2015 BMW i3 Review
2015 BMW i3 Review
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Edmunds' Expert Review
by the Edmunds Experts
- Roomy four-person cabin
- quick acceleration and strong brakes
- nimble handling
- excellent visibility
- well-made and stylish interior
- versatile cargo area for an EV
- available gasoline-fueled range extender.
- Pricier than most entry-level EVs
- rear-hinged rear doors aren't so great if you frequently take along rear passengers.
The 2015 BMW i3 now gets heated front seats, satellite radio and an onboard DC fast-charging unit as standard.
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.
Continue reading Edmunds Expert Rating below
2015 BMW i3 EV Insights
See All EV Insights
Estimated Range Based on Age
Estimated range mapThis map is a visual representation of the possible one-way and round-trips by this vehicle (on a full charge) from the geometric center of Ashburn, Virginia. The depicted ranges are based on the estimated new vehicle range value provided by the EPA, rounded down to miles for one-way and miles for round-trip. Actual range will vary depending on the condition of this vehicle’s battery pack, how you drive, driving conditions and other factors. from
Charging at Home
No charging time information available
EV Battery Warranty
8 yrs or 100,000 milesThe federal government requires that EV batteries be warrantied for a minimum of eight years or 100,000 miles. The EV battery warranty includes replacement if your battery capacity drops below a certain percentage of the original capacity.
Exceeded original 8 year warranty.Warranty remaining value is based on the vehicle year, and on driving 14,000 miles per year. Confirm exact warranty coverage for each vehicle with the dealers and the manufacturer before purchasing.
EV Tax Credits & Rebates
Available Rebates. Restrictions apply.
- Restrictions: Beginning January 1, 2023, qualified previously owned electric vehicle or fuel cell vehicle purchased for $25,000 or less, may be eligible for a tax credit under The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (Previously-owned clean vehicles).
For used vehicles sold on or after January 1, 2023, the Clean Vehicle Credit provisions are subject to updated guidance from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the U.S. Department of the Treasury.Eligibility under the Previously-owned clean vehicles Credit for Battery Electric (BEV), or Plug-in Hybrid PHEV vehicles are:
- Vehicle price cannot exceed $25,000.
- Verification of the vehicle's Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).
- Gross vehicle weight rating must be less than 14,000 pounds.
- Used vehicle must be at least two model years older than the current calendar year in which the vehicle was purchased.
- Must be the first transfer of title since January 1, 2023 and vehicle must be sold through a dealership, private sales not permitted.
- Who has not been allowed a credit under this section for any sale during the 3-year period ending on the date of the sale of such vehicle.
- With respect to whom no deduction is allowable with respect to another taxpayer under section 151
- Purchased for personal use, not a business, corporation or for resale.
- For joint head of household, $150,000,
- For an individual head of household, $112,500, and
- For an individual, $75,000
To learn more, visit https://www.irs.gov/credits-deductions/used-clean-vehicle-credit
- Restrictions: Dominion Energy offers EV owners a rebate of up to $125 towards the cost of a Level 2 charging station.
To qualify for this rebate, the customer and/or charging station must meet the following requirements:
- Receive electricity from Dominion Energy.
- Have an electric or plug-in hybrid vehicle.
- Networked/Smart charging capabilities to program the station to off-peak periods and respond to managed charging events
- You also earn a $40 e-gift card on the anniversary of your enrollment every year you remain enrolled.
Cost to Drive
Monthly estimates based on costs in Virginia
Built with lightweight aluminum and carbon fiber, driven by an electric motor (with an optional gasoline-powered range extender) and styled as if it rolled out from Ed Begley, Jr's future garage, the 2015 BMW i3 is truly one of the most distinctive vehicles on the road. These departures from the norm don't make this BMW any less likable, though. In actuality, the BMW i3 is a sharp-driving and very user-friendly vehicle that could work out well for a wide variety of EV car shoppers.
Introduced last year, the i3 features a mechanical undercarriage and battery housing constructed of lightweight aluminum, while the upper body structure is carbon fiber. This combination keeps the i3's weight down by hundreds of pounds compared to other electric cars, and less weight translates to improved efficiency and quicker acceleration. With its 170-horsepower electric motor driving the rear wheels, the i3 can scoot to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds, which is impressively quick for an EV. The i3's relatively light weight and low center of gravity also contribute to nimble handling characteristics and strong braking power.
As is the case with any electric car, your first concern with the i3 is probably range. Similar to many other electric cars, the i3 gets an EPA-estimated range of 81 miles. While that's enough for most daily driving, you can also opt for the available gasoline-fueled range extender generator (REX in BMW parlance) that gives the i3 an additional 70 miles of potential range. It's a unique offering for this class of car, and certainly eliminates concerns about running out of juice while on the road. Performance does drop considerably when running on gas, though, and stopping every 60 miles or so to refuel is no way to tour the country.
Yet, even if you forget all about the high-tech construction and powertrain, the i3 is actually a nice car. There's a classy looking interior, solid build quality and an impressive amount of practicality. Open up the rear-hinged doors and you'll find there's enough space for full size adults, while the cargo area can hold a Costco-sized load of groceries thanks to the fold-flat rear seats. Even outward visibility is very good in the i3.
Once you start to cross-shop the 2015 BMW i3 with its competitors, you'll see just how appealing it is. True, it is more expensive than EVs like the 2015 Nissan Leaf or 2015 Ford Focus Electric, but the i3 does offer a lot of superior attributes in return. Among this group, the 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf comes closest to matching the i3's quality. On the other end of the scale is the 2015 Tesla Model S, which is fantastic but also significantly more expensive. The Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive is the i3's most direct rival. It's more spacious than the i3 but less efficient, not as upscale and only available in a few select states. All things considered, we highly recommend checking out the Edmunds "A" rated 2015 BMW i3.
Performance & mpg
The 2015 BMW i3 is powered by a 125-kilowatt electric motor fed by a 22-kilowatt-hour (kWh) lithium-ion battery pack located beneath the floor. Whether you go with the regular i3 or with the Range Extender (REX) version, the resulting 170 hp and 184 pound-feet of torque is sent to the rear wheels.
The i3 Range Extender model incorporates a small two-cylinder gasoline engine (with a 2.4-gallon fuel tank) that serves as a generator to supply recharging electricity to the battery pack. So equipped, the i3's range rises to about 150 miles. This range is still much less than genuine plug-in hybrids like the Chevrolet Volt or Ford Fusion Energi provide, however.
In Edmunds performance testing, an i3 without the range extender went from zero to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds, making it by far the quickest electric vehicle we've tested other than the more expensive Tesla Model S. Because of the extra weight of the two-cylinder electric generator on board, the 0-60 time for the i3 REX slows to 7.1 seconds. When the battery is depleted and the i3 REX relies on the generator, the 0-60 time slows dramatically to 13.7 seconds.
In Edmunds testing on our suburban electric vehicle evaluation route, the i3 went 95.8 miles on a single charge. This is a few miles shorter than other, similarly priced EVs, but still acceptable for most commutes. We also confirmed the EPA's estimate that the i3 will average a range of about 80 miles. Switching to the Eco Pro or Eco Pro+ modes can eke out a few extra miles of range, but you have to live with dulled accelerator response and/or weakened air-conditioning. For the i3 Range Extender, the EPA says electric-only range drops to 72 miles. In Edmunds testing, the i3 REX went 87.6 miles on a single charge before the engine generator came to life.
The EPA rates this powertrain's efficiency at 27 kWh used per 100 miles driven (29 kWh/100 miles for REX). Remember: the lower the number here, the better. For comparison, the Nissan Leaf is estimated to use 30 kWh per 100 miles and the Tesla Model S with a 60 kW battery pack is estimated to use 35 kWh per 100 miles.
Full recharging times from a depleted battery range from more than 20 hours when plugged into a normal 110-volt household outlet down to about four hours using a 240-volt outlet. The i3's navigation or smartphone app systems can help in locating ChargePoint public charging stations, and the i3's DC fast-charging system can fully recharge the battery in just 30 minutes (assuming you have access to one of these rare charging stations).
Standard safety features on the 2015 BMW i3 include antilock disc brakes (with brake drying), stability and traction control, front seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Also standard are BMW Assist eCall and Remote Services, which include automatic collision notification, an emergency request button, stolen vehicle recovery, remote door unlock and a remote control smartphone app.
Rear parking sensors are standard, and a rearview camera and front parking sensors are available as options. Among its other add-ons, the Technology + Driving Assistant package includes adaptive cruise control, a lane departure warning system and forward collision warning (with pedestrian detection) that includes automatic braking for frontal collision mitigation.
In Edmunds brake testing, a standard i3 came to a stop from 60 mph in 109 feet, which is superb for a car equipped with low-rolling-resistance tires. Naturally, the i3 with the range extender is a heavier car (by about 300 pounds), but with the same tires it came to a stop from 60 mph in just 111 feet.
While virtually all battery-powered cars offer snappier acceleration than most people expect (thanks to the instantly available torque characteristic of electric motors), the 2015 BMW i3 turns out to be even quicker than the norm. 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.
With a REX-equipped i3, you'll never have to worry about running out of electric power and getting stranded on the road. As soon as the battery pack gets low, the gasoline generator automatically turns on to provide enough power to keep you going. But this is more of a safety net than a true propulsion mode. The i3 is noticeably slower when relying on the generator, and the motorhome-like generator's noise is unavoidable.
Because of its skinny tires and higher than average ride height, the i3 can't match BMW's traditional models in terms of handling prowess. But its tight turning circle, precise steering and small size give it a decidedly nimble feeling at slower speeds, making it a natural at navigating crowded urban streets and slipping into tight curbside spots owners of many larger vehicles have to drive right on by. Ride quality is also more livable than other cars this size, though the i3's narrow tires are a bit susceptible to following grooved highway pavement.
For more driving impressions, check out our long-term test of a 2014 BMW i3.
Like the exterior, the interior of the 2015 BMW i3 is distinctive and modern. The space is remarkably quiet and the look is stylish, with its thin flat-panel display screens and shifter pod mounted next to the far-telescoping steering wheel. The different trim packages, or Worlds, each provide a different ambience due to their unique mix of renewable, recycled and otherwise eco-friendly materials. As unusual as the cabin is, though, there's still a typical BMW array of climate and infotainment controls. The latest version of BMW's iDrive controller is pretty easy to use thanks to straightforward menus, crisp graphics and quick processing times.
The front seats are comfortable and their raised positioning gives the driver excellent outward visibility. In back, the two-person rear seat offers decent legroom and plenty of headroom. There's also a wide opening to get in and out of (or put your personal items on one of the backseats) thanks to the i3's rear-hinged access doors. But getting in the back is a two-step process, as you must open both side doors to get back there. Also, getting in and out of the backseat isn't easy for taller passengers, as the i3's opening isn't all that tall.
Cargo capacity is on the small side, with just 11.8 cubic feet behind the rear seats and a total of 36.9 cubic feet with those seats folded down. Unlike in most EV competitors, though, the rear seats fold flat and the trunk space itself is unfettered by oddly shaped, protruding panels. We also like how there's plenty of interior storage for water bottles or other small items.
2015 BMW i3 models
The 2015 BMW i3 is a four-door hatchback with seating for four passengers. It is offered in equally equipped full electric and Range Extender models. Both come in three different trim packages: base Mega World, Giga World and Tera World.
The entry-level Mega's list of standard features includes 19-inch alloy wheels, LED lighting (automatic headlights, taillights and running lights), automatic wipers, auto-dimming mirrors, cruise control, automatic climate control, heated front seats, "SensaTec" premium vinyl and cloth upholstery, 50/50-split folding rear seats, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a navigation system, the iDrive electronics interface with a 6.5-inch screen and a sound system that includes a USB audio interface, an auxiliary audio jack and satellite/HD radio. A DC fast-charging port is also included.
Stepping up to the Giga model gets you distinctive 19-inch alloy wheels, keyless ignition and entry and upgraded interior upholstery and trim. The top-of-the-line Tera only differs from the Giga with its own unique 19-inch alloy wheels and full leather upholstery.
Options include a Technology + Driving Assistant package that features adaptive cruise control (with stop-and-go capability), a lane departure warning system, forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic braking for frontal collision mitigation, an upgraded navigation system (with a wider screen and enhanced EV-related information), real-time traffic and BMW's Online and Apps services.
The Parking Assistant package adds front parking sensors, a rearview camera and an automated parallel parking feature. Stand-alone options include 20-inch wheels and a 12-speaker Harman Kardon premium audio system.
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most helpful consumer reviews
4 out of 5 stars
Sold the V12 Mercedes to go electric
Michael Chard, 11/17/2015
2015 BMW i3 4dr Hatchback w/Range Extender (0.6L 2cyl gas/electric plug-in hybrid DD)
I hesitantly sold my Mercedes CL600 and decided to lease the i3 REx to replace it. I am not a tree hugger but I am a technology geek and the i3 has some fantastic technology built in. My first impression of the i3 was that this is one ugly car and I did not like the look of the pizza cutter tires. However, after driving it for several weeks, not only have the looks grown on me (as … well as the 20 inch skinny tires), but i find it the car extremely enjoyable to drive. In fact, it is so enjoyable that my wife prefers the drive to her Range Rover Sport and is constantly asking me to leave it at home so she can drive it. The off-the-line acceleration is fantastic, which has helped alleviate the sorrow of losing my V12 gasoline engine. The interior room for the front occupants is extremely roomy (I am 6'1" with a large frame). For a sub-compact car, this feels roomier than most other much larger cars. The user interface took a while to learn, but now that I am familiar with it, I am very impressed. The entertainment options are endless, especially when I connect my iPhone and use all of the music, streaming and pod cast services. I use the car primarily to commute to work, 36 miles round trip. I am also able to charge the car at work. For commuting, the car is ideal. I do have the range extender, but I have never actually used it as I have good charging options between work and home but it does take range anxiety out of the equation. If I had to pick anything that I don't like, it is the placement of the electrical charging port, which is located on the back, passenger side of the car. This requires me to get the charging cable and walk around to the other side. While this is clearly a first-world problem, it would have been much easier to locate the charging port close to the driver's door. The materials inside are excellent and I especially like the wood in the dash. I leased the vehicle because I am not yet comfortable with the residual value of an EV, but given the subsidies available, and the fact that I no longer buy gasoline, this is a very economical vehicle to operate. Overall, I was just looking for a very different car experience from buying another internal combustion car. The experience so far is highly recommended.
5 out of 5 stars
Its a BMW and an EV!
2014 BMW i3 4dr Hatchback (electric DD)
I have driven BMWs for 10+ years and this all-electric BMW lives up to the ultimate driving machine claim. It is sporty and solid and handles the road like my 328i. It is filled with high technology with a large screen for nav, music, apps, and information. The construction is solid and the carbon fiber and all-aluminum construction makes the car safe and rust-free. Bodywork is actually … less costly than a steel car. This is not for long trips as the practical range in temperate weather is 80-90 miles. But get the DC fast charge option as that has helped me go 300+ miles at times.
5 out of 5 stars
i3 VS 2013 Chevy Volt
Bruce M., 08/29/2015
2015 BMW i3 4dr Hatchback w/Range Extender (0.6L 2cyl gas/electric plug-in hybrid DD)
My volt lease was up and I couldn't extend to wait for the 16 volt. So I wanted to stay electric and this was the only other choice with "range extending" capabilities. So as a VERY happy Volt owner I was very worried about changing. So here is the deal. Had the car a week with a mix of city and freeway driving at speeds up to 75 mph. BMW -the plusses: way faster acceleration . … Way quieter ride. Better road feel and solid feeling. Perfect regenerative braking. Much roomier cabin and comfort for tall folks ( Im 6'3). Better/Great turning radius. Perfect higher but not to high seating/drivin position. Easy In&Out. Considerably better battery range - about 72 miles / compared to 38 miles. Better regenerative battery charging in city driving. Able to extend mileage better. Much better BMW 4 year full maintenance warranty. Love the "coast" mode when you just ease off the gas just right. One pedal driving!! Love that! Easier access to rear seats. Better safety features ( adaptive cruise control with city stop start is awesome). Have not seen this on another car. Set it for 40 mph. Brings you to a stop in traffic and stays engaged. Then starts you up again when the light changes. Pretty much auto pilot driving. Auto magic Parallel parking mode. (Have not tried this yet so can't say if it actually works well or not). Traffic nav system included with best energy routes based on traffic. Better solid German build quality compared to volt. Switch gear , fit and finish. So whats not to like that the Volt does better? Ride still to "stiff" and I have the 19" wheels. It's on the border of being the perfect balance. The 20" wheels have a lower profile tire so I am sure they would make the ride even more stiff which would not be good. I don't know why so many car manufacturers keep making such stiff suspensions when most americans like a softer ride. Cant you find the right balance? Some cars do, but a lot don't. (Rumor is the new 2016 volt will have a better ride quality than the current model). Also not good in the BMW is the car is a bit "skittery" on broken pavement when taking a turn. Especially the back can kick out. This is because it is very light and the tires are very thin. But the regular handling on decent roads feels good but the steering is very "sensitive. Especially at freeway speeds. The slightest movement of the wheel really moves the car. I may get used to this but for now I have a harder time keeping the car in a straight line. Don't know if this is the thin tires or light weight or weight of the electric steering or a combination of all three but this is where the volt drives much better. User customization of the many features of the car is lacking and much better in the Volt. Range extender engine is much quieter in the BMW but has only a 1.9 gallon tank which will get you about 60 miles more if full. Volt holds 8 gallons so gets you the range of a regular car. So the BMW is really a city car with the bonus of if you need to make a ton of trips across town in one day, you can do it. So if you are cool with just a city car you should not have any concerns about the BMW. Larger side mirrors on the volt are better. New volt will have lane departure warning and blind spot monitoring. BMW doesn't have that. Kind of baffling as this is tech that many cheap american cars now have. In particular blind spot monitoring is a very worthwhile feature in my opinion. Oh forgot. Volt radio , even the high end Bose upgrade is not that good. It's OK but The BMW with the upgraded Harmon radio is great in comparison. Big beef. Charging port on the BMW is on the passenger side REAR of the car! So pretty much you need to back in to any parking space or your home if you want to charge. The volt is just in front of the drivers door. Perfect spot. Not sure I understand the logic of the rear charging door. But the BMW has a lighted charging port that changes colors. cool. Also BMW has super fast Tesla like DC charging built in at no extra cost. Now if only you can find a DC charging station. Someday. Some of the interior "eco" materials used on the BMW make it feel weird and cheap. It is recycled material but it looks like crap. I'm sure the germans can figure out a way to make recycled material look nice and have a soft finish which would make the car even quieter. Cost. Volt is 10,000 cheaper for the loaded model. Thats a big difference. The volt in three years has been almost 100% trouble free. A very rare thing for a high tech car. i give GM very high kudos for building such a high quality car that has not needed to be in the shop. Summary? I'm liking the much quieter ride and super power acceleration and better comfort of the Beemer. The unique styling can be a turn off for some but I think it grows on most people. Now lets see if it is as reliable and trouble free as the volt. I hope so. I'll report back after more driving.
5 out of 5 stars
Dianne Vanditmars, 04/26/2015
2015 BMW i3 4dr Hatchback (electric DD)
Used primarily as a daily drive to/from work, 48km each way. This leaves 15km - 40km at the end of the day. Level2 charger in the garage keeps the BMW i3 BEV full. Off the line and even on the highway this is a very responsive car. The high seating position and very open design gives a great view of the road. Saving $2,100 per year due to 1/10th energy costs and 1/2 maintenance and … service costs. A very practical and fun car to drive for me around town, makes the commute that much better. Service costs are very low, and the car has excellent reliability. After 4 1/2 years of ownership, the car electric range has dropped maybe 5 km out of the typical 120 km.
We have a limited number of reviews for the 2015 BMW i3, so we've included reviews for other years of the i3 since its last redesign.
2015 i3 Highlights
|Cost to Drive||$51/month|
|Drivetrain||rear wheel drive|
|Warranty||4 years / 50,000 miles|
|EV Battery Warranty||8 years / 100,000 miles|