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Top Features of Base Model
- Bigger battery now gives 150 miles of range, more with range extender
- BMW brand cachet
- Oodles of high tech
- Among the most efficient EVs sold
- Standard ‘one-pedal’ driving
BMW i3: Everything You Need to Know
About the i3:
The BMW i3 is an unusual car. It’s a small, pricey, battery-electric compact car that comes with an optional range-extending two-cylinder engine. Launched in 2014, it’s packed with high tech, from a carbon-fiber plastic body to the electric drivetrain. It’s peppy and somewhat sporty.
For buyers who want a four-seat electric car from BMW, the i3 is the sole option until at least 2021. Early versions offered less than 100 miles of range, but the 2019 i3 boosts that to 153 miles in the all-electric version. If you add the range extender, you get a total of 200 miles: 126 on the battery, another 74 on gasoline.
Compared to other small hatchback electric cars, the BMW i3 is at least $10,000 more expensive. The styling of the tall, boxy hatchback isn’t to everyone’s tastes, but owners love it. Its main drawback now is that it offers less range than less pricey electric cars from lesser brands.
What’s New in the Current 2019 BMW i3?
For 2019, the BMW i3 got its second increase in battery capacity. A slightly sportier “S” version was added to the lineup last year.
The 2019 BMW i3 is available in four versions:
- BMW i3: This is the battery-electric version powered by a 125-kilowatt (170-horsepower) electric motor producing 184 pound-feet of torque. Its 0-to-60-mph acceleration time is 7.2 seconds. For 2019, it gets a larger 42 kilowatt-hour battery, for an EPA range rating of 153 miles.
- BMW i3 with Range Extender: Adding the optional 38-horsepower two-cylinder range extender cuts battery range to 126 miles, but adds a small gas tank for another 74 miles using the engine, for a total range of 200 miles. The added 300 pounds slows acceleration, which takes 8.0 seconds from 0 to 60 mph.
- BMW i3s: The “S” model adds sportier suspension tuning and more motor power, with output boosted to 135 kilowatts (181 horsepower) and 199 pound-feet of torque. Acceleration from 0 to 60 mph falls to 6.8 seconds. Rated range is unaffected.
- BMW i3s with Range Extender: The optional engine can also be added to the i3s model, which cuts the 0-to-60-mph figure to 7.6 seconds.
What Does the 2019 BMW i3 Compete With?
Like other electric cars, BMW i3 buyers have a mix of motivations. Some go for the newest technology, others want to reduce their environmental footprint, and another group likes the thriftiness of driving on grid electricity.
The competitors for the i3 are both premium imports and other battery-electric models:
The Audi A3 E-tron hatchback, a plug-in hybrid that has just been withdrawn from the market, has the German brand. But it’s mostly a gasoline car, as is the similarly priced BMW 1 Series sport sedan. Electric hatchbacks from Chevy and Nissan lack the BMW brand cachet. But the i3’s strongest competitor is now the Tesla Model 3, with sleeker looks, longer battery range, and a price that can be lower than the little i3.
Exterior Design of the 2019 BMW i3
The BMW i3 looks like no other model in the BMW lineup. It’s a tall, slab-sided compact hatchback on skinny tires. The window line drops abruptly on the small rear door, which is hinged at the rear. That means there’s no pillar between the doors, giving a large opening.
The i3 offers a few optional wheel designs and a limited range of colors. LED lights are standard, and every i3 comes with a black hood and rear hatch, regardless of the body color chosen. Blue accents along panel edges add to the distinctiveness. The design is one you either love or hate, but it sure stands out in a BMW showroom.
Interior Style in the 2019 BMW i3
The inside of the BMW i3 is equally as distinctive as the exterior. But the simple design and the wide, flat dash with two small vertical screens give it an expansive sense of space that belies the car’s small size. It’s a soothing, pleasant place to spend time, up front. Materials vary from carbon-fiber reinforced hard plastic to soft-touch vinyl surfaces, with cloth and open-pore wood as more natural touches. Two-tone treatments in lighter shades give the most spacious feel.
Four people can ride in the i3, but to open the rear-hinged doors to the rear compartment, the fronts must be opened first. That means rear-seat riders are dependent on those in front to let them in and out. Seats are thin but supportive, and all riders sit upright in what’s a short car. Rear legroom is tight, but shoulder and headroom will fit most adults.
Cargo volume behind the rear seat is 15.1 cubic feet, not that much, since there’s an electric motor under the load floor. The optional engine fits under there as well. Cargo capacity rises to 36.9 cubic feet with the rear seat folded down. A small front compartment holds the charging cord, but owners say it’s not water-tight, so it shouldn’t be used for anything that can’t get wet.
What Technology Comes in the 2019 BMW i3?
The BMW i3 may be the most advanced car BMW has ever built, but that applies more to its construction than in features drivers and passengers will notice. The battery-electric drivetrain is highly efficient. That’s helped by a lightweight carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic body on an aluminum chassis. No other maker offers an optional range-extending engine to power an onboard generator. And the mobile-phone app to monitor the car and control some functions is as robust as any.
On the other hand, active-safety features like adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking remain extra-cost options. Even low-end Toyotas offer some of those as standard. And the infotainment system is standard BMW with a few dedicated features for the electric running gear. In its sixth model year, the i3 has few digital features that stand out in any way.
What Kind of Safety Features are in the 2019 BMW i3?
The BMW i3 uses an exceptionally stiff carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic bodyshell on an aluminum chassis with all the running gear. This combination earned top ratings for crash safety from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) when it tested the car. Only its seats and head restraints, deemed “Acceptable,” were rated below the top score of “Good.” The NHTSA, however, has not tested or rated the i3.
A package of advanced safety systems is available, but costs more than $2,000. It bundles automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, navigation, and adaptive LED headlights with automatic high beams.
What is the 2019 BMW i3 like to drive?
Drivers sit upright behind the wheel of the BMW i3, and it doesn’t take long to understand the controls. The most unfamilar one, in fact, may be the rotary knob behind the steering wheel that turns on the car and puts it in gear. The layout of functions, icons, and menus will be familiar to any BMW driver. There’s added info specific to the electric powertrain, of course.
The i3 is a small car, and the handling is tight and nimble. It’s good in cramped city use, and firm-riding on most surfaces. Handling and roadholding is good, but it’s limited by its very tall and narrow tires, which can cause the car to side-step over irregularities while cornering.
BMW has tuned the i3 for aggressive regenerative braking. Lift off the pedal, and the car will steadily slow right down to a stop. The blending of regen and friction braking is flawless. Drivers will learn to find the point in the accelerator travel where the car just coasts, without applying power or slowing down. It invites “one-pedal driving” and makes it easy. Combined with the expansive cabin and good noise suppression, the i3 may be the most tranquil and serene of all BMWs behind the wheel.
The engine in the range-extended i3 does not power the wheels, as in a hybrid like a Toyota Prius. Instead, the little engine is connected only to a generator that produces electricity that’s sent to the battery to power the car. Under extreme circumstances, usually at high speeds on long uphill routes, the range extender may not produce enough power to meet all the car’s needs. If that happens, the car will slow to about 45 mph as the engine howls below the rear deck to try to catch up. It’s disconcerting, to say the least.
Should I Buy a Current 2019 BMW i3?
The 2019 BMW i3 is in its sixth model year, in the later stages of its life. It was a technical marvel when it launched, but it’s been overtaken by longer-range vehicles with less-advanced steel bodies and fewer whizzy features. If you like the car and are comfortable with an effective range of 120 to 200 miles at a price that can hit $50,000, this is the car for you. But there are better electric-car values out there.
Should I buy a Used 2019 BMW i3? Are There Any I Should Avoid?
Used BMW i3 models all look the same, but the critical factor to assess is the battery capacity. From 2014 through 2016, a 22-kilowatt-hour battery pack was rated at 81 miles. Adding the range extender brought combined electric-and-gasoline range to 150 miles. For 2017 and 2018, battery capacity rose to 33 kwh, for ranges of 114 and 180 miles respectively (or 107 miles for the battery-only 2018 BMW i3s).
The lowest-range models are cheaper, with some now at only one-third their original sticker price. Among 2014-2016 models, we recommend one with the range extender for an added margin of range. Note that 2017 BMW i3 all-electric models were offered with both the 22-kwh and 33-kwh packs, so make sure you know which one you’re looking at. Used BMWs remain pricey compared to used electric cars from other brands, so ask yourself how much that BMW badge is worth to you.
How Much Does the New 2019 BMW i3 Cost?
The battery-electric 2019 BMW i3 carries a base price of $44,450. Adding the range extender boosts that to $48,300. The sportier BMW i3s model adds $3,200 to either version.
The tech package with active-safety systems is $2,350. Four trim levels are offered: Deka, Mega, Giga, and Tera. The top Tera trim, the only one that includes full leather upholstery, is a $3,200 upgrade. A mandatory delivery fee of $995 is added to all versions. A puzzling annoyance: after one free year, BMW levies an annual fee of $80 to keep Apple CarPlay working.
The BMW i3 qualifies for a federal income-tax credit of $7,500, along with a variety of state and local incentives. These may help to bring the effective cost down up to $10,000, even as credits for Tesla and Chevrolet electric models start to phase out. But in its sixth model year, the i3 remains an expensive way to drive an electric car. There are cheaper cars with more range out there, including the Tesla Model 3.
Pros and Cons of the 2019 BMW i3
- Distinctive design, outside and in
- Smooth, peppy battery-electric power
- Spacious, serene cabin decor
- Small size ideal for use in crowded cities
- Exterior style far from everyone’s tastes
- Battery range lower than electric cars from other makers
- Escaping the rear seat requires front occupants to open their doors
- At high speeds, range extender may not keep up with power demand
The History of the BMW i3: Six Years of i3
Launched in 2014, the BMW i3 has stayed largely the same through six model years. All years offered two versions: battery-electric and range-extended, commonly abbreviated as i3 REX. For 2018, the sportier BMW i3s was added to the range, in both versions. A very mild style update came that same year as well. Options and trim levels have varied only slightly.
The big update, though, has been in battery capacity, which has risen twice. From 2014 through 2016, the original 22-kilowatt-hour battery pack earned an EPA range rating of 81 miles. With the range extender, combined electric-and-gasoline range went to 150 miles.
For 2017 and 2018, a larger 33-kwh battery gave range ratings of 114 and 180 miles respectively. (The battery-only version of the 2018 BMW i3s was rated at 107 miles.) For 2019, the battery has grown further, to 42 kwh. That boosted rated range to 153 and 200 miles respectively.
Specs & Key Features of the 2019 BMW i3
- Body Style
- 170 hp
- Single Speed
- Passenger Doors
- Passenger Seating
- Rear Wheel Drive
- City MPG
- Hwy MPG
- Air Conditioning
- Apple CarPlay
- Back Up Camera
- Cruise Control
- Heated Seats
- LCD Monitor
- LED Lights
- Leather Steering Wheel
- Remote Keyless Entry
- Tinted Glass
- Electric Motor
- Transmission: Single Speed
- Transmission w/Driver Selectable Mode
- Rear-Wheel Drive
- 9.70 Axle Ratio
- 20-Amp/Hr Maintenance-Free Battery w/Run Down Protection
- Gas-Pressurized Shock Absorbers
- Front Anti-Roll Bar
- Electric Power-Assist Speed-Sensing Steering
- Strut Front Suspension w/Coil Springs
- Multi-Link Rear Suspension w/Coil Springs
- Regenerative 4-Wheel Disc Brakes w/4-Wheel ABS, Front Vented Discs, Brake Assist, Hill Hold Control and Electric Parking Brake
- Lithium Ion Traction Battery w/7.4 kW Onboard Charger, 7 Hrs Charge Time @ 220/240V and0.7 Hr Charge Time @ 440V
- Wheels: 19" x 5.0" Front & 19" x 5.5" Rear BMW i -inc: Turbine-spoke, Style 429
- Tires: 155/70R19 Front & 175/60R19 Rear AS -inc: Non run-flat
- Spare Tire Mobility Kit
- Clearcoat Paint
- Body-Colored Front Bumper w/Black Bumper Insert
- Black Rear Bumper w/Body-Colored Rub Strip/Fascia Accent
- Colored Bodyside Insert
- Metal-Look Side Windows Trim
- Body-Colored Door Handles
- Black Power Auto Dimming Side Mirrors w/Power Folding and Turn Signal Indicator
- Fixed Rear Window w/Fixed Interval Wiper and Defroster
- Light Tinted Glass
- Speed Sensitive Rain Detecting Variable Intermittent Wipers w/Heated Jets
- Front Windshield -inc: Sun Visor Strip
- Composite Panels
- Lip Spoiler
- Reverse Opening Rear Doors
- Liftgate Rear Cargo Access
- Tailgate/Rear Door Lock Included w/Power Door Locks
- Fully Automatic Projector Beam Led Low/High Beam Auto-Leveling Daytime Running Lights Preference Setting Headlamps w/Delay-Off
- Perimeter/Approach Lights
- LED Brakelights
- Radio: AM/FM
- Radio w/Seek-Scan, Clock, Speed Compensated Volume Control, Aux Audio Input Jack, Steering Wheel Controls, Radio Data System and External Memory Control
- 4 Speakers
- Integrated Roof Diversity Antenna
- HD Radio
- SiriusXM Satellite Radio -inc: 1 year all access subscription
- Bluetooth Wireless Phone Connectivity
- 2 LCD Monitors In The Front
- Heated Front Seats
- 6-Way Driver Seat -inc: Manual Recline, Height Adjustment, Fore/Aft Movement and Manual Rear Seat Easy Entry
- 6-Way Passenger Seat -inc: Manual Recline, Height Adjustment, Fore/Aft Movement and Manual Rear Seat Easy Entry
- 50-50 Folding Bench Front Facing Fold Forward Seatback Rear Seat
- Manual Tilt/Telescoping Steering Column
- Gauges -inc: Speedometer, Odometer, Traction Battery Level, Power/Regen, Trip Odometer and Trip Computer
- Fixed Rear Windows and Fixed 3rd Row Windows
- ConnectedDrive Services Selective Service Internet Access
- Leather Steering Wheel
- Front Cupholder
- Rear Cupholder
- Proximity Key For Doors And Push Button Start
- Valet Function
- Remote Keyless Entry w/Integrated Key Transmitter, Illuminated Entry, Illuminated Ignition Switch and Panic Button
- Remote Releases -Inc: Power Cargo Access
- Cruise Control w/Steering Wheel Controls
- Automatic Air Conditioning
- Illuminated Locking Glove Box
- Driver Foot Rest
- Interior Trim -inc: Metal-Look Instrument Panel Insert and Metal-Look Interior Accents
- Full Cloth Headliner
- Cloth Door Trim Insert
- Metal-Look Gear Shift Knob
- Cloth Upholstery
- Day-Night Auto-Dimming Rearview Mirror
- Driver And Passenger Visor Vanity Mirrors w/Driver And Passenger Illumination
- Partial Floor Console w/Storage, Rear Console and 3 12V DC Power Outlets
- Front Map Lights
- Fade-To-Off Interior Lighting
- Full Carpet Floor Covering -inc: Carpet Front And Rear Floor Mats
- Carpet Floor Trim
- Rigid Cargo Cover
- Cargo Features -inc: Spare Tire Mobility Kit
- Cargo Space Lights
- FOB Controls -inc: Trunk/Hatch/Tailgate and Windows
- Integrated Navigation System
- Tracker System
- Apple CarPlay Compatibility w/1 Year Trial
- Dashboard Storage, Driver And Passenger Door Bins
- Power 1st Row Windows w/Driver And Passenger 1-Touch Up/Down
- Delayed Accessory Power
- Power Door Locks w/Autolock Feature
- Systems Monitor
- Trip Computer
- Outside Temp Gauge
- Digital Display
- Fixed Front Head Restraints and Manual Adjustable Rear Head Restraints
- Front Center Armrest w/Storage
- Perimeter Alarm
- Engine Immobilizer
- 3 12V DC Power Outlets
- Air Filtration
- Electronic Stability Control (ESC)
- ABS And Driveline Traction Control
- Side Impact Beams
- Dual Stage Driver And Passenger Seat-Mounted Side Airbags
- BMW Assist eCall Emergency Sos
- Park Distance Control Front And Rear Parking Sensors
- Tire Specific Low Tire Pressure Warning
- Dual Stage Driver And Passenger Front Airbags
- Curtain 1st And 2nd Row Airbags
- Airbag Occupancy Sensor
- Driver And Passenger Knee Airbag
- Outboard Front Lap And Shoulder Safety Belts -inc: Pretensioners
- Back-Up Camera