2020 BMW i3

2020 BMW i3 Review: Losing Its Star Quality

In 2014, the BMW i3 debuted as one of the first all-electric vehicles offered by a luxury automaker, and one that BMW made sure flaunted its eco-friendly ambition to the world. Back then, the i3's futuristic aesthetic and super modern cabin exemplified its contemporary and eco-friendly ethos. Today, however, that influence has waned as more and more progressive EVs enter the US market. EVs such as the Chevrolet Bolt, Hyundai Kona Electric, and even the Tesla Model 3, all offer far greater performance in the all-electric sphere, each bringing its own unique selling points to the table. Built on a carbon fiber chassis, the i3 is unique in the segment, and with two available trims packing either 168 horsepower or 181 hp in i3s form, and with two range extender models making use of combustion generators, there's a diversity not present with other EVs in this segment. Can the diversity overcome the i3's sub-par range and crashy ride, though? Or is BMW simply keeping the i3 alive for too long?

2020 BMW i3 Changes: 🚙What’s the difference vs 2019 i3?

Over the years, the BMW i3 has undergone only one or two new updates; for the 2019 model year, the most prominent upgrade was the larger 42 kWh battery pack BMW installed, replacing the 33.2 kWh unit of old, which resulted in a 30 percent all-electric range increase over the prior years model. 2020 has also seen BMW release a new BMW i3 limited edition, dubbed the Edition RoadStyle. Limited to 900 units globally, the Edition RoadStyle features bespoke exterior styling with Fluid Black paint and E-Copper embellishments, along with unique interior trim.

Pros and Cons

  • Nimble, peppy, and quiet performance
  • Surprisingly capable and enjoyable to drive
  • Futuristic aesthetic
  • Interesting use of interior materials
  • User-friendly infotainment system
  • Uncompetitive all-electric range
  • Impractically long charge times
  • Competition has better trunk capacity
  • Suicide rear doors hinder ingress and egress
  • Crashy ride on large wheels

Best Deals on i3

2020 BMW i3 Trims

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
120 Ah
Electric
Single Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
$44,450
120 Ah s
Electric
Single Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
$47,650
120 Ah with Range Extender
Gas
Single Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
$48,300
120 Ah s with Range Extender
Gas
Single Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
$51,500

BMW i3 Exterior

The BMW i3's hatchback exterior aesthetic is futuristic and unique among current EVs. The regular i3 is discernible by its Frozen Blue front grille detailing, bulky front lower fascia, and unadorned skirtings. For a sportier impression, the i3s is fitted with dark chrome front grille detailing, a contoured and Frozen Blue accented lower front fascia, and with flared wheel arches and side skirtings in high-gloss black. LED lights, programmable LED daytime running lights, and power-folding, heated side-view mirrors are standard. 19-inch turbine-spoke alloy wheels adorn the regular i3 while 20-inch double-spoke bi-color alloy wheels fill the i3s' flared wheel arches. The i3s Edition RoadStyle features a Fluid Black exterior with E-Copper finishes to the kidney grille inlays, front bumper air deflectors, and side skirt accents. It rides on 20-inch double-spoke light-alloy wheels finished in Jet Black.

2020 BMW i3 Front View BMW
2020 BMW i3 Rear View BMW
2020 BMW i3 Side View BMW
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Dimensions

The i3's dimensions set it firmly within the compact hatch class, although it still errs on the smaller side of things. While the i3 trims span a length of 158.3 inches, the i3s is 158.1 inches long, both trims share a wheelbase of 101.2 inches, while standard range models measure 62.9 inches in height and ride with a ground clearance of 5.5 inches, the i3s is 0.3 inches shorter and lower to the ground. The standard range model measures 69.9-inches in width, the i3s' flared wheel arches and skirtings add an extra 0.6 inches to that. The i3 has a curb weight of 2,972 lbs while the i3s weighs 3,040 lbs. Opting for the range-extender throws on an additional 306 lbs and 264 lbs on each model, respectively.

  • Length 158.3 in
  • Wheelbase 101.2 in
  • Height 62.9 in
  • Max Width 69.9 in
  • Front Width 61.9 in
  • Rear Width 62.0 in

Exterior Colors

There are six different hues to option the BMW i3 in - all are paired with a gloss-black hood, A-pillars, side-view mirrors, and roof, for a two-tone appearance. Capparis White with Frozen Blue detailing is the base color scheme and the only no-cost options, while for $550, either Fluid Black or Mineral Grey, both with Frozen Blue detailing, can be optioned in. Jucaro Beige Metallic, Melbourne Red Metallic, and Imperial Blue Metallic all also carry a $550 extra charge, but are complemented by Frozen Grey detailing. While the Melbourne Red Metallic plays nicely to the i3's gloss-black elements, it doesn't come with the Frozen Blue detailing, which, though minor, really does create a lasting impression. For that reason, we feel the base Capparis White is the ideal hue for the i3, but Mineral Grey wouldn't be a bad second choice.

  • Fluid Black w/BMW i Frozen Blue Accent
  • Imperial Blue Metallic w/Frozen Gray Accent
  • Mineral Gray Metallic w/BMW i Frozen Blue Accent
  • Melbourne Red Metallic w/Frozen Gray Accent
  • Capparis White w/BMW i Frozen Blue Accent
  • Jucaro Beige Metallic w/Frozen Gray Accent

BMW i3 Performance

As we've become accustomed to in the EV world, performance is something the i3 does well. The instant torque of an electric motor is worth more than the figures portrayed on a spec sheet, and although you won't be giving a Porsche Taycan a run for its money, you'll seldom complain about not being able to get up to speed quickly. In base form, the i3 is capable of a 0 to 60 mph run of 7.2 seconds and a top speed limited to 93 mph. This is to aid prolonged range, which, on this model, is claimed at 153 miles. Stepping up to the i3s places a greater focus on performance, and with more power and torque, it accomplishes the same sprint in 6.8 seconds with a top speed of 99 mph. But competitors are quicker still, with the similarly proportioned Chevrolet Bolt achieving mid-sixes in real-world testing, the Kona EV managing to get into the low sixes, and the Tesla Model 3 - not a direct rival but comparably priced - achieving the metric in as few as 3.2 seconds. What the i3 and Model 3 have in common, however, is a rear-wheel drivetrain, although the Tesla offers all-wheel-drive in its Performance variant, while other EVs are traditionally FWD.

2020 BMW i3 Front View Driving BMW
2020 BMW i3 Rear View Driving BMW
2020 BMW i3 Wheel BMW

Engine and Transmission

Regardless of whether you purchase an i3 or an i3s, the full-electric hatchback is powered by a single AC electric motor paired with a 42 kWh lithium-ion battery and a single-speed transmission. In base form, the i3 produces 168 hp and 250 lb-ft of torque, while in the i3s, these figures are bumped up to 181 hp and 270 lb-ft. Both specifications can also be equipped with a two-cylinder gasoline engine beneath the floor of the trunk, but this acts as a generator to charge the battery rather than aiding performance at all.

It's not needed, however, as both trims are more than capable of getting up to speed. They thrive in the confines of the city where the instant torque sends them up to speeds of 40 mph rapidly, while in gear torque means nipping through gaps is a breeze. Highway speeds are where the i3 twins suffer, as the electric motors tend to fade higher up. For this reason, it's better to drive them within the confines of their intended use, where take-off from traffic lights and stop streets will leave you feeling like you're in a hot-hatch.

  • Engines
    Electric, Gas
  • Transmission
    Single Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrain
    RWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

While early iterations of the i3 were afflicted with poor ride quality, especially on the relatively large wheels, BMW has refined the hatch in its most recent updates to the point where it lives up to the premium badge on the nose and tail. Despite riding on 19- or 20-inch wheels - model dependent - the i3 deals with most broken tarmac with alacrity. However, low-profile tires fail to deal with sharp surface changes and the suspension is unable to keep these from penetrating the cabin.

Where the i3, and in particular, the i3s, surprises most is in the handling department. You need to see past the high seating position and light city-focused steering to see it, but there's a surprising amount of grip from narrow eco-focused tires, and the torque sent to the rear axle makes the i3 extremely nimble. You won't want to track the thing, but nipping through city streets is a relatively fun affair, although the tall seating position is disconcerting when attempting corners too haphazardly.

i3 Gas Mileage

When the i3 first debuted, many were disappointed that despite the carbon fiber architecture and high price tag, there simply wasn't enough range on offer to call the model a class-leader. 2019 models went some way towards remedying that with a larger battery pack of 42 kWh affording both the standard and s model a range of 153 miles. The EPA is yet to evaluate 2020 models, but the 2019 version attained estimates of 124/102/113 MPGe city/highway/combined. What the i3 possesses that others don't, is the option of a range-extender on both trims. This equips a two-cylinder gasoline engine that acts as a generator, recharging the battery and pushing the range estimate up to around 200 miles (127 miles of pure-electric range due to weight), while dropping EPA estimates to 100 MPGe combined. Rivals perform much better, with the Bolt and Kona EV offering in excess of 238 miles each. What adds further consternation is the i3's long charge times despite limited range. Level 2 charging takes 4.9 hours, although DC charging stations will replenish 80% charge in around 45 minutes. BMW claims that the battery will take around 6.5 hours to fully charge on a level one household power outlet.

  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 124/102 mpg
* 2020 BMW i3 120 Ah RWD

BMW i3 Interior

Stepping into the cabin of the BMW i3 is like stepping into a portal to the imagined future - modern, minimalistic, and slick, best describe the i3's cabin design. The novel, two-spoke steering wheel, prism-like dash and door panels, and the floating 6.5-inch infotainment touchscreen are central to the i3's futuristic design ethos. What makes all this truly impressive, however, is that BMW utilized recycled and sustainable materials for the construction of many the cabin's constituents, something the eco-warriors should really appreciate in their EV. The minimalistic design and exclusion of any fixed B-pillars or a transmission tunnel make the cabin appreciably ergonomic and elicits a feel of roominess, though passenger room is rather tight. The seats are reasonably comfy, though they won't provide all-day levels of luxury.

2020 BMW i3 Dashboard BMW
2020 BMW i3 Interior Overview BMW
2020 BMW i3 Dashboard 1 BMW
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Seating and Interior Space

While most vehicles in this class are outfitted to seat five, only four adults will fit into the i3. Passengers up front have plenty of room to enjoy, though a high seating position may be a little inconvenient for taller adults. Passenger room gets a little tighter in the rear though, and while ingress and egress are trouble-free to and from the front cabin, the i3's rear-hinged 'suicide' rear doors make life a little tougher. Opening them in tight spots can be a little tricky, as the handles can only be reached by opening the front doors first, highlighting the i3's compromises in practicality for style. The driver's seating position is otherwise pretty good, the driver's controls are straightforward, minimalistic, and all in reach, and outward visibility is clear all-round, thanks to large windows.

  • Seating capacity
    4-seater
  • Front Leg Room 40.5 in
  • Front Head Room 39.6 in
  • Rear Leg Room 31.9 in
  • Rear Head Room 37.2 in

Interior Colors and Materials

BMW offers both the i3 and the i3s with four comprehensive cabin themes. The standard theme, named Deka World, combines dark cloth seating upholstery with Andesite Silver Matte cabin accents. For $1,400 the Mega World theme combines Mega Carum Spice Grey SensaTec seating upholstery with brown cloth highlights and electronic brown cabin accents. The Giga World theme costs $1,800 to apply, and adorns the cabin with Giga Brown natural leather and Carum Spice Grey wool cloth seating upholstery and light eucalyptus wood cabin accents. The Tera World theme is the most expensive option at $2,600, it accords the cabin with Vernasca leather seating upholstery in Tera Dark Truffle and light eucalyptus wood cabin accents. The cabin of the Edition RoadStyle features a Dalbergia Brown natural leather interior with a Dark Oak matt fine-wood trim and exclusive headrests embroidered with "Edition RoadStyle".

BMW i3 Trunk and Cargo Space

Traditionally, the clever packaging of EVs with low-mounted battery packs and no traditional engine means that you get an abundance of storage with a traditional trunk and a frunk. However, the i3 is at a notable disadvantage here, with only 15.1 cubic feet available in the traditional cargo bay behind the second row of seats. Fortunately, the addition of the range extender doesn't affect this capacity. The rear seats in all trims are capable of folding in a 50/50 split, unlocking a total of 36.9 cubic feet of storage. Rivals fare better, though, with the Nissan Leaf afforded 23.6 cubic feet in its default configuration.

There aren't many in-cabin storage solutions either, and they're all really compact and impractical. Up front, there are narrow door side pockets on each front door, a small passenger-side glove box, a sizeable center console cubby, and two cupholders. There are another two cup holders between the rear outboard seats.

2020 BMW i3 Trunk Space with Seat Folded BMW
2020 BMW i3 Rear View 1 BMW
2020 BMW i3 Rear Angle View BMW
  • Maximum Cargo Space
    36.9 ft³

i3 Infotainment and Features

Features

The BMW i3's standard features list is relatively decent, though the features themselves are rather basic compared to what other luxury EV's get. The i3 and i3s are identically specced, there's a Comfort Access keyless entry system, keyless start functionality, and a fully-digital driver information display. A leather-wrapped steering wheel is standard in the i3 too, along with a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, eight-way manually-adjustable front seats with three-stage heating, and single-zone automatic climate control. An electronic hood and trunk release and an auto-dimming rearview mirror are also standard. There isn't much in the way of driver-assist features, however, with only a rearview camera, front and rear parking sensors, and dynamic cruise control coming standard. Automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go functionality, a parking assist system, and a power moonroof are available as standalone options.

Infotainment

The BMW i3 sports a 6.5-inch high-resolution infotainment display which BMW refers to as the Navigation Business system. It features programmable memory buttons and the signature iDrive controller. Unfortunately, there's limited functionality with only Apple CarPlay integration, and no Android Auto or Amazon Alexa compatibility. Bluetooth wireless technology for hands-free smartphone operation, phonebook transfers, and audio streaming are all also standard, along with HD Radio connectivity with multicast FM reception, and SiriusXM satellite radio connectivity. A premium 16-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system is available as a standalone option, as is navigation with real-time traffic information and a wireless device charging pad. There are direct connectivity options provided via a single auxiliary input jack, two smart-chargers and device connectivity USB ports, and a 12-volt power outlet.

i3 Problems and Reliability

The 2020 BMW i3 still forms part of the first generation model introduced for the 2014 model year, and although the i3 has been recalled numerous times since then, the issues have been almost entirely resolved at this point. Recalls have been few and far between, with 2019 seeing a single recall issued; the 2020 model is recall-free at the time of writing. BMW covers the i3 with a four-year/50,000-mile basic warranty and an eight-year/100,000-mile high-voltage battery warranty. Four years of complimentary roadside assistance is also included for those who are concerned about reliability.

Warranty

  • Basic:
    4 Years \ 50,000 Miles
  • Drivetrain:
    4 Years \ 50,000 Miles
  • Corrosion:
    12 Years \ Unlimited Miles
  • Roadside Assistance:
    4 Years \ Unlimited Miles
  • Maintenance:
    3 Years \ 36,000 Miles

BMW i3 Safety

While the NHTSA hasn't evaluated the i3 in its lifetime, the IIHS has, at least, given the current BMW i3 a review, scoring the model with top scores of Good in four of five specified tests, with a score of only Acceptable for its head restraints, and neglecting any headlight or collision avoidance assessments.

Key Safety Features

BMW didn't make many considerations for the i3 in the way of safety and driver-assist technologies. It gets a standard consignment of six airbags including dual front, front side, and full-length side curtain airbags, and a handful of essentials such as an acoustic safety-belt warning system, acoustic pedestrian protection signal, ABS, stability control, and tire pressure monitoring. Driver-assist technologies include an integrated rearview camera, dynamic cruise control, and front and rear park distance control. A parking assistance system and active cruise control with Stop & Go are available, as are automatic high-beam LED headlights.

Verdict: 🏁Is the 2020 BMW i3 a good car?

The i3 was intended to be a gateway for BMW, an entry-point into the EV realm to expose the world to what it had to offer. But seven years on and the i3 hasn't evolved much in the USA. In standard guise, it still has less than 200 miles range, and the quirky styling hasn't evolved to everyone's tastes. Designed as a city car, there are compromises in cargo volume compared to rivals, and the suicide rear doors that made it stand out when released are really more of a hindrance than a help in the grand scheme of things. Sure, it drives well and has a decent amount of features, but when the money it asks is more than any comparable rival, it becomes apparent that the i3 is trading on a premium badge and carbon fiber bragging rights alone. The simple fact is that EVs have come a long way since 2014, and the i3 simply hasn't.

🚘What's the Price of the 2020 BMW i3?

With EVs becoming more affordable as production costs come down and technology advances, the i3's expensive carbon fiber construction means that rivals now outprice it by a good margin. The base i3 goes on sale for $44,450, while the more potent i3s asks $47,650. Equipping either model with the range-extender option sees the price increase by $3,850, resulting in a $51,500 price on the i3s with Range Extender; the prices of the BMW i3 quoted here exclude a $995 destination fee. A Chevrolet Bolt asks only $36,620, while a Kona EV starts at $37,190. The biggest threat to the i3 comes from the Tesla Model 3, which starts at $39,990 with a range of 250 miles. Like other EVs, the i3 qualifies the purchaser for up to $7,500 in federal tax credit, with various additional incentives from state to state.

2020 BMW i3 Models

BMW's i3 lineup consists of two trims: i3 and i3s, although both can be optioned with the Range Extender combustion generator. A single electric motor drives the rear axle of all models, powered by a 42 kWh lithium-ion battery. The i3 generates 168 hp while the i3s has outputs of 181 hp.

Both models are almost identically specified. The base i3 has 19-inch wheels, while standard equipment across both models includes full-LED exterior lighting, Comfort Access keyless entry, a fully-digital driver information display, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Both front seats feature three-stage heating and eight-way manual-adjustability. There's also single-zone automatic climate control, a rearview camera, front and rear parking sensors, and dynamic cruise control. Covering infotainment is a 6.5-inch infotainment display with Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth wireless technology, and HD Radio SiriusXM satellite radio.

The i3s gets 20-inch alloy wheels and a sports body kit, as well as sporty suspension and the aforementioned power upgrades. The i3s is also the only trim available with this year's Edition RoadStyle packaging.

See All 2020 BMW i3 Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

There's only one package available for both the i3 and i3s: a Technology + Driving Assistant Package which adds LED headlights with cornering lights, automatic high beams, navigation, advanced real-time traffic information, ACC with Stop & Go Active Driving Assistance, and a universal garage door opener, for $2,350.

A two-way power glass sunroof is available at a cost of $1,000, while wireless device charging and a Wi-Fi hotspot will cost you $500. There's also an $800 16-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system available. The climate control system can be upgraded with a heat pump for $150, resulting in an improvement of up to 50% in energy efficiency with the same degree of heating.

🚗What BMW i3 Model Should I Buy?

If you're buying an EV, you want a decent range. For that reason, we recommend opting for the range extender regardless of what trim you choose. As for which model you should choose, we'd stick with the base i3, as the i3s doesn't amp things up too much and the i3 will never be a truly sporty vehicle, anyway. We'd spec ours with the Terra World styling package, opt for the $550 Mineral Grey paint, and choose the no-cost style 428 alloy wheels. We'd splash on the $2,350 Technology + Driving Assistant Package, the Harman Kardon sound system, and wireless charging, resulting in a total package price of $55,100. Alternatively, you could just buy a Tesla Model 3 for that money...

2020 BMW i3 Comparisons

Tesla Model 3 Tesla
Nissan Leaf Nissan
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
BMW i3170 hp124/102 mpg$44,450
Tesla Model 3 258 hp138/124 mpg$35,000
Nissan Leaf 147 hp124/99 mpg$31,600

2020 BMW i3 vs Tesla Model 3

Although it's technically bigger than the i3 and is a sedan rather than a hatch, the Tesla Model 3 is the only EV in a similar price range that can match the i3 in terms of being a premium EV. It forgoes the city nature and carbon fiber construction of the i3 and weighs more as such, but it backs it up with more power in base Standard Range Plus guise, is quicker to 60 mph (5.3 seconds), and can attain a range of up to 250 miles. It also has access to the Tesla Supercharger network and costs only $39,990. The Tesla is more spacious inside by comparison, has a trunk and a frunk, and is jam-packed with technology and safety features that are absent from the BMW. It's an absolute no-brainer here: the Model 3 is one of the best EVs money can buy at that price, and the i3 doesn't stand a chance.

See Tesla Model 3 Review

2020 BMW i3 vs Nissan Leaf

It's by no means a luxury vehicle, but the Nissan Leaf was one of the earliest available EVs to the public and has since carved itself out as a benchmark. But the i3 and Leaf are remarkably similar, with similar performance and a battery pack within two kWh of one another in size. However, thanks to recent updates, the 62 kWh-equipped Leaf can achieve a range of 226 miles on a charge, besting the i3. It looks more run-of-the-mill, too, which in this case is good, as the i3's odd looks might not appeal to a broad range of buyers. Clever interior packaging means the Leaf offers a fair amount of head and legroom for all passengers and a larger trunk than the i3, while the interior itself is remarkably upscale. Sure, the i3 is fancier, but the Leaf's latest updates have made it better. The final nail in the i3's coffin, the Leaf only costs $44,825 when fully loaded, while the BMW i3 costs an extra $7,000 on top of this.

See Nissan Leaf Review

BMW i3 Popular Comparisons

2020 BMW i3 Video Reviews

Check out some informative BMW i3 video reviews below.

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