not available with a range-extending gas engine – for a plug-in hybrid, check out the Chevy Volt instead.

Which Is Better: 2017 BMW i3 or 2017 Nissan Leaf?

The Nissan Leaf is considerably less expensive than the i3, saving you almost $17,000 alone at the time of purchase. It has some good qualities, like an oversized cargo hold behind the seats and a respectable range. But many luxury shoppers may find its cabin materials to be too mediocre. The Leaf also does not offer a range-extending gas engine option. Overall, the i3 is a better option if you can afford the higher price tag.

Compare the i3, Bolt, and Leaf »

2017 i3 Performance

How Does the 2017 BMW i3 Drive?

The i3 and its 170-horsepower electric motor are ready for action. While it won't wow bystanders with lightning-fast speed, the i3 certainly feels engaging to drive. It’s also enjoyably nimble, with rear-wheel drive and a low center of gravity. And like many luxury cars, you can count on the i3 to be smooth on the highway.

The regenerative brakes take a little getting used to; they begin to slow down the car as soon as you let off the throttle. Though the system feels too harsh for some, others like that it allows for one-pedal driving.

Does the 2017 BMW i3 Get Good Gas Mileage?

The i3's range is about average for an electric vehicle that costs less than $50,000. The base model can drive 81 miles on a single charge, with a rating of 124 MPGe (find out more in our article, What Is MPGe?). On the other end of the spectrum, the i3 Range Extender can drive up to 180 miles with the assistance of its gasoline engine.

Read more about i3 performance »

2017 i3 Interior

How Many People Does the 2017 i3 Seat?

There are four seats in the i3. By the numbers, this electric car doesn't appear to be very spacious, but the cabin feels airy once you’re inside. Both rows offer ample head- and legroom, though accessing the back seat can be tricky at times. The rear doors are hinged toward the back, requiring that you first open the front door (an awkward extra step when dropping off kids at school). 

How Many Car Seats Fit in the 2017 BMW i3?

Both of the rear seats in the i3 have a full set of LATCH anchors to secure car seats. It can be a tricky task to connect a car seat to the lower anchors, and the tether anchors look like other cargo hardware. Overall, the i3's LATCH system earns an Acceptable rating – the second highest score – for ease of use from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

2017 BMW i3 Features

The i3's cabin showcases eclectic styling in spades. There are top-notch materials throughout, with many eco-friendly materials used in their construction. The infotainment system features a 6.5-inch display mounted above a peculiarly sloped dash. It’s relatively easy to learn and straightforward to use. Bluetooth, HD radio, and satellite radio all come standard, along with the ability to easily find the nearest charging station via the standard navigation system.

See 2017 BMW i3 specs »

Read more about i3 interior »

2017 BMW i3 Dimensions

BMW i3 Cargo Space

The i3's 15.1-cubic-foot cargo hold is larger than the trunk of a typical luxury small car. You can expand this to up to 36.9 cubic feet, thanks to the 50/50 split folding rear seat.

BMW i3 Length and Weight

The BMW i3 measures 13.2 feet long. The curb weight depends on the EV components, ranging from 2,886 to 3,234 pounds.

Where Was the 2017 BMW i3 Built?

BMW built the 2017 i3 in Germany.

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