2018 BMW i3 Review
The BMW i3 is probably one of the most innovative cars on the road today. That's true even though it's currently in its fifth model year. BMW pioneered the use of carbon fiber as the basis for the production car's structure to save weight. And it paid off: The i3 is quite lightweight for a battery-electric car, abetting its agile nature and quick acceleration. Other manufacturers still have a ways to go to catch up to BMW in this choice of material.
The i3's styling is polarizing; of that there is no doubt. But it looks like no other car on the road and has a cabin that is truly striking and upscale. It's functional, too, with a breezy, spacious feel and easy backseat access thanks to the rearward-hinged rear doors. These doors can turn into a bit of a hassle in tight parking lot quarters, however.
You've got a new choice for an i3 this year: the i3s. It boasts a more powerful electric motor, a sport-tuned suspension, and wider tires to improve performance and handling. BMW is still offering the Range Extender version, too, which has a tiny gasoline engine (and fuel tank) that serves as an electric generator. It gives you a little more range once the battery runs out of juice, but the main appeal is peace of mind.
From a logical standpoint, the 2018 BMW i3 doesn't fare all that great in relation to its main competitors. You can get more driving range from the Chevrolet Bolt and the Nissan Leaf, for instance, and both cars are less expensive to boot. But the BMW earns back some emotional points by being a nicer car to drive and spend time in. The same could be said for Tesla's new Model 3, however. It matches the i3 for premium design and performance and, as the kicker, offers potentially two or three times the driving range.
Notably, we picked the 2018 BMW i3 as one of Edmunds' Best Electric Cars for this year.
trim levels & features
The 2018 BMW i3 is a four-door hatchback with seating for four passengers that's available in i3 or i3s trim, both of which are battery-electric, or you can have either one additionally equipped with a gasoline-powered Range Extender. All four versions are equipped with a 33-kWh battery.
Base i3 models are equipped with an electric motor (170 hp, 184 lb-ft of torque) that drives the rear wheels. With the same battery as last year's model, there's enough energy for an estimated 114 miles of range. It comes well equipped with 19-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and Level 3 DC fast-charging capability. Inside, the interior upholstery is cloth (Deka World) and it comes with keyless entry, rain-sensing headlights, adaptive cruise, heated front seats, Bluetooth, HD and satellite radio, and BMW's basic Business navigation system with a modest 6.5-inch display screen.
New this year is the i3s, which has more power and sharper handling than the i3. The electric motor in the i3s cranks out 184 hp and 199 lb-ft of torque, which shortens its sprint from zero to 60 mph to 6.8 seconds (0.4 second quicker than the base i3). Compared to the i3, the i3s' ride height sits 0.4 inch lower, and its fenders, track width (the distance between the center of the tires), 20-inch wheels and performance tires are wider. The wider, stickier tires come with a modest penalty — maximum range drops to 107 miles.
The only difference between the all-electric and the Range Extender versions is, quite simply, the range-extending, 0.6-liter two-cylinder gasoline generator, which is the same as last year's. Because the Range Extender is heavier, these models don't travel quite as far when operating on electricity alone, maxing out at an estimated 97 miles. A 2.3-gallon fuel tank enables a combined range of 180 miles for both Range Extender versions of i3 and i3s models.
All models can be equipped with the Technology + Driving Assistant package, which adds advanced navigation with a widescreen display and advanced real-time traffic, all-speed adaptive cruise control, and forward collision warning with emergency braking. Opting for this package allows Apple CarPlay to be added, too.
For the i3, BMW offers three main upholstery packages — Mega World, Giga World and Tera World — that add combinations of leather and wool or full-leather upholstery plus different wheels and interior trim. Stand-alone options include parking sensors, 20-inch wheels (for the regular i3), a premium Harman Kardon audio system and a sunroof.
Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions, although trim levels share many aspects. The ratings in this review are based on our Full Test of the 2017 BMW i3 w/Range Extender (battery electric w/0.6L 2-cyl. gasoline generator | 1-speed direct drive | RWD).
NOTE: Since this test was conducted, the current i3 has received some revisions, including an updated infotainment system and a revised stability control calibration. Our findings remain broadly applicable to this year's i3.
Noise & vibration
Ease of use
Getting in/getting out
Child safety seat accommodation
Audio & navigation
edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.