In-depth Reviews

BMW i3 hatchback - Engines, drive & performance

The BMW i3 is quick, handles well and is perfect around town

Carbuyer Rating

3.9 out of 5

Owners Rating

3.4 out of 5

Read owner reviews
Engines, drive & performance Rating

4.0 out of 5

It may look like nothing else on the road, but the BMW i3 is an easy car to adapt to and its electric power system offers a few handy advantages – not least immediate 'shove' when you floor the accelerator. The i3's tall design comes in handy, too – its raised driving position makes it perfect for manoeuvring in city streets and, while the suspension can be a little bumpy, silently darting in and out of traffic is a simple and pleasurable experience.

The i3’s special skinny tyres don’t offer as much grip as a conventional BMW, but it's still lots of fun to drive, with traditionally playful rear-wheel-drive handling. Once underway, the i3’s regenerative braking system (which slows the car when you take your foot off the accelerator) means you almost never have to put your foot on the brake pedal. This is a strange sensation at first, but you quickly get used to it.

The i3s goes a bit further to appeal to enthusiastic drivers, thanks to wider, grippier tyres and a greater distance between the rear wheels. This allows it to offer a more entertaining drive, at the slight expense of battery range. It doesn't ride as well as the standard model, however, and its weight and height mean the i3s doesn’t quite convince as an alternative hot hatch.

BMW i3 electric motor

Performance is not something the i3 is short of – the electric version can get from 0-62mph in 7.3 seconds, which is 3.3 seconds quicker than a Toyota Prius. In fact, the i3 feels even quicker than the figures suggest, as the electric motor's full power is available instantly at any speed. The lack of engine noise also makes briskly accelerating a strangely satisfying experience. The i3s brings 0-62mph down to 6.9 seconds, further amplifying the experience.

The i3 allows you to drive using the accelerator alone – the regenerative braking force of the electric motor slows you down when you lift your foot off the pedal in much the same way as Nissan's e-Pedal system. It takes some getting used to, but can make driving quite relaxing.

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