Because only the BMW i3’s electric motor is connected to its (rear) driven wheels, this city car has the kind of power delivery that we’ve come to know and love from a pure EV. With peak torque from zero revs and no discernible lag at any speed, you put your foot down and the i3 responds immediately. It responds strongly, too.

The 0-62mph sprint is claimed to take 7.3sec in the all-electric model, and is accompanied by a seamless, prolonged shove in the back. The top speed may be only 99mph, but the performance on the way to it wouldn’t shame a warm hatchback. The range extender, which weighs 120kg more, takes a slower 8.1sec and has the same top speed. The i3S with its more powerful motor can do the same sprint in 6.9sec (or 7.7sec in Range Extender form), before topping out at the same top speed of 99mph.

Matt Prior

Matt Prior

Road test editor
Unlike most plug-in hybrids, the range-extending petrol engine never drives the wheels

Normally, you’d be frightened to use all of that poke in an EV because of the rapidly reduced range that a heavy right foot brings. And on battery power alone, the i3, in our hands, returned a typical range of about 75 miles.

But, in range-extender versions of the i3, the fact that there’s that twin-cylinder bike engine secreted beneath the boot floor gives you a certain confidence, even if the fuel tank is only bike-sized, too.

It’s possible to ask the i3 to hold its battery charge once it has fallen below 75 percent full, from which point the car will run with electrical power provided by the petrol generator.

In doing so, we found that the battery depletes a little between switch-offs, but we still rate the range extender as an extremely worthy feature, turning the i3 from short-hop urbanite into something acceptable as an only car.

Find yourself without electrical back-up for a few days and the i3 will give you about 40mpg on generator, accompanied by a muted, quite endearing twin-cylinder thrum.

On battery power, we saw as much as a 94-mile range and as little as 68 miles. With a fresh charge and a fresh tank, then, you could expect comfortably over 150 miles before having to find a power source of one kind or another.

Save money on your car insurance

Compare quotesCompare insurance quotes

Top 5 Electric hatchbacks

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the BMW range

Driven this week

  • Seat Arona 1.5 TSI EVO FR
    First Drive
    17 January 2018
    Seat is on a roll with the Ateca and Ibiza; can they score a hat trick with the new Arona?
  • Jaguar E-Pace D240
    First Drive
    17 January 2018
    With much riding on the success of the Jaguar E-Pace, we have been impressed with the mid-level diesel version, but now its time for the most powerful oilburner to go under the spotlight
  • Vauxhall VXR8 GTS-R
    Car review
    12 January 2018
    Vauxhall bids farewell to its line of Aussie performance legends in some style with the limited edition VXR8 GTS-R
  • Alfa Romeo Stelvio
    Car review
    12 January 2018
    Alfa Romeo’s first SUV aims to hoist the handling panache of the Giulia saloon
  • Volkswagen Polo 1.0 TSI
    First Drive
    11 January 2018
    Sixth-generation Volkswagen Polo arrives in the UK with a emphasis on safety and refinement. Could that be enough to see it become supermini king?