Subcompact car; Built in
  • 4-door hatchback
  • transverse rear engine/rear-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $22,500 – $34,500*


2014 BMW i3


2014 BMW i3


2014 BMW i3


2014 BMW i3

Pros:
  • Acceleration
  • Front passenger room
Cons:
  • Cargo room
  • Brake-pedal feel

As far as small EVs go, the i3 is a little expensive, but for green-intenders looking for a sophisticated and exclusive ride, this stubby little BMW makes all sorts of sense.

Overview

BMW joined the electric-car market with the i3, a subcompact-sized 4-door hatchback that offered the choice of pure electric power, or electric power with a small 2-cylinder gasoline-engine “range extender.” The driving range solely on the electric motor was about 80-100 miles, according to BMW. The optional gas engine extended the driving range by another 80-100 miles. The i3 made extensive use of strong, lightweight Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic in its construction—its curb weight was around 2700 pounds. Available features included a navigation system, sunroof, collision warning and mitigation systems, a rearview camera, and leather upholstery. Though it was not without its compromises, the i3’s peppy acceleration, forward-thinking styling, and BMW-bred handling prowess made it a compelling choice among electric- and green-vehicle shoppers.

Yearly Updates

2014 i3

Engines

transverse rear engine/rear-wheel drive

electric
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches)
Engine HP 170
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 184
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
single-speed

137e/111e

dohc I21
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) .6/39
Engine HP 60
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 49
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
single-speed

1. Optional range extender gasoline engine

Road Test

In performance, the i3 is no drudge. Instant-on torque, 184 lb-ft of it, makes the 2900-pound carbon-fiber-intensive car plenty eager off the line, and easily capable of attaining citation-worthy highway speeds.

Under optimal conditions, the i3 can go up to 81 miles on a full electric charge, or 150 miles after the gas engine kicks in to generate more juice. When winter temperatures dropped to the single digits, our test car failed to provide more than 50 miles of real electric-only range. The EPA estimates MPGe at 117. The EPA says the gas engine gets 39 combined city/highway mpg. Using both electric power and the gas-engine range extender, Consumer Guide used only 1.5 gallons of gas over 334 miles. We averaged 223 mpg driving a 60% city and 40% highway mix.

Charging time is variable. CG’s 240-volt level-2 charger had the i3 ready to go well before a normal workday was done; a full level-1 charge using 110-volt household current took almost 16 hours. However, an available direct-current “fast-charge” unit cuts workable charge times to less than 30 minutes.

The ride is firm and surprisingly composed, despite the short wheelbase.

i3 is nimble and maneuverable in tight spaces. It corners well and steering is highly responsive, if a little artificial in its feel. Narrow hard-compound tires offer little grip. Our test car was prone to wheel spin even when accelerating from a stop. With brake-energy regeneration, the car rapidly slows itself, and, on flat terrain, will stop without creeping even without a foot on the brake pedal.

I jokingly referred to the periods of extended-range gas-engine operation as “Evinrude Mode,” though the buzzing from the tiny two-cylinder engine was actually well muted and not at all obtrusive.

For controls, a couple of iPad/Surface-like flat screens are perched atop a tan eucalyptus-wood dash top with a gullwing design. Be warned that BMW’s complicated iDrive control, with its console-mounted dial and attendant buttons, governs audio and navigation. It helps to be all thumbs to operate the i3. Starter and park buttons are on a control module that sprouts from the right side of the steering column, as is the drive-range selector. All require the use of the opposable digit that separates humans from the other animals.

I3 is cool and classy inside.

Front seats are roomier than the subcompact footprint might suggest. Headroom is also good. Over-the-shoulder vision suffers somewhat due to the rear roof shape.

Two rear passengers can sit with knees bent, and while they won’t have a lot of leg room, they won’t be punished, either. At least head room is no problem.

Personal-item storage is skimpy. Rear cargo room is slight, but 50/50-split rear seats fold flat to expand the space.

Ratings

Model Tested: 2014 i3 with range extender, technology package

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.

Performance

Acceleration - 7
70%
Fuel Economy - 10
100%
Ride Quality - 5
50%
Steering/Handling - 7
70%
Quietness - 8
80%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 6
60%
Room/Comfort Front - 6
60%
Room/Comfort Rear - 3
30%
Cargo Room - 4
40%

Other

Value - 6
60%

Total: 62

Specifications

4-door hatchback
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
101.2 157.8 69.9 62.1
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
15.1 1.9 4.0
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
39.6 37.2 40.5 31.9
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: N/A

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
N/A0%
Front Passenger Injury - N/A
N/A0%

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
N/A0%
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A
N/A0%

HLDI

(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Engine mounts
Description: Left side motor mount may fail. (2014)

Recall History

2014 i3
Description: Passenger-side airbag may not deploy properly in a low speed crash.
2014 i3
Description: Because of a manufacturing error, the front airbags may deploy properly in a crash.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.

Pricing

Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.