2021 BMW i3

2021 BMW i3
2021 BMW i3 Rear View Driving
2021 BMW i3 Dashboard
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2021 BMW i3 Review: Plucky EV Isn't Dead Yet

2020 wasn't an easy year for the automotive industry as a whole, but the BMW i3 still put in an especially dismal sales performance in North America. A massive 70 percent decline in USA sales for the quirky electric hatchback last year makes it clear that the i3 has fallen out of favor, with the EV sector offering more competition than ever before. However, BMW seems determined to extend the life of its first mass-produced zero-emissions vehicle. The nippy hatch still comes in i3 or i3s guises, with the latter being able to reach 60 mph in under seven seconds. However, even with the two-cylinder gasoline engine that acts as a range extender, the i3 lags behind other compact full electric vehicles like the Hyundai Kona EV in this area. It remains a landmark product for the BMW brand, but with a brace of newer BMW i models on the way as well as stiff competition to deal with, buying an i3 has become harder to justify.

Read in this review:

  • Exterior Design 7 /10
  • Performance 8 /10
  • Fuel Economy 10 /10
  • Interior & Cargo 9 /10
  • Infotainment & Features 9 /10
  • Reliability 8 /10
  • Safety 8 /10
  • Value For Money 7 /10
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2021 BMW i3 Changes: What’s The Difference vs The 2020 i3?

BMW hasn't announced any major updates for the i3 in the US market for the 2021 model year.

Pros and Cons

  • Doesn't look like an eight-year-old design
  • Peppy acceleration
  • Enjoyable to drive
  • Still one of BMW's most unique interiors
  • High-quality cabin materials
  • Poor range
  • Lengthy charging times
  • Impractical rear-hinged doors
  • High price
  • Limited rear-seat space

What is the Price of the 2021 BMW i3 Hatchback

The most affordable BMW i3 carries an MSRP of $44,450. For more poke, you'll want to go for the i3s which will cost you $47,650. Both models can be had with a range-extending two-cylinder gas engine that acts as a generator, which adds $3,850 to the price. The i3 with Range Extender costs $48,300 and the i3s with Range Extender tops the lineup at a price of $51,500. These prices exclude a destination charge of $995 plus taxes, licensing, and registration costs. That high BMW i3 price becomes a bit more palatable when you consider that the hatchback qualifies for a federal tax credit of up to $7,500. Even the range extender version - which is defined as a PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) by the EPA - can qualify for the maximum tax credit. Among other EVs for sale, it's worth noting that you can get behind the wheel of a new Hyundai Kona EV for just $37,390 and that's before the same $7,500 tax credit.

Best Deals on 2021 BMW i3

2021 BMW i3 Trims

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
120 Ah
Single Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
120 Ah s
Single Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
120 Ah with Range Extender
39.5L Electric
Single Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
120 Ah s with Range Extender
39.5L Electric
Single Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
See All 2021 BMW i3 Trims and Specs

Handling and Driving Impressions

It's not only the i3's powertrain that shines in city driving. Dynamically, the tall hatchback feels like the perfect tool for weaving in and out of gaps in rush-hour traffic. Out on our test drive, we found that the light steering engenders a feeling of agility and, despite the high seating position, low-speed corners can be taken with confidence. The RWD layout and the positioning of the battery which reduces the car's center of gravity also aid in smooth, fuss-free cornering. This is still a BMW, so the refined cabin and distinct absence of engine noise take the stress out of city driving. We also liked the regenerative braking system, which allows for occasional one-pedal driving.

At higher speeds, the steering that was so responsive in town can make the i3 feel a bit nervous on the highway, requiring regular corrections to keep the EV on course. The ride is refined on smoother surfaces but can be unsettled quickly by sharp ruts and bumps, with a firmness that some may find to be too much of a compromise. Once again, as long as you don't plan on using the i3 for regular cross-country jaunts, it should prove more than up to the job.

Verdict: Is the 2021 BMW i3 A Good car?

Last year, the 200,000th example of the BMW i3 rolled off the production line in Germany. The electric hatch has been a clear success for BMW with its reasonably potent performance, improving range through the years, and thoroughly refreshing design. In fact, BMW seems to have no plans of discontinuing the i3 anytime soon. Unfortunately, the market has moved on since the i3's launch and it now falls well short of other EVs when it comes to charging times and range; both of these factors are critical for buyers looking for an electric vehicle. The i3 also lacks many of the latest safety features and isn't exactly affordable to buy in the first place. While it remains likable, the i3 has fallen behind the pack and a wiser choice would be more affordable and faster competitors like the Hyundai Kona EV. That is, of course, if you're willing to forgo that eminently desirable BMW badge.

What BMW i3 Model Should I Buy?

If it is a BMW i3 you must have, we'd recommend going for the top-of-the-range i3s with Range Extender. It's not cheap by any means, but it offers both decent performance and the added range that partially atones for the regular i3's dismal 153-mile effort. Then again, if you will be using the i3 as a daily driver only in the city, we'd skip the Range Extender, save some money, and enjoy better acceleration thanks to the reduction in weight. Regardless of the version you choose, there are smarter EV purchases out there, but then again, this is one of the most unique BMWs ever made.

2021 BMW i3 Comparisons

Chevrolet Bolt EV Chevrolet
Tesla Model 3 Tesla

2021 BMW i3 vs Chevrolet Bolt EV

Parked alongside each other, many people would grab the keys of the BMW in this match-up, but the Bolt has a lot to offer. Starting at $36,500, it comfortably undercuts the i3 and yet it is faster and has a much better range. The Bolt can reach 60 mph in a nippy 6.5 seconds and will travel over 100 miles further than the i3, or over 50 miles further than the BMW when the i3 is equipped with the Range Extender. Winning more points for the Bolt is a more spacious cabin that can seat five (as opposed to just four in the i3), a bigger trunk, and available safety features like blind-spot monitoring. The BMW feels like a more special car, though, as it has a beautifully constructed cabin with better materials. It's also properly fun to drive. But that's not enough for the i3 to see off the Bolt.

See Chevrolet Bolt EV Review

2021 BMW i3 vs Tesla Model 3

The Tesla Model 3 and BMW i3 look nothing like each other, but both aim to provide a premium driving experience without requiring a polluting combustion engine. At a lower starting price of $37,990, the Model 3 blows the i3 out of the water with its breathtaking acceleration and much better range. Even the base Model 3 can reach 60 mph in only 5.3 seconds and travel for 263 miles on a single charge - that's over 100 miles further than the base i3 will go. By comparison, the fastest i3 takes 6.8 seconds to hit 60. The Model 3 Long Range can get to 60 mph in 4.2 seconds and traverse 353 miles on a single charge, despite costing less than the top-spec i3. There's more space in the Model 3 when its seats are folded, as well as more space for rear-seat passengers. Although Tesla has had its quality issues, the Model 3's minimalist interior otherwise feels cool and modern. The final nail in the i3's coffin is the Tesla's phenomenal safety scores. Unless you must have the i3 for its unique execution, the Model 3 is the easy victor here.

See Tesla Model 3 Review
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