REVIEW: BMW i3s
Our next review for the EV motoring series is with the car that I got my first taste of an E with, the beautiful BMW i3, and specifically the i3s model. Thanks to BMW Ireland for loaning us the car for a few days so we could get a feel for it. It’s a few years ago now when I was wondering what all this EV talk was about and I rented my first EV with GoCar. It was a BMW i3 and I was hooked. Not only on EVs as the future ( which is obvious now) but also the BMW, in particular, will always hold a special place in my EV heart.
The car itself was the first mass produced zero emissions vehicle by BMW, it sits in the BMW i sub-brand. It has been available since 2013 and consistently sits in the top 5 EVs sold globally. The figures for Irish sales from 2017 to 2018 saw 300%+ increase in sales and this year, the model looks to be selling 100% more cars since last year and is currently sitting as the fifth best selling EV in Ireland for 2019.
The BMW i3 was designed by Richard Kim. Kim originally worked for Nissan and VW and is part of the design team behind the i3 and i8 and more recently the Faraday Future FF91 and, we have to admit, we really like the look. You know it’s something special and even if there are a few haters out there, BMW took a bold move to produce such a radical looking car and we feel it has definitely paid off.
We absolutely love the more upright driving position and, at 6’2″, we found getting in and out very easy. This car is a 4 seater so don’t be expecting to fit 3 adults in the back. The rear seat are positioned higher due to the battery being positioned underneath and if you are tall sitting in the back seat, a long drive may become uncomfortable. The boot size is also on the small side but this is not the car for a grand tour of Europe. It’s a commuters’ car that maybe has a small family, and we mean that size wise along with the number being small.
Like all BMWs, the build is premium. It has a price tag to match but you are getting the best of the best with regard to trim levels and quality of materials. From the fine-wood trim in Eucalyptus matt to the dark truffle leather dash trim and seats, you know your sitting in something special. The nearly flat floorpan, the floating dash elements and large steering wheel all feel top quality and we didn’t hear a squeak over the days we had it.
We loved the rear passenger doors that open with the hinges at the rear of the car and when open it takes the B pillar with it. Known as suicide doors, they can be a little awkward as the front doors have to be opened first and with a smaller opening, the driver and front passenger will usually have to get out for the rear passengers to get in or out. Build wise, this car was the first mass produced cars that uses carbon-fiber reinforced plastic throughout the internal structure and body. The door panels are made of hemp combined with plastic which lowers the weight of the doors by about 10%.
The model uses the iDrive system found on BMWs with a centrally positioned user interface wheel located around where the traditional gear stick would be. We found the UI a little clunky but like any new driver, I’m sure you’d get used to it quickly and we know that BMW have a newer driver interface being rolled out on its fresher models. Saying that, the sat-nav is good, DAB radio, integrated phone and a number of social media, music and news app all in the system.
This car also has an smartphone app, the BMW Connected+. The official BMW Ireland site also talks about future integration with Amazon Alexa. There is also a feature where you can “Control My Home”. You can control lights, blinds and home thermostat, for example, directly from your car infotainment system.
Range and Battery
BMW rate their battery size slightly different to everyone else. The battery size is officially 120Ah but to us that’s 42.2kWh. The increased battery size is definitely a help and the range is around 260km. Like all of our reviews so far, the general public are expecting something in the 400km range but with the smaller form factor, this may be the most BMW can squeeze into a car of this size. We found the range readout on the dash to be fairly accurate and we did some motorway driving to Meath and were impressed with how it handled itself outside of the urban environment. The i3s has 182bhp.
We love this car. The price starts around €46,000 before government grants with the i3s model we had for a few days coming in at €54,613 with some bells and whistles. It’s a lot of change (or 2 Renault Zoes) but you get what you pay for in our opinion. It is a quality EV with nothing else like it on the road. If the size and range suits your needs, it’s the EV for you, if you can afford it.