Car Reviews

2018 BMW i3s Review – Quick Spin

Isaac Bober’s quick spin 2018 BMW i3s Review with pricing, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.

In a nutshell: Better looking, more powerful, better handling and a longer range… there’s a lot to like about the BMW i3s.

2018 BMW i3s

Price $69,900+ORC Warranty three years, 150,000km Safety 5 star ANCAP Engine Electric motor Power 135kW Torque 270Nm Transmission single-speed automatic Drive rear-wheel drive Dimensions 4006mm (L) 1791mm (W) 1590mm (H) 2039mm (WB) Boot Space 260 lutres Spare run-flat tyres (no spare) Range 200km

Comprehensive Car Insurance

BMW HELD its now annual range day earlier this week and invited motoring writers from near and far to sample the brand’s entire range, including a static look at the new M5 here in March and the X2 launching here later this month. There were more than 40 cars to choose from but it was the i3s that we all lined up to sample.

The new i3s is the brands beefed up i3 and the first model update since it was launched in 2014. It’s the first serious update to the electric car and it’s a decent one. There’s improved power and torque, greater range, tweaked suspension and some external flourishes too.

The elephant in the room is the amount of time I had with the i3s… because of the demand, drives were limited to 20 minutes only. So, this is a first impression review only.

Let’s get the pricing out of the way first, and then we’ll delve into the key changes and then finish off with my drive impression.

The i3 range starts at $68,700+ORC, steps up to $74,700+ORC for the i3 with a petrol ‘range extender’ engine, while the i3s starts at $69,900+ORC and $75,900+ORC with a ‘range extender’ petrol motor. For the record, the car we drove was an electric-only i3s.

So, what’s new with this thing? It’s small things that you might not notice at first, like the fact the BMW i Black Belt now incorporates the roof line and A-pillars, there are more exterior colours available, like the Melbourne Red of the car we tested.

At the front, the apron has been tweaked to make the front of the car look wider than it is and, if you stand back from the front of the thing the optical illusion seems to work. But then, the i3s sits 10mm lower than the standard i3 so maybe that’s the real reason. Similarly, at the back the BMW eDrive badge has been pushed further out to the edge of the car to create an impression of width. It works, the i3s looks squat.

The thing sits on huge 20-inch alloys which are 20mm wider than the wheels on the pre-facelift car. The tyres are run-flats, so, obviously, there’s no spare.

2018 BMW i3s Review

Open the front door, which is big and swings out nice and wide making it easy to simply step into the front seat, and you’re confronted by a near flat floor. The i3s is only a small car but the flat floor and horizontal layout of the dash make it feel much bigger than it is. The tall glasshouse adds to the feeling of light and space in the front of the car.

 

The 10.65-inch infotainment screen dominates the dash and runs the latest-generation iDrive6 and while it’s not standard, you can option Apple CarPlay only – and, if you do, it’s a wireless connection – no other car maker offers that.

2018 BMW i3s Review

The infotainment runs BMW’s Professional sat-nav system and offers things like voice recognition; BMW says it’ll understand ‘natural speaking’ but I didn’t get a chance to try that out. The sat-nav offers a car park search and public charging stations; when you’ve set a destination, the sat-nav will show on the map your range based on the selected driving mode. This is all pretty clever sounding stuff, and we’ll be testing them out more thoroughly when we’ve had a chance to test the i3s properly.

2018 BMW i3s Review

Climb into the back seat via the coach-style doors; you can only open the back door when the front doors are opened. And, even with the front seat folded forwards the gap to climb out from the back isn’t huge. I had to twist a bit and didn’t look particularly elegant climbing/falling out, but I’m 6-foot tall, so, I’ll cut the thing some slack.

Once in the back there’s ‘enough’ room for six-footer like me to sit comfortably. The shape of the seat is good and there are ISOFIX mounts for those with kids – there are only two back seats. There are no rear air vents or charging outlets in the back, but this is an urban runabout and not a cross-country tourer. The boot offers 260 litres of storage space.

2018 BMW i3s Review

So, what’s the i3s like on the road? Running a 94Ah battery the standard i3 offers 125kW and 250Nm of torque, the i3s ups this to 135kW and 270Nm of torque which is impressive for a vehicle weighing just 1265kg, even more so when you consider all this oomph arrives at 1rpm. Put your foot down in the i3s and the acceleration is impressive is indeed and feels faster than its 0-100km/h time of 6.9 seconds suggests. And it’s rolling acceleration that’s performance car impressive, like 30-70km/h in 2.5 seconds and 80-130km/h in 4.3 seconds.

Obviously, there’s no engine noise so the vehicle’s movement feels ever so eerie, accompanied by a slight whining whoosh sound… you get used to it, though. Braking is just as impressive, take your foot off the throttle and the thing immediately retards because of the regenerative braking; it’s very nearly a one-pedal car. Thankfully the brake pedal has a progressive action allowing you to feather the brakes if you need to without smashing your head into the steering wheel. Yes, the braking force is that strong. BMW suggests a driving range of around 200km in real-world driving which is more than enough range for the common Aussie commute.

The steering is nice and direct and typically BMW meaty. The ride is good if a little firm. The roads we drove across weren’t the best and while the i3s didn’t feel unsettled, I can’t help but think a set of 19s instead of 20-inch alloys might have improved the ride.

2018 BMW i3s Review

The i3s gets sports suspension as standard, sits 10mm lower and has a 40mm wider track than the standard i3. It’s hard to be too detailed about the ride and handling because the loop was so short, but the couple of corners that were there were dispatched with ease, the i3s sitting flat and feeling like it would have been comfortable taking them much faster. I can’t wait to try this thing out on roads I know and at higher speeds.

2018 BMW i3s Review

The i3s can be had with a small two-cylinder petrol motor which makes 30kW and adds 130km to the range, giving you around 330km of total range. Charging the i3s is via Type 2 which is taking hold as the universal charging system for electric vehicles. That said, the i3s can also take three-phase AC charging. BMW has redesigned its i Wallbox which depending on the model can charge the i3s to around 80% capacity between 3-7.5 hours; using a 50kW DC outlet will get it done in 40 minutes.

So, what do I think of the i3s? I think it’s a ripper and if it’s a glimpse of urban mobility then sign me up. That said, it’s not cheap and for electric cars to catch up in Australia and perform as they have in other places around the world then the Government really should be offering incentives to buyers. And it’s not about subsidising BMW owners, it’s about making it ‘cheaper’ for more Australians to get into an electric car.

Editor's Rating

Quick Spin Rating
Practical Motoring Says: I only had a very quick drive of the new BMW i3s but I was thoroughly impressed by the thing. The interior looks cool, especially the dashboard and virtually flat floor throughout. There’s enough room for four inside although getting in and out of the back isn’t a particularly dignified affair. The instant oomph is addictive and the regenerative braking is so impressive that this is virtually a one-pedal car. I’ve driven plenty of electric cars now, but the i3s is properly impressive; it’s the Mighty Mouse of the electric car world… the youngsters will need to Google that reference.

6 Comments

  1. Ben Tate
    February 16, 2018 at 12:34 am — Reply

    Why do people buy electric cars? To shift polution to areas surroinding our coal fired power stations? Or to reduce the cost of motoring? If it’s the latter, how long will it take to make up the $50k difference between this car and a $20k Korean car burning petrol? And the Korean cheapie is not limited to 200km between top ups.

    I think that electric cars need to be priced much closer to petrol cars to attract those who are keen to cut the cost of motoring. How much is the cheapest Toyota Hybrid?

    • Alan
      February 16, 2018 at 3:25 pm — Reply

      Toyota Hybrid – nearly $40,000 for a PRIUS Gen4 (though there is the under-done, old-tech, low-tech Corolla which needs Premium fuel for about $32k – or the little YARIS sized one for $30k ish).

      • BenTate
        February 17, 2018 at 9:13 am — Reply

        I think the Camry Hybrid is around $40k ($30k cheaper) and uses circa 5L/100 kms. How many years would it take to make back the $30k price difference?

        For those buying a 100% electric car what’s the motive. If the objective is to use zero petrol, why? If the objective is to save $ then car cost has to be factored in. A person chasing the cheapest possible motoring probably drives a the cheapest Mistubishi. Whats it called? A Mirage?

        • Alan
          February 17, 2018 at 11:18 am — Reply

          Yep – I forgot about CAMRY Hybrid – actually a great car, but bigger than I wanted (and will fit in my garage, but I can’t open the doors). From $33k to $44k. Combined l/100 is 7.8, apparently a figure which is readily able to beat from reading some road tests.

          Yes, you could get a Mirage for $13k? – but having looked at one a couple of years ago, I’d say “why”. That said, there are some quite reasonable cars under $20k – but the BMW comes with a badge – which is a consideration for some people!!

          • Ben Tate
            February 18, 2018 at 8:53 pm

            Yeah the BMWs are nice. I like the 140i. Great car.

            Mazda is introducing some interesting technology. Compression Ignition petrol engines. Looks like their economy will rival small diesels. If they’re one third or half the price of an electric car I dare say they’d be the logical choice on an economical basis. And not too bad on a green basis either?

            A very basic electric car at about Mirage price would save the 140i from the peak hour and shopping centre bump and grind. If it was an urban area duty car 300km or 400km might be good enough.

  2. Alan
    February 16, 2018 at 3:28 pm — Reply

    It’s a pity the range extender hasn’t got better range-extending capability. It could be a good multi-purpose city & touring car then. ’tis too much to pay for a car which can’t be used all the time.

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Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober was born in the shadow of Mount Panorama in Bathurst and, so, it was inevitable he’d fall into work as a motoring writer. He began his motoring career in 2000 reviewing commercial vehicles, before becoming editor of Caravan & Motorhome magazine. He then moved to MOTOR Magazine before going freelance and contributing to Overlander 4WD, 4×4 Australia, TopGear Australia, Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, The Australian, CARSguide, and many more.