The i3 may come from a premium automaker, it’s not that much more expensive than a Chevy Bolt or Hyundai Kona.
The 2019 BMW i3 was one of the original electric vehicles and the first EV from a premium automaker. It came before the Tesla Model 3, before the Chevrolet Bolt and before the Hyundai Kona EV, and yet it’s not always top of mind when we think about available EVs on the market.
Despite starting at just over $50,000 (roughly $6,000 more than a Kona EV or Chevrolet Bolt), the BMW i3 hasn’t managed to make any significant impact on the electric vehicle market in Canada. Just over 300 units were sold in 2017 compared to over 2,100 Chevrolet Bolts. There were three times more Nissan LEAF sales in the same year than BMW i3 models. Visit BMW’s website in Canada and you won’t even see the 2019 i3. The build and price feature is still showing 2018 models.
In other words, even BMW seems to have forgotten about the BMW i3. Still, if you’re in the market for an EV and like the idea of having a premium logo on the steering wheel with everything that comes with that, the i3 may be worth checking out. It’s different and its range extender make it more practical than a pure EV without losing the benefits of an electric powertrain.
The 2019 BMW i3 comes in two versions: The i3 and the i3s. The first offers 170 horsepower while the BMW i3s pushes the output to 184 horsepower. Regardless of the powertrain you go for, the BMW i3 has 172 kilometers of electric range. That’s a lot less than the Kona EV (415 kilometers), the Chevrolet Bolt (383 kilometers) and the base Nissan LEAF (242 kilometers). It’s also a lot less than a Tesla Model 3 but the i3 does have an available range extender.
The BMW i3 range extender is a small two-cylinder engine with 38 horsepower that acts as a backup to the battery. It adds roughly 150 kilometers of range and can be fueled like a traditional gas-powered engine. It turns the BMW i3 into an EV you can go anywhere with without having to worry about charging stations. No wonder 80 percent of buyers tend to add the range extender.
What the 2019 BMW i3 Does Well
- The design is quirky, but we like it. It looks different from anything else on the road, it’s unique in a good way and it can be instantly recognized.
- More EVs should have a range extender like the BMW i3.
- Very agile and nimble in the city. Parking the BMW i3 is a breeze.
- It’s a true BMW with precise handling and a very connected feel behind the wheel.
- Beautiful interior that’s also practical.
- Good accelerations and performance.
What the 2019 BMW i3 Doesn’t Do Well
- BMW seems to have forgotten about it. Good luck finding one.
- When you do find one, it’s too expensive. The BMW emblem and strong performance of the i3 doesn’t justify paying a significant premium over more modern EVs with more range.
- 172 kilometers of pure electric range isn’t enough given the i3’s price. Name any electric vehicle you want, it has more range than the BMW – except the smart Fortwo.
- The BMW i3 doesn’t like crosswinds. Not. One. Bit.
What We Tell Our Friends
We like the 2019 BMW i3 but at this point, we would have trouble recommending it. You can find a handful of electric vehicles with more range for a lot less money. The BMW i3 doesn’t even quality for the new iZEV rebate program. We can’t see anyone going for the i3 over the Tesla Model 3 except maybe because of the range extender. Still, we’re thinking BMW is focused on its iNEXT models such as the i4 for now and will let the current i3 simply phase out.