2014 BMW i3 Review

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2014 BMW i3 Expert Review


The 2014 BMW i3 is a new breed of car for the German luxury automaker. In addition to being its first mass-produced electric vehicle, the i3 is the first product of BMW's new i sub-brand of eco-conscious cars. The i3 also carves its own path among the growing niche of electric vehicles. Its small and unusual body is made of lightweight carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic, and for those concerned about running out of battery power, a tiny gasoline engine is available that acts as a generator to double the i3's 80- to 100-mile range. The i3's roughly $42,000 starting price is thousands more than a Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt, but that money buys sportier driving manners, premium interior amenities and BMW badge appeal.

You'll Like This Car If...

If you want an electric car with premium features that is more fun to drive than a Nissan Leaf but you aren't ready to drop $70,000 on a Tesla Model S, the BMW i3 adeptly straddles the middle ground between the two. That it's fun to drive is icing on the eco cake.

You May Not Like This Car If...

The i3's design isn't for everyone, and neither is its small size. For those wishing to go farther between their respective recharges/fill-ups at the electrical outlet/gasoline pump, the larger Chevrolet Volt delivers up to 380 miles of total range while costing over $7,000 less.

How It Ranks


out of 4

Fuel Economy


out of 4

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Consumer Rating

5.5 out of 10
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consumer ratings
What's Significant About This Car?

The 2014 BMW i3 is an all-new car. As the first of BMW's i sub-brand, it also paves the way for other vehicles from the luxury German automaker that emphasize efficiency.

Driving the i3
2014 BMW i3 Front angle view photo

Driving Impressions The i3 is built for efficiency, but remains a BMW. Thus it's endowed with the performance DNA for which this brand is known. Like other EVs, initial acceleration is strong...

... thanks to the bountiful torque that's characteristic of electric motors. The i3 packs 184 lb-ft of it that easily propels the car's sub-3,000-pound body up to speed on freeway on-ramps. It's not BMW M quick, but 0-60 mph arrives in just over 7 seconds. Moreover, the i3 stands out from other electric vehicles in cornering. The car's rear-wheel-drive setup and sporty suspension enable it to actually be fun on twisty roads. But this BMW's biggest difference is in the way it stops. The 2014 i3 has an aggressive regenerative-braking system that captures kinetic energy and refunds it to the battery. With practice you can cut down how often you use the brake pedal or even forgo it entirely. This "single-pedal driving concept" seems foreign at first, but we caught on quickly.

Even when off, the BMW i3's wide-screen displays are a sight to behold. One sits directly behind the steering wheel to relay speed and other information. But the real jewel is the other that floats over the center dash. It boasts one of the best navigation and rearview camera displays we've seen.

If you're even remotely concerned about the electric-only range of the i3, the $3,850 extra for the range-extending gasoline engine will be worth it. This 2-cylinder engine roughly doubles the i3's 80-100-mile electric-only range and automatically enters duty when needed to generate electricity to charge the battery.

2014 BMW i3 Details
2014 BMW i3 Dashboard, center console, gear shifter view photo Interior

The BMW i3's interior is at once futuristic yet minimalistic. Like its exterior (see below), some elements work better than others. The responsibly forested eucalyptus dash and pair of wide-screen displays reward the senses. Yet some of the other earth-friendly dash materials resemble attic insulation. Like the front seats, the two rear ones are roomier and more comfortable than you may expect, though beware of the i3's high step-in. Rear passengers will have to contend with a large black pillar to their left or right, but the peculiar vertical shape of the windows creates a good view out. To accommodate extra cargo, the rear seats split and fold.

2014 BMW i3 photo

We'll just come out and say it: The BMW i3's exterior is polarizing. In one sense, it is as unconventional as its powertrain. Glance at the overall design of this BMW's side windows, and you may see the shape of a bottle on its side, with the spout just over the i3's rear wheels. And like the front wheels, the rear set is pushed to the very edge of the car's carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic body. Even the doors are strange yet functional. The rear set open outward to make entering and exiting easier for rear passengers. At just 157.4 inches long, the 2014 i3 is shorter than a Honda Fit.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

The 2014 BMW i3 is available in three trims, which BMW dubs "worlds." The base version is Mega, the mid-level is Giga, and the top line is Tera. The base Mega comes well-equipped with navigation system, LED headlights, 19-inch wheels, Sensatec leather-like upholstery, and BMW's ConnectedDrive that syncs to your smartphone to enable the use of apps. The Giga model has a leather-and-wool interior, universal garage-door opener, sunroof, satellite radio and i Comfort Access System with keyless entry. Top-line Tera models come with full leather upholstery, special 19-inch wheels and anthracite floor mats.

Optional Equipment

In addition to the range-extending gasoline engine, the i3 offers other hardware and software to make your commute safer and more comfortable. Among the offerings are a 12-speaker/360-watt harman/kardon audio system and the Navigation Professional System with range assistant, real-time traffic info and Traffic Jam Assist. Other options include forward collision warning and pedestrian detection, automatic parking system, and a collision-mitigation feature that can automatically apply the brakes in emergency situations. The i3 can also be had with SAE DC Combo Fast Charging capability, which allows you to charge the battery up to 80 percent in 20 minutes.

Under the Hood

The BMW i3 uses an electric motor powered by a lithium-ion battery back. Range-extended models have a supplemental 650-cc gasoline engine that acts solely as a generator (it doesn't power the wheels directly) and has a fuel capacity of 2.4 gallons. The BMW i3's electric-only range is stated at 80 to 100 miles, and extended-range models are said to achieve about double that. Hyper-milers can eke more distance by switching to the ECO PRO mode, which is meant to increase distance by 12 percent, or ECO PRO+, which adds another 12 percent. The i3 electric vehicle uses a single-speed transmission and is rear-wheel drive. The i3 recharges in about three hours on a 220-volt charging station like the i Charging Station available from BMW or, at worst, 20-plus hours on a standard 110-volt outlet.

Hybrid-synchronous electric motor
22-kWh lithium-ion battery
170 horsepower
184 lb-ft of torque
Range with full charge: 80-100 miles
Range with full charge plus gasoline-powered Range Extender: NA

The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of the 2014 BMW i3 starts at $42,275. The base price for an i3 with Range Extender is $46,125. The BMW i3 is also eligible for incentives, such as a $7,500 federal tax credit. At these prices, the i3 resides in a middle ground among electric vehicles. It is over $12,000 more than a Nissan Leaf, but nearly $30,000 less than a Tesla Model S. Somewhat closer in pricing is the Chevrolet Volt, which has a starting price just under $35,000. Before buying an i3, be sure to check the Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying. Because the i3 is a brand-new vehicle, our number crunchers are still calculating its predicted resale value.

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2014 BMW i3 Consumer Reviews

Overall Rating
Out of 10

Based on 2 Ratings for the 2014 - 2015 models.

Review this car
  • Value
  • Reliability
  • Comfort

Trouble free so far and a blast to drive.

By on Monday, August 24, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 1,400

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating

Pros: "Ecologically minded, blast to drive, nice looking."

Cons: "Higher priced, limited range, small size"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"I own the 2015 Tera. Magnificent for the twisty mountain roads I drive in my area. The infrastructure for charging stations is still a work in progress in the Northern California County where I live, but 18 new stations are planned to be operational within the next three years. The leather upholstery is BMW 5 series quality. The car gets a little dancey at high speeds on the freeway when there are crosswinds, though controllable. Best is the torque available at any speed and agile cornering. The car is roomier than expected on the inside and with a turning radius of 16.2 feet handles all parking lot maneuvers deftly. The self-parking feature is also handy for those prone to scraping the tires, but must be used when no traffic is around to interfere with the backing-in process. Also, with the i-3's regenerative braking and judicious slow downs, the brake pads will likely last the life of the car. The gasoline powered range extender on the 2015 gets you 50 to 60+ miles further if you can't find a quick charge & with 70 or 80 miles of electric range, my i-3 is used only for "local" trips of up to 120 miles. A great second car if you want to stop watching your income flow out onto the road in gasoline on a daily basis. Also a feel-good purchase if you want to help the U.S. lessen its dependence on foreign oil, have cleaner air, and the car is also manufactured in a "zero landfill" plant with sustainable materials. I hope the ideas behind the i-3 are picked up by other manufacturers with a collective conscience and we see these greener ideals showing up in other vehicles. This could be the little car that changed the world."

Too many problems - feel like I'm a beta tester

By on Thursday, August 06, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 4,100

10 2.0
overall rating 2 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating

Pros: "Futuristic, fun to drive, well appointed"

Cons: "Horribly unreliable"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1

"When it runs it's great. Comfortable, cool, well appointed. However... The car spent nearly a month in and out of the dealership with a widely known 12 volt battery problem. In between this issue it has suffered 5 flat tires each costing $300.00 to repair. Merely hitting a pothole will kill a tire. This issue is also widely reported by owners. My dealership's only response? "We're still figuring this car out". Really wanted to love this car but the ownership experience has been horrible."

5 people out of 6 found this review helpful

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