Unlike other websites and magazines, our ratings are not based solely on a singular road test, but rather a more encompassing batch of criteria: quality, safety, comfort, performance, fuel economy, reliability history and value. When comparing vehicles using our Rating System, it's important to note that the rating earned by each vehicle correlates only to the models within its class. For example, a compact car cannot be compared to a SUV—They are different vehicles altogether.
You can interpret our ratings in the following way:
5-Star: Outstanding vehicle. Only the most exceptional vehicles achieve this rating.
4-Star: Very Good vehicle. Very good and close to being the best vehicle in its class.
3-Star: Good vehicle. Decent, but not quite the best. Often affordable, but lacking key features found in vehicles of the same class.
2-Star: Below average vehicle. Not recommended, and lacking attributes a car buyer would come to expect for the price.
1-Star: Poor vehicle. Simply does not deserve to be on the road.
2018 BMW i3 OVERVIEW
The 2018 BMW i3 is the automaker's only electric vehicle and, thanks to its unique design, its powertrain isn't the only thing that allows the hatchback to stick out among its gasoline-powered stablemates. Available as a pure electric vehicle and an electrified vehicle with a range extender, the i3 is a compelling choice for consumers wanting to explore owning an EV. Despite having an electric powertrain, the i3's agile handling makes it stand up to BMW's original slogan of making “The Ultimate Driving Machine".
What's New for 2018
The i3, which arrived in 2013, hasn't changed much since its debut. That changes, though, for 2018, as the EV gets a few revisions and a new variant – the i3s. The compact EV gets full LED headlights as standard, while the front and rear bumpers have been updated for a sportier, wider look. There's a new horizontal chrome strip that runs across the i3's rear tailgate for a more upscale look. The badges have also been pushed to the side of the vehicle, highlighting its girth. New exterior paint schemes, Melbourne Red and Imperial Blue, round out the exterior changes for the i3.
The changes on the inside are even harder to spot. The Giga World trim has two new available seat trims, Giga Brown natural leather and Carum Spice wool cloth, BMW’s latest iDrive interface has been added, the 10-inch touchscreen has an increased resolution, and the car’s voice recognition system has been optimized to use cloud-based speech processing.
The big news for 2018, though, is the addition of the i3s to the lineup. The EV is more powerful than the regular i3, has a wider track, is lower, gets larger 20-inch alloy wheels, and features bespoke accents on the inside and outside. While the i3s looks noticeably different from the regular model, the changes between the two are more than cosmetic, as the compact vehicle has a sport suspension setup, a better zero to 60 time, and a higher top speed.
Choosing Your BMW i3
The BMW i3 continues to be powered by a 33 kWh lithium-ion battery pack that generates 170 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. The battery pack's power is put down through a single-speed automatic transmission and is sent to the hatchback's rear wheels. According to BMW, range is limited to 124 miles on a single charge, while a Level 2 charger (240 volts) will refill the battery pack from zero to 100 percent in 4.8 hours.
Consumers wanting a little more range can opt for the i3 with Range Extender that incorporates a two-cylinder gasoline combustion engine into the mix. With the combustion engine, the hatchback can travel up to 205 miles.
The new i3s models have the same 33 kWh lithium-ion battery pack as the regular i3 lineup, but produce more power: 184 hp and 199 lb-ft of torque. BMW hasn't released official range figures for the i3s, but we expect them to be similar to those of the non-performance models. Just like with the regular i3, the i3s with Range Extender adds a two-cylinder engine and an onboard generator to boost the vehicle's range.
BMW also offers packages, which it calls “Worlds” that bring different interior materials to the i3. The Deka World (standard) comes with gray cloth seats, dark paneling, and blue accents. The Mega World ($1,400) features Andesite Dark Matte trim and cloth seats with a mix of SensaTec upholstery in gray. The Giga World ($1,800) brings Light Eucalyptus or Dark Oak Wood trim, as well as contrast stitching, natural leather, and light gray cloth. Finally, the Terra World ($2,600) comes with a lot of the same materials as the Giga World, but includes Tera Dalbergia Brown full natural leather upholstery.
There are four i3 models to choose from:
The base i3 starts at $45,445 (prices include the $995 destination fee), and comes with LED headlights, heated exterior mirrors, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and 19-inch wheels on the outside. The interior of the i3 features cloth seats, seating for up to four, a 6.5-inch high-resolution screen, a rearview camera, an automatic-dimming rearview mirror, three-stage heated front seats, automatic climate control, keyless entry, and power front windows. The Technology + Driving Assistant Package ($2,500) is the only available package for the i3 and brings a navigation system, adaptive cruise control with stop and go functionality, advanced real-time traffic information, and ConnectedDrive Services. Noteable options for the i3 include a moonroof ($1,000), a Harman Kardon surround sound system ($800), and Apple CarPlay Compatibility ($300).
The performance-oriented i3s is priced from $48,645 and brings a host of performance components to the EV. The model has more power with an output of 184 hp and has a sportier ride thanks to sport suspension. On the outside, the i3s features 20-inch bi-color wheels, black a-pillar and roof trim, and flared wheel arches. Interior wise, the i3s has a lot of the same features as the regular i3. The Technology + Driving Assistant Package ($2,500) is the only available package for the i3s.
Adding a combustion engine to the i3 brings the starting price of the hatchback up to $49,295. The i3 with Range Extender shares a lot of the same features as the electric-only i3. The model also features the same available options and the Technology + Driving Assistant Package ($2,500).
The i3s with Range Extender is the top-of-the-line trim for BMW's EV. Pricing for the model starts at $52,495. Just like on lower models, the i3s with Range Extender combines all of the features, options, and package from the all-electric i3s with the range-extending powertrain.
Unlike other EVs on the market, the BMW i3’s range is a limiting factor. Consumers looking for an urban car to go around town in will find the 124-mile range to be enough. For those wanting to travel longer distances with the i3, the near $4,000 premium to get into a Range Extender model is worth the cost, but the system still doesn’t make the i3 a long-distance vehicle. The Technology + Driving Assistant is also worth the price of entry, as it brings the latest safety features to the EV at a reasonable price. The i3s, with its performance parts, really is a sprightly EV that has the looks to match its sporty nature.