Leaving Tesla to one side, no other EV whispers ‘premium’ as insistently as the i3 and this comes with an associated cost. For the i3s, that cost is the far side of £40,000, whereas an e-Golf starts at £32,750 and the top-spec Zoe costs less still. All three are eligible for the UK government’s £4500 grant for plug-in cars, of course, but even then, the BMW occupies entry-level 5 Series territory.
Range is the other main concern. Our test figures indicate that the i3s has touring legs of 92 miles on electricity alone; just above 100, perhaps, without the ballast of a range-extender engine. Three years ago, that would have put it among the most exploratory cars in its class, but given that the e-Golf can now comfortably dispatch 120 miles and a Zoe will do better still, that’s no longer the case.
The BMW’s nine-litre fuel tank pushes the overall range to around 160 miles, although the engine in the back of range-extender i3 model has always been an insurance policy slightly at odds with the spirit of the car. And it can be an intrusively loud insurance policy capable of returning only 36.3mpg, according to our testing.
The i3s is versatile, mind, being capable of taking both alternating or direct current when fast-charging. From a 50kW DC charging station – the likes of which you’ll increasingly happen upon at motorway services stations – battery charge can be replenished to 80% in 40 minutes. Charging at home on a 32amp wallbox would typically take between three and four hours.