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2018 BMW i3

Starting at $45,445

2018 bmw i3
Chris Amos|Car and Driver

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  • Highs Futuristic styling, beautifully crafted interior, available range-extending gas engine.
  • Lows Disconnected driving experience, cramped rear seat, infotainment less technologically advanced than the drivetrain.
  • Verdict The 2018 BMW i3, with its compact size and EV power, is well suited to city driving, but its electric-only range lags behind popular rivals.


Few things this side of a supercar draw as many eyes in traffic as the BMW i3. Its cheeky, futuristic styling rides on a high-tech platform that is equal parts carbon fiber and battery-electric propulsion. Tidy dimensions make zipping through congested city traffic easy, and the i3 leaves nothing in its wake except slack jaws. Unfortunately, the base i3 and the slightly sportier i3s only offer 114 and 107 miles of combined EPA-rated driving range, respectively—far less than the Chevrolet Bolt EV or the Tesla Model 3. But the BMW can be had with a two-cylinder range-extending gasoline engine, something neither the Chevy nor the Tesla offers.

What's New for 2018?

The performance-oriented i3s model joins the lineup for 2018 and sports a more aggressive exterior design in the form of new front and rear bumpers and gloss-black grille and roofline accents. To live up to its sportier appearance, the i3s comes with a lowered sport suspension, a wider track, and 20-inch wheels that are a half-inch wider than those of the normal i3. A 184-hp electric motor provides extra punch (up 14 horsepower from the standard car), but driving range suffers if the i3s is driven hard. Other minor changes include an upgraded infotainment system with a much larger optional display and available Apple CarPlay. A new brown leather and gray cloth interior theme is available on the Giga World model, full LED headlamps are now standard across the range, and two new colors join the palette: Melbourne Red Metallic and Imperial Blue Metallic. Last year’s 21.6-kWh base model is no longer offered—fine by us.


Original MSRP:

  • i3 94 Ah: $45,445
  • i3s 94 Ah: $48,645
  • i3 94 Ah w/Range Extender: $49,295
  • i3s 94 Ah w/Range Extender: $52,495

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Engine, Transmission, and Performance

The new-for-2018 i3s model boasts extra horsepower, making it slightly more fleet than the standard i3. Its sport suspension, wider track, and meatier tires provide a more stable feel through corners but still don’t imbue it with the driving dynamics of BMW’s sports sedans. The s model’s stiffened suspension carries the trade-off of a firmer ride, which may bother some occupants over rough stretches of tarmac. Braking distances are much shorter in the i3s than they are in the standard i3, likely a benefit of wider patches of rubber at all four corners. It’s nicely weighted, and acceleration is linear and proportionate to the amount of input. The i3 offers three driving modes: Comfort, Eco Pro, and Eco Pro Plus. Comfort is the standard setting, while Eco Pro and Eco Pro Plus help save power for more efficient driving. Eco Pro reduces energy for the climate control or heated seats and limits top speed to an adjustable range between 55 and 80 mph. Eco Pro Plus goes one step beyond that and deactivates heating and cooling for the interior, seat heating, and cornering lights; using this setting caps your speed at 55 mph. Both modes also reduce power to the motor, which in turn can affect acceleration and make the accelerator pedal less responsive to inputs. The i3’s ride is in line with its premium pedigree and serene interior. The experience is one of isolation, with no buzzing, no untoward vibrations, and no sound, at least until the optional range-extending two-cylinder fires up. The i3 dispenses with cracks, bumps, and expansion strips in the pavement with ease, to the point where it feels too disconnected.

Fuel Economy

EPA fuel economy testing and reporting procedures have changed over time. For the latest and most accurate fuel economy numbers on current and older vehicles, we use the U.S. Department of Energy's website. Under the heading "Find & Compare Cars" click on the "Compare Side-by-Side" tool to find the EPA ratings for the make, model, and year you're interested in.

Interior, Comfort, and Cargo

The interior of the i3 is beautifully crafted with intriguing recyclable materials, and the cabin has an open, airy appeal; but those who spend any time in the cramped rear seat will not be as happy as those riding up front. Choose the Giga World trim, and a new interior color theme layers saddle-colored leather with gray cloth on the seats and door panels. It’s probably for the best that the i3 doesn’t have a longer driving range, because it’s one of the least spacious vehicles in the class. Although the i3 is tall and boxy, making the two front seats plenty roomy, its short length and sloping roof make the rear an uncomfortable space. The exterior appearance of the i3 is quite polarizing, but the cabin is almost universally well received, and for good reason. Depending on the trim you choose, you’ll find a mixture of recycled materials, beautiful open-pore wood, leather, and even furniture-quality wool cloth. Features such as a tablet-like a gauge cluster, a floating infotainment screen, a steering-column-mounted rotary gear selector, and a swooping instrument-panel design underscore just how unusual this car is. The i3 has the utility of a typical small hatchback—with a twist. The rear side doors are hinged at the back, so they open opposite the front doors. There is no pillar separating the front and rear doors, which creates a large, open space that facilitates entry (and cargo placement) in the back.

Infotainment and Connectivity

While many electric and hybrid vehicles opt for massive screens with touch functionality and an overabundance of information, the i3 takes a much simpler approach: a small 6.5-inch screen controlled by a rotary knob. All i3 models benefit from the upgraded BMW iDrive 6 interface for 2018, and although the base display is still a dinky 6.5-inch unit, ordering the Technology and Driving Assistant package adds navigation and a 10.3-inch screen. Apple CarPlay joins the options list for 2018 but requires the aforementioned package. It’s somewhat ironic that the i3, one of BMW’s most technologically advanced vehicles, is not up to date with today’s infotainment standards. The car also lacks power points, as there’s only one USB charger in the front center console and none in the rear. BMW is addressing some of these issues: the 2018 i3 will use the latest version of BMW’s infotainment system, iDrive 6. It features an easy-to-use tiled interface, much like apps on a smartphone. It also has improved voice recognition, the capability for over-the-air updates, and smart mapping that shows the car’s current range radius.

Safety Features and Crash Test Ratings

For more information about the BMW i3’s crash-test results, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) websites.


Some older vehicles are still eligible for coverage under a manufacturer's Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) program. For more information visit our guide to every manufacturer's CPO program.


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