The 2021 BMW i3 remains unchanged from the 2020 model. In its 8th year now, the i3 electric hatchback is BMW’s first-ever mass production EV. Created with an interior which has a more premium design than its rivals, the i3’s cabin comes beautifully crafted with unusual organic and recycled materials including eucalyptus wood and olive leaf tanned leather. With it’s avant-garde, cutting-edge looks, aerodynamic design and electric efficiency, the i3 provides a major dose of appeal on both a visual and emotional level. Depending on whom you ask, it’s either dorky-looking, or space-age and strikingly attractive. One thing’s for sure: this isn’t your average Bimmer: this break from the past can’t be mistaken for any other EV on the road. Or any other BMW!
Car Connection reviewers say: “Despite its wild look, the BMW i3 manages to look average compared to other cars, somehow. Geek-chic and once BMW’s vision for future mobility, the BMW i3 looks like few cars on the road. It still draws attention, but it’s clear that BMW has moved away from the futuristic look for future electric cars. The spa-like interior is the i3’s best look, a simplistic layout with reclaimed materials that fits the i3’s ethos. A Scandinavian feel extends through the dash with a 10.2-inch touchscreen perched atop the flowing dash and a steering column and shift knob on the stalk that’s unlike any other we’ve seen.”
Eco-conscious customers will be interested to know that BMW produces its i3s at its renowned Leipzig Plant, one of the most modern and sustainable car plants in the world. Green energy for the production of these cars is provided by four purpose-built wind turbines on site; the factory is considered a carbon-neutral facility.
The car’s 42.2-kWh Lithium Ion battery provides an output of 181 hp and 199 lb-ft of torque, which gives it a total range of 153 miles. That’s a problem. Rival EVs like the Chevrolet Bolt and Hyundai Kona – to name a few – offer far longer driving ranges for similar prices, or for less. The standard expected these days has risen to between 200 and 250 e-miles for pure electrics. Anything less raises eyebrows. As the Electric Vehicle Evolution/Revolution rapidly moves forward, the i3’s future is in question, especially with BMW preparing more competitive models such as the upcoming i4 sedan and iX SUV.
BMW solves the i3’s low range issue by offering an i3 with a range extender – a small, 2-cylinder gasoline engine that adds an additional 47 miles. Adding an extender costs around $4,000, and your BMW i3 becomes an i3 REx – a slightly different i3 which looks the same but goes further. The i3 REx is reviewed separately on the CURRENT EV website.
E-range obviously isn’t a priority to everyone, as more than 41,000 i3s have been sold in the USA since the car came out. That being the case, if the i3 stirs a chord with you and range isn’t a prerogative, this car offers outstanding value in many other ways.
The 2021 i3 comes in two trims: i3 (MSRP: $44,450), and i3s (MSRP: $47,650).
Both trims have standard features including: Front Seat heating, a Multi-function leather steering wheel, Slide through light-weight front seats with contrast highlighting in BMW i Blue, Rear Park Distance Control, a Rain sensor with automatic wiper and headlight activation, Remote control, including integrated key, a BMW Multimedia navigation System, Bluetooth and Apple CarPlay.
Both trims also get BMW Connected Drive Services, comprising: BMW Apps interface, BMW Emergency Call, BMW Online Services, BMW TeleServices, Connected eDrive Services, Real Time Traffic Information (RTTI).
The i3s trim adds: 20" BMW i light alloy Double-spoke style 431 wheels, a Front bumper with i3s specific High-gloss Black inlay and highlights (finished in BMW i Blue or Frozen Grey), High-gloss Black wheel arch extensions and wider track, A-pillar and roof moulding in High-gloss Black, a Kidney grille in High-gloss Black with Chrome contrast edging, an additional 14hp of engine power and 20Nm of torque, SPORT driving mode with adapted sport driving pedal behavior, Sport suspension (10mm lower), and i3s specific steering characteristics.
One interesting aspect of owning or leasing a BMW i3 is picking your interior. There are four of them and they’re called Worlds: Deka World, Mega World, Giga World and Tera World. Each uses unique design materials to create innovative, and pleasing aesthetics.
The BMW i3 is the smallest, most urban-targeted vehicle in its “i” range of vehicles. "i Performance" is BMW's way of saying "performance Technology." i Performance Technology encompasses the electric motor, the battery and the complex control software that ensures all the separate systems in BMW's Next Gen cars work in harmony. i Performance Technology has been developed to be modular, meaning it can be easily tailored to multiple models. BMW has repeatedly stated that in the not too distant future, virtually every model from the BMW lineup will offer some form of electrification and be available with an "i" designation.
Safety and security features are numerous, listed in bullet points below this review. The most notable are:
• An Impact sensor that activates Battery Safety Terminal disconnect of starter generator, fuel pump , and high-voltage battery; automatically unlocks doors; and turns on hazard and interior lights
• A Front and rear Head Protection System (HPS)
• A Driver's and passenger's front airbag supplemental restraint system (SRS) with advanced technology: dual-threshold, dual-stage deployment; and front-passenger-seat sensors designed to prevent unnecessary airbag deployment
• Seat-mounted front side-impact airbags
• Front safety belts with automatic pretensioners
• Front-passenger-seat-occupation recognition with Passenger's Airbag Off indicator
• Coded Driveaway Protection
• Automatic-locking retractors (ALR) on all passenger safety belts for installation of child-restraint seat
• LATCH attachments for child-restraint safety installation
• A Rear-view Camera
While most cars are built with a single component body and frame, i3 is built with 2 separate modules known as the “Life” module and the “Drive” module. The aluminum Drive module is comprised of a sturdy foundation chassis which contains the battery pack and powertrain system. The Life Module – made of high strength, ultra-lightweight CFRP (carbon fiber reinforced plastic) – is the cabin above the chassis, where the passengers sit. BMW i3’s lightweight CFRP materials and large-scale use of aluminum make the car much lighter – just 2,799 pounds—versus 3,362 pounds for the BMW 328i Coupe, and 3,208 pounds for the BMW 128i Coupe.
What is carbon fiber, and why is it important? Carbon Fiber Reinforced Polymer Composites are widely used in vehicles where a high strength-to-weight ratio is desired, such as Formula One race cars. Carbon fiber is made of pure carbon atoms. Reinforcing it with plastic means the fibers are bonded with resins, and then formed into parts which can absorb an enormous amount of impact energy. When subjected to high-speed impacts, the CFRP panels on the BMW i3 show barely any deformation. In the event of a crash, the ultra rigid carbon fiber structure creates a very safe space for passengers. The reduction of weight in the i3 – around 500 pounds – makes the car easier to move and generates into better maneuverability and more range.
The EV is eligible for a Federal Tax Credit of $7500.
REWRITTEN MAY 2021
There are currently 4 primary incentives available to the California consumer that substantially lower the cost of buying or leasing an EV. CURRENT provides all the guidance or assistance you may need to apply for these incentives.