New Car Review

2016 BMW i3: New Car Review

RELATED INVENTORY
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Certified 2016 BMW i3
Certified 2016 BMW i3
$26,500
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2016 BMW i3 w/ Range Extender
Used 2016 BMW i3
$24,680
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2016 BMW i3 w/ Range Extender
Used 2016 BMW i3
$21,900
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Certified 2016 BMW i3 w/ Range Extender
Certified 2016 BMW i3
$25,890
RELATED READING
See all BMW i3 articles
RESEARCH BY MAKE
Toyota cars, trucks and SUVs Ford cars, trucks and SUVs Honda cars, trucks and SUVs Chevrolet cars, trucks and SUVs Jeep cars, trucks and SUVs Nissan cars, trucks and SUVs Mercedes-Benz cars, trucks and SUVs Volkswagen cars, trucks and SUVs BMW cars, trucks and SUVs
Acura cars, trucks and SUVs Alfa Romeo cars, trucks and SUVs AMC cars, trucks and SUVs Aston Martin cars, trucks and SUVs Audi cars, trucks and SUVs Bentley cars, trucks and SUVs BMW cars, trucks and SUVs Bugatti cars, trucks and SUVs Buick cars, trucks and SUVs Cadillac cars, trucks and SUVs Chevrolet cars, trucks and SUVs Chrysler cars, trucks and SUVs Daewoo cars, trucks and SUVs Datsun cars, trucks and SUVs DeLorean cars, trucks and SUVs Dodge cars, trucks and SUVs Eagle cars, trucks and SUVs Ferrari cars, trucks and SUVs FIAT cars, trucks and SUVs Fisker cars, trucks and SUVs Ford cars, trucks and SUVs Freightliner cars, trucks and SUVs Genesis cars, trucks and SUVs Geo cars, trucks and SUVs GMC cars, trucks and SUVs Honda cars, trucks and SUVs HUMMER cars, trucks and SUVs Hyundai cars, trucks and SUVs INFINITI cars, trucks and SUVs Isuzu cars, trucks and SUVs Jaguar cars, trucks and SUVs Jeep cars, trucks and SUVs Kia cars, trucks and SUVs Lamborghini cars, trucks and SUVs Land Rover cars, trucks and SUVs Lexus cars, trucks and SUVs Lincoln cars, trucks and SUVs Lotus cars, trucks and SUVs Maserati cars, trucks and SUVs Maybach cars, trucks and SUVs MAZDA cars, trucks and SUVs McLaren cars, trucks and SUVs Mercedes-Benz cars, trucks and SUVs Mercury cars, trucks and SUVs MINI cars, trucks and SUVs Mitsubishi cars, trucks and SUVs Nissan cars, trucks and SUVs Oldsmobile cars, trucks and SUVs Plymouth cars, trucks and SUVs Pontiac cars, trucks and SUVs Porsche cars, trucks and SUVs RAM cars, trucks and SUVs Rolls-Royce cars, trucks and SUVs Saab cars, trucks and SUVs Saturn cars, trucks and SUVs Scion cars, trucks and SUVs smart cars, trucks and SUVs SRT cars, trucks and SUVs Subaru cars, trucks and SUVs Suzuki cars, trucks and SUVs Tesla cars, trucks and SUVs Toyota cars, trucks and SUVs Volkswagen cars, trucks and SUVs Volvo cars, trucks and SUVs Yugo cars, trucks and SUVs
RESEARCH BY STYLE
AWD/4WD
Commercial
Convertible
Coupe
Hatchback
Hybrid/Electric
Luxury
Sedan
SUV/Crossover
Truck
Van/Minivan
Wagon
ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader April 2016

The 2016 BMW i3 is a compact all-electric hatchback -- and a whole lot more. Instead of taking an existing car platform, BMW started with a clean sheet of paper (or, more probably, a blank computer screen) and approached the concept of an electric vehicle from a fresh direction.

Not surprisingly, the priorities of electric vehicles are often different to those of conventional cars. While gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles can replenish their energy supply with relative ease, electric vehicles need to make the most of each tiny watt's worth of power. Weight must be avoided as much as possible. So BMW uses an aluminum tub onto which things such as suspension parts, a lithium-ion battery pack and motor mounts are affixed. Over the tub is a body made mostly from carbon-fiber reinforced plastic, which is as strong as steel but with only half the heft.

Special consideration has been given to the i3's footprint -- not just the contact patches of the large-diameter skinny-width tires but also sustainability in the manufacturing process, as well as the materials used inside and out. Even the owner's manual is made from recycled paper.

This is not a low-slung sports machine created for empty canyon roads. It's a car for cities, where more charging stations are being provided, so a high driving position and excellent visibility are essential factors in the design. Just as city buildings go up instead of out, so does the i3. This creates plenty of headroom, and the rear seats will hold a couple of average-sized adults with ease.

In short, the i3 is out of the ordinary but makes perfect sense.

What's New for 2016?

The 2016 BMW i3 is unchanged from the previous year.

What We Like

Instant acceleration; tidy handling; high-tech cabin

What We Don't

Inconvenient rear doors; pricier than some rivals

How Much?

$43,395-$47,245

Fuel Economy

The rear-wheel-drive BMW i3 comes with an electric motor powered by a 22-kilowatt-hour (kWh) lithium-ion battery pack. This motor develops 170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque.

The Range Extender version adds a 600cc 2-cylinder gasoline engine (essentially a flat twin from BMW's motorcycle division), rated at 38 hp and 41 lb-ft, that functions as an onboard generator for the electric motor. It doesn't provide any more muscle; it's simply there as an antidote to range anxiety.

Using a regular household outlet, it takes 20 hours to recharge the battery completely. A special 240-volt outlet requires 4 hours. There's also a standard-issue DC fast charger that enables a full charge in just 30 minutes at compatible charging stations.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the standard i3 provides 81 miles of range on a full charge. The Range Extender model's maximum range increases to 150 miles, but its gasoline engine adds roughly 330 pounds, dropping battery-powered range to 72 miles.

The EPA has a particular way of measuring efficiency in electric vehicles: miles-per-gallon gasoline equivalent (mpge). One gallon of gas is equivalent to 33.7 kWh of energy. The base i3 is estimated to consume 27 kWh every 100 miles, which works out to 124 mpge; the Range Extender consumes 29 kWh per 100 miles for 117 mpge. As a comparison, the 2016 Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid is rated at 102 mpge, although its total range of 420 miles dwarfs the i3's maximum.

Standard Features & Options

The BMW i3 is a 4-seat hatchback that comes in base ($43,395) and Range Extender ($47,245) forms. Each is offered in Mega World, Giga World and Tera World subtrims. Bear in mind that there are state and federal credits to buying a vehicle powered by alternative fuels, which will offset the retail price. And many cities offer free electricity in free parking areas.

The Mega World trim comes with 19-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and taillights, rear parking sensors, an onboard DC fast charger, heated front seats, automatic climate control, auto-dimming mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, vinyl/cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth phone connectivity and BMW's iDrive infotainment system with a 6.5-in display, navigation, a USB port, HD Radio and satellite radio.

The Giga World subtrim adds different 19-in wheels, a sunroof, keyless entry/ignition, leather/wool interior trim and a universal garage-door opener.

Tera World has its own design of 19-in wheels and a full leather interior with textile accents.

A Technology and Driving Assistant package is optional on all models. It includes an upgraded wide-screen iDrive system with a touchpad interface, Bluetooth audio and USB connectivity, adaptive cruise control and a forward-collision mitigation system with automatic braking. A Parking Assistant package can also be specified, which features a rearview camera, front parking sensors and a parallel self-parking system. Additional options include 20-in wheels and an upgraded Harman Kardon audio system.

Cargo space behind the rear seats measures 15.1 cu ft. and 36.9 cu ft. with those seats folded down. That's not bad for a compact hatchback, but the Volkswagen e-Golf (for example) gives significantly more: 22.8 cu ft. and 52.7 cu ft. with folded-down seats.

Safety

The i3 comes with stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and six airbags (front, front-side and full-length side-curtain). Optional safety features include a rearview camera, adaptive cruise control and forward-collision mitigation with automatic braking.

Behind the Wheel

The i3 is unlike any other car. Vehicle information is provided by twin high-resolution display screens (one behind the steering wheel and one in the center of the dash). Every i3 comes with a distinctive combination of interior materials, and while not every theme will meet with universal approval, none of them are dull. Despite the high-tech gadgetry, most functions are easy to learn and use, aided by BMW's much-improved iDrive interface (with available touchpad functionality).

Rear passengers enjoy spacious accommodation for such a small car, with adequate legroom and generous headroom. Access isn't straightforward, however. The rear-hinged back doors can't open unless the front doors are open (there's no B-pillar), which is particularly inconvenient if another car is parked alongside.

The sprint to 60 miles per hour is arguably irrelevant, but the i3 manages to do it in 6.5 seconds. It actually feels a lot quicker, though, because there's a lot of thrust available from standstill. Such responsiveness is a particular electric vehicle (EV) attribute.

The i3 also brings the concept of 1-pedal driving. This sounds off-putting, but it's easy to get to grips with. Because of the regenerative brake function (that captures and stores energy that might otherwise be lost), the car slows as the driver eases off the throttle: The more pronounced the lift-off, the more forceful the slowdown. In city driving, this stop/go ability is far less tiring and stressful than having to dance the right foot between two pedals.

What might be less expected is the i3's well-tuned handling, courtesy of a nearly 50:50 front/rear weight distribution and BMW's expertise in rear-drive dynamics. If you want an engaging EV for less than half the price of a Tesla Model S, the i3 is the one. Happily, it's also supple and quiet in normal driving for suitably upscale manners.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 Chevrolet Volt -- The innovative Volt is undoubtedly the most versatile vehicle on this list thanks to its plug-in hybrid setup, which lets it function like a regular gasoline-powered hybrid for longer trips. Its electric-only range is comparatively modest, however. A new generation has debuted for 2016.

2016 Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive -- The B-Class EV offers quick acceleration and a relatively spacious interior, although its styling is bland when compared with the i3, which may or may not be preferable. Its maximum range is 85 miles.

2016 Volkswagen e-Golf -- VW's electrified 4-door Golf has about the same range as the standard i3 (83 miles). It also has a handier back seat and more cargo space for less money.

Used Tesla Model S -- Electric cars are still quite new and rare, so there isn't a healthy used market right now. A pre-owned Tesla Model S would still be more expensive than a new i3.

Autotrader's Advice

The main challenge is charging infrastructure, so an EV is only convenient if a buyer's transportation needs are relatively routine. Things haven't progressed to the point where this could be an only car for many people. But as a second car, the 2016 BMW i3 might be an ideal choice.

Find a BMW i3 for sale

RELATED INVENTORY
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Certified 2016 BMW i3
Certified 2016 BMW i3
$26,500
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2016 BMW i3 w/ Range Extender
Used 2016 BMW i3
$24,680
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Used 2016 BMW i3 w/ Range Extender
Used 2016 BMW i3
$21,900
Saving this vehicle to yourMy Autotrader account
Are you sure you want to delete?
Certified 2016 BMW i3 w/ Range Extender
Certified 2016 BMW i3
$25,890
This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 BMW i3: New Car Review - Autotrader