Currently reading: Used car buying guide: BMW i8
Munich's tech-laden electrified streak is surprisingly couth - here's how it stacks up as a used purchase

The BMW i8 arrived like a bolt from the blue in 2014 and left us open-mouthed and reeling from shock. 

We were unable to work out if this butterfly-doored, low-slung and extravagantly constructed plug-in hybrid sports car was the Great Leap Forward or a slightly underwhelming Porsche 911 rival, with its six-figure price tag and the engine from a Mini Cooper

Where it unquestionably succeeded, though, is with its Blade Runner-aping design. The i8 remained recognisably a BMW, but it didn’t look a lot like any other cooking BMW. It looked (and still looks) terrific, and time and depreciation being what they are, you can now put one on your driveway for not much more than £30,000 – and you’re very unlikely to see its price go lower. So it’s an exotic investment, then? Could be… 

Underneath its extravagant exterior, the i8 mixed a combustion engine, an electric motor and a lithium ion battery pack. It could run, in the earlier cars, for up to 23 miles on electric-only power (post-facelift models upped this to 34 miles) and claimed an official NEDC fuel consumption figure of 135mpg.

2 Bmw i8 coupe 2018 uk fd hero rear 0

At its heart, that engine is, as mentioned, a reworked version of the 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol triple you will find in a Mini Cooper, but special internals and clever induction technology conjure 228bhp and 236lb ft. 

The transversely mounted mid-engined powerplant drives not only the rear wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission but also a high-output starter-generator electric motor, which shuffles power back into the 7.1kWh battery under the floor.

Up front, there’s a 129bhp, 184lb ft electric motor driving the front wheels. Peak combined outputs are 357bhp and 420lb ft. The weight of the i8 was initially claimed at 1560kg, which is about the same as a contemporary 911 and noticeably less than a Jaguar F-Type

Performance was listed at 0-62mph in 4.4sec and with a top speed of 155mph. The powertrain is willing and flexible, too. The low-profile yet relatively narrow tyres and super-stiff structure create a bit of road roar, but you can still cover long distances at effortlessly high speeds in this car. 


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Car review

Munich's tech-laden electrified streak can now be had from £30k - here's how it stacks up

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And when you do, it’s remarkable how economical the i8 can be: out on the open road you will seldom get less than 40mpg, and should see more if you plug it in regularly and your journeys are short. 

1 Bmw i8 coupe 2018 uk fd hero front 0

Of course, if you approach the i8 hoping for a shrapnel-spitting rival to the likes of a Porsche 911 or an Audi R8, you’re likely to come away disappointed. 

In essence, it’s really a grand tourer and as such feels more like a BMW 6 Series coupé, with steering that is light, responsive and accurate, without the drama of some of its sportier rivals. The chassis, too, is beautifully damped, and it’s supremely well matched to the powertrain - the i8 really is a lovely thing to drive. 

Some complained that it didn’t have enough character, but it is not for a car to have character, but for its driver to have it. Punt it down your favourite road and you’ll find the i8 is an immensely and easily enjoyable thing and a surprisingly couth car - unlike many of its rivals.

What we said then

Bmw i8 side

17 September 2014: “The i8 is one of the most compelling cars we’ve tested in years, not only because of its fascinating powertrain and unusual but appealing dynamics but also because of how exquisitely finished it feels as a product – both inside and outside – and how easy it would be to live with.

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An owner's view

David Leney: “I love my i8, especially its handling and refinement. I’ve owned it for five years and it’s never given me any major trouble. The electric range is realistically only 18 miles and visibility can be a problem. Servicing isn’t too expensive, but electrics seem to be a thing, with warning lights occasionally popping on and off. I thought about the Roadster but it cost more and you lose the rear seats, and my children used to love doing the school run in the car.”

Buyer beware

Bmw i8 engine bay

Engine: The engine is based on the 1.5-litre unit in the Mini Cooper. So it’s reliable and the six-speed automatic gearbox is robust. There have been issues with the fuel pressure sensor, which is prone to failure. One or two owners have reported engine failure, but the vast majority noted excellent reliability. 

Warnings of a low coolant level when the levels are correct suggest a sensor issue. There have also been reports of problems with overheating and a few complaints about the central controller. 

Brakes: Most parts prices for an i8 can be expensive, but consumables are generally okay. For instance, front brake pads should cost you no more than those for a 3 Series. 

Body: As a sports car with a six-figure price when new, the i8 is the kind of model that owners tend to cherish. Even so, it’s worth checking the wheels for scrapes and scratches, looking for bodywork damage (particularly around the doors, which require a lot of space to open) and ensuring the tyres are in good condition. 

Many owners find the butterfly doors can be a pain. The door struts have been known to fail and cost a lot of money to repair, so check carefully when buying. Some fuel tank covers have been sticky too, refusing to open. 

Bmw i8 infotainment

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Electrics: While some owners have had to return their i8s to dealers to address warning lights, it tends to be for isolated cases rather than faults that are common to i8s. Software issues are not uncommon, though, so check the service and MOT history carefully. 

Recalls: There have been five recalls. Cars built in 2014 had a possible fuel leak; i8s built in 2015 had a faulty sensor that could cause stability issues; cars built in late 2016 could have an airbag fault; i8s were recalled in 2019 to replace a faulty printed circuit board; and in 2020 an issue with impurities in the high-voltage batteries was addressed. 

Also worth knowing 

Along with 2018’s facelift came a roadster weighing just 60kg more than the coupé but losing its rear seats. At the press of a button, it stows its roof in 15 seconds beneath a panel within the buttresses behind the cabin.

Other facelift changes included increased battery capacity, from 7.1kWh to 11.6kWh, with a claimed range of 33 miles for the Roadster and 34 miles for the coupé. The dihedral doors provide tremendous visual impact when the car is stationary. They weigh around 50% less than normal doors thanks to their aluminium, carbonfibre and thermoplastic construction. 

There’s a two-speed automatic transmission attached to that front-mounted electric motor. This gearbox, manufactured by GKN Driveline, is controlled in harmony with the primary engine and gearbox, and it shifts ratios seamlessly. It also allows the electric motor to chime in with all of its 184lb ft at much higher road speeds than would otherwise be possible. 

Bmw i8 boot

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Generally, the i8 is very robust, with occasional electronic niggles. Remember the car’s flaws: minimal rear room, a tiny boot and doors that mean you must park in a space where no one can park too close to you. 

How much to spend 

£30,000-£39,999: Some nice buys but check the condition and service history. Mostly 2014-16 cars. 

£40,000-£59,999: Nets you good 2017-19 i8s with a full service history and average mileage. 

£60,000 and above: Prime examples from 2018 onwards, with full histories and low miles. Most roadsters cost from £60k upwards.

One we found 

Bmw i8 used

BMW i8 1.5 coupé, 2014, 69,000 MILES, £34,360: Well-kept i8 with over £5000 of extras including 20in i Turbine alloys, Crystal white pearl effect paint and a Harman Kardon sound system. MOT is due in October; full service hist

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Ravon 22 May 2023

I've been fortunate enough to have had three i8's over the years, I've loved every one, but I'd be scared to run one at my personal expense. I'd suggest a potential purchaser looks at the costs of a rear light cluster or a headlight before taking the plunge .

Peter Cavellini 22 May 2023
Ravon wrote:

I've been fortunate enough to have had three i8's over the years, I've loved every one, but I'd be scared to run one at my personal expense. I'd suggest a potential purchaser looks at the costs of a rear light cluster or a headlight before taking the plunge .

so, it's nice if your company vehicle is a turn key nothing to pay, but, you wouldn't have one if you had to pay for it?, also saying they were amazing no fuss then mention to watch for a couple of things?, thirty grand isn't for some a cheap Car.

si73 29 October 2020

@ LP in Brighton. These

@ LP in Brighton. These nearly new buying guides never have any information on what can go wrong or cost etc, more just showing what you can get for your money. Never much of a guide really.

Awesome car though, many seemed to dislike the engine configuration for not being big or exotic enough, that, to my mind, missed the point. It's one of the most stunning designs of all modern BMWs.

lee44 2 November 2021

The years have been kind, the design is still a head turner. 

BenzinBob 29 October 2020

Broke ass bitch

Spend £60k and the article states the running costs will be minimal duh