BMW i3 review – #GoUltraLow

BMW i3

On the 16th June, I was handed the keys to a brand new BMW i3 and asked to drive around it in for 6 weeks and report back on my findings. I had applied to be a part of the #GoUltraLow campaign as husband and I have spoken about hybrids before but never got any further plus, I am constantly hearing such negative comments in relation to electric cars. If we were ever to invest in one I’d want to be pretty sure that we can do all the things we can do today in our diesel fuelled car.

What is an ULEV?

An ULEV (ultra low emission vehicle) is a motor vehicle that emits extremely low levels of emissions, it produces 75g or less of CO2 per kilometre from the tailpipe. They fall into three categories; Electric, Hybrid and Range Extender. Our BMW i3 is a Range Extender.

You can find out lots more on the Go Ultra Low website


These are zero emission, 100 per cent electric vehicles, they have a very quiet operation that drives the wheels via an electric motor that uses a single gear.

It is recharged via charging points or by plugging into your home supply – usually via an outside power point. When using the brakes, some of the energy is recaptured and the battery can recharge itself whilst on the move.


Plug-in hybrids supplement an electric motor with a conventional petrol or diesel engine, either system can drive the wheels.

The battery can power the car for 10 – 20 miles – more than enough for your average journey on British roads. After this, the petrol or diesel engine kicks in giving CO2 emissions of 40 – 50 g/km. Conventional hybrids do not need plugging in, but the new types use electricity to extend their zero-emission range significantly.

Range Extender

E-Rev stands for Extended-Range Electric Vehicle – our BMW i3 is one of these – where the electric motor always drives the wheels using a conventional engine as a generator to recharge the battery.

They provide 20 – 30g/km CO2 emissions making them the most eco-friendly compromise.

BMW i3 interior seats

First impressions of the BMW i3

There is no denying that the BMW i3 is a gorgeous car, a lot of care and attention has gone into the design making this an object of beauty. From the excellent use of space, the choice of interior furnishings and the exterior colours available, BMW have not held back and sitting in this car is a very comfortable experience.

BMW i3

The two child seats were easily fixed to the ISO bars in the back seat and there is no worry of children opening the back doors as they can only be opened once the front doors are open. The children also have two containers in the middle of their seats to hold water bottles.

The car is an automatic drive which is easy to get used to; you have four options, P- Park, D – Drive, R – Reverse and N – Neutral.

It has automatic lights and windscreen washers which come on as and when needed.

The onboard computer is a novelty to us and we LOVE it. A big screen with lots of options to put in at the start of your journey.

There is a ‘joy’ stick on the centre piece between the front seats which accesses the menu and after a quick look around I think you could quite easily set up office in your BMW i3. There is also a USB to connect your iPod, Phone or Touch directly to the onboard computer.

BMW i3 interior design

Cruise control was something that husband was very impressed with and used on our trip to the beach last weekend, a 55-mile journey (more about that later).

Our first impressions were extremely favourable and it’s been amusing watching local petrol heads slow down in their cars to get a better look or even walk up to the house and chat to my next door neighbour whilst he’s gardening out the front asking for more information.

Performance of the BMW i3

One very exciting discovery for me has been the performance of this car. For some reason, I had assumed that electric cars wouldn’t have a lot of power in them and boy was I wrong. As I headed down the slip road onto the A2 to try the car out on a motorway for the first time, I was amazed at the power I had under my foot and quickly had to take my foot off the accelerator to avoid speeding – like in seconds!

My second amazing discovery is there is no engine noise! The car runs silently which at the beginning is confusing after years of listening to the engine. However, on our first long trip to the coast, we were able to detect the fuel engine kicking in (seamlessly I must add) and could hear the hum as we drove along.

BMW i3 beach run

As you are driving along you have a second screen placed directly behind the steering wheel where you can check how much charge your battery has, how much fuel you have in the tank and the computer keeps tabs on how many miles you can drive on each individually AND offers an overall total too. It also shows exactly which fuel you are consuming at any one moment.

On coming to a stop, I have learnt to coast the car – (take my foot off the accelerator and let the car come to a natural stop). This also recharges the battery as does applying the breaks. You can actively watch this as you drive along on the screen; when the car is recharging itself a white line is displayed between the two fuel gauges.

First impressions: After two weeks of driving the BMW i3 I can honestly say it is amazing to drive.

BMW i3 inside

Re-charging and re-fuelling

The car comes with two cables both kept in the boot of the car. One is to connect the car and charge from any household plug and the other is to use at a service station (which we have yet to trial).

As part of this trial, we have been fitted with an external charge point. It took the best part of a day to fit and has its own trip box connected to our home electric fuse box. This is to avoid affecting the entire house should the charger trip at any moment.

BMW i3 wall charger

Each company have their own charger and from what I understand at this early stage there are two different kinds of plugs. The engineer who came to fit ours said the companies were already looking at agreeing to one communal plug to ease future buyers.

The external charging box will become a permanent feature to your home so choose wisely where it will be placed. Had I known how big the BMW one was I would have chosen a different spot to the side of the house in all honesty as it’s a big unit on the front of the house.

I was disappointed to see that on this huge unit there are no other plug points available for outside use. A household plug point would have been handy for vacuuming the car and maybe a point to attach a caravan or at least the option to do so in the future would have been very handy indeed.

The charging box is a better charge, it is quicker and a full charge can be gained in 4 hours or less whereas attaching the car to the household mains never manages a complete charge and takes 8 hours or more.


I have found this perfect for everyday use, jump in and off I go – school runs, after school activities, shopping at the supermarket, trips to Bluewater and meeting friends too. I rarely use the entire battery for all of my weekly normal activities so I have only recharged twice so far. Whereas a tank of fuel on our family car costs around £60 and will last 3/4 weeks with our normal activities, I have yet to work out what a full charge has cost us but it lasts about a week. Costs of running the BMW i3 will follow in my second post.

BMW i3 shopping

Husband was initially very negative when he heard we had been selected for this campaign and this made it all the more interesting for me. He is now reformed in his ideas, he agrees the car is beautiful, that it runs exceedingly well, it is easy to charge and a dream to drive. My next hurdle with him will be the recharging on longer journeys as it will mean allowing half an hour for the charge to complete and adding this time into our journey.

App for BMW

For all BMW drivers there is a handy app to download

Cost: Currently the BMW i3 costs between £25,680 or £28,820 and the government are offering a £5000 electric vehicle grant

More reading for the BMW i3

What Car?

The Daily Telegraph

Disclosure: We have the BMW i3 on loan for 6 weeks for the purpose of this review and we will be reporting back to you regularly with our opinions and how we find, as a family, the BMW i3 Range Extender fits into our lives. To follow will be posts on longer journeys, planning a journey and recharging via the Rapid chargers at supermarkets and service stations.


  1. July 3, 2014 / 7:42 PM

    Bet you won’t want to give it back! It sounds a dream to drive – and also interesting points about noise and the size of the unit. Enjoyed reading this as have also often wondered about hybrids.

    • July 8, 2014 / 10:23 AM

      I had to drive my ‘old’ car yesterday and found it so sluggish after this beauty. It’s a pleasure to drive but out of my price range sadly. I’d have to look around for a cheaper solution for sure

  2. July 5, 2014 / 10:35 AM

    Interesting to hear your views of another motor.
    I am reviewing a Vauxhall Ampera on the bloggers #GoUltraLow project through the summer and whilst I haven’t taken delivery of the car yet, the charging station differs from yours – I didn’t realise this. I would have thought that all electric cars have the same charge!
    I will photograph my charging station too so you can compare the difference!
    It will be good to follow your progress with this and see how your experience differs or has similarities with my own!

    • July 8, 2014 / 10:25 AM

      I hope your charging station is smaller! I imagine were it to be fitted in a garage it wouldn’t be such a problem and at least it’s a beautiful BMW design but I think more thought could have definitely have been put into making this more useful.
      Can’t wait to read your Vauxhall Ampera reviews and fingers crossed it’s affordable to the majority

  3. #Welljel here! I drove a BMW when I worked in the City and LOVED it. TBH it drove itself and I have no doubt yours is the same, if not better and I do hope you’re going to take the long drive experiment down to Brighton. I’d LOVE to see that car, but not as much as I’d LOVE to see you, obvs. Brilliant review. Can’t wait for the follow ups :)

    • July 8, 2014 / 10:26 AM

      It’s a joy to drive Anya and I realise that even more when I have to get back into our car.
      I’d love to drive down to Brighton in it but they are taking it back on the 25th July and we don’t break up until the 23rd. You’ll have to put up with us in our regular motor I’m afraid :)

  4. July 7, 2014 / 12:47 PM

    We have a hybrid car and absolutely love it. It’s made such a difference to our fuel consumption.

    I do like the idea of a completely electric car but I think the country would have to catch up a bit first and invest in more charging stations before we’d invest.

    • July 8, 2014 / 10:28 AM

      I totally agree with you on the charging station comment and it will come, I have the feeling we’re at the very start of a new car era here which will become more and more popular so it’s incredibly interesting to be able to try a car out. Husband is also very impressed.

      If we were to invest, we’d need something with a bigger boot though.

  5. July 7, 2014 / 1:01 PM

    What a funky looking car! I am currently looking into new cars at the moment, in a bid to be more economically friendly. Electric cars are something I haven’t considered just because I do not even know where there are any charge points around near us. Very cute looking though and certainly looks to have everything a driver needs.

    • July 8, 2014 / 10:29 AM

      It’s gorgeous to look at, fabulous to drive and so economical. My next post will be focused on the cost of running one.
      I will definitely be considering an electric car or a hybrid next time we change our car for sure

  6. July 7, 2014 / 2:15 PM

    Ooh – SO interested to read this! Really interested in electric cars but, like you, thought they’d lack the power. And an onboard USB? Had me at “hello” baby! Fab post. xx

    • July 8, 2014 / 10:34 AM

      The USB is amazing but Apple only on the BMW. I am really very impressed with it and would highly recommend it to anyone thinking of buying

  7. July 7, 2014 / 6:32 PM

    Wow that looks amazing! BMWs are lovely cars anyway which helps. We are buying a new car this summer but after much discussion decided against a hybrid opting for a normal car that is more environmentally friendly than our current one. I think these cars are a great idea but it will take them being more common and maybe cheaper before lots of people will buy them.

    • July 8, 2014 / 10:35 AM

      I agree with you. As we tow a caravan and only have one car when it comes to changing our car we most likely won’t be able to invest in an electric car either as it won’t have the power to pull a caravan. However if one does come up on the market I would be extremely tempted and if we didn’t have the question of towing then I would most certainly look into one

      • Derek Osborne
        July 25, 2014 / 5:46 PM

        Hi Mari,

        Fascinating to read your article as it clearly shows there is a huge amount of work needed to get the message out there about electric cars.

        I have an Ampera (the type of car Nadine is testing) and have commented on her blog.

        In terms of suitable electric cars for yourself, depending on the weight of your caravan, there is a new Plug in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) just launched in the UK that would suit you.

        This is the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV ( It is a massive hit so deliveries are already slow but may well be worth a look for you. It is a 4 wheel drive SUV with a 30 mile pure electric range (up to 65 mph) and a towing capacity of 1500kg.

        Keep an eye on the electric car market, there are lots of new models coming out.

        As I said earlier, the message needs to get out there when you haven’t heard of the Nissan Leaf. The Leaf is the car that kick started the electric car market 3 years ago as the first mass market electric car. Sales are now over 100,000 units worldwide and it is the biggest selling electric car in the world.

        Also soon to be available are the e-Golf (VW), Audi A3 e-tron, Kia Soul EV, Golf GTE (PHEV). There are many more models being tested by the manufacturers so keep an eye on the market.

        Glad you like your i3.


        • July 25, 2014 / 9:39 PM

          ‘Liked’ Derek. Very sadly I had to hand it back today but the experience has totally made me look at EV’s in a new light.
          I was incredibly impressed with the performance and although I initially made a mistake with my charging calculations, I was amazed to discover a full charge only cost less than £3.

          Thanks so much for the link and tips and I will certainly watch the market, as much as I loved the BMWi3 it would be too small for us as a family car but perfect as a second run around car.
          Thank you Derek

  8. July 7, 2014 / 7:34 PM

    I would LOVE one of these, do they have one that fits three car seats?

    • July 8, 2014 / 10:36 AM

      I’m not sure Emma, I know the five bloggers are each reviewing a different model from different brands so I imagine there must be one that would fit 3 car seats. the BMW i3 won’t though ;)

  9. July 7, 2014 / 9:33 PM

    I would be sold if it were big enough for my children. Did not know about the £5000 electric vehicle grant mind – will investigate if there’s anything big enough. Great post, look forward to the one about the costs.

    • July 8, 2014 / 10:37 AM

      Yes, I need to get my maths head on for the next post and it’s due next week so best get cracking on it!

  10. July 7, 2014 / 9:41 PM

    This looks like a gorgeous car – I had a Nissan Leaf to review a while ago and I really couldn’t get away with it.

    This looks like my sort of car though x x

    • July 8, 2014 / 10:39 AM

      A Nissan Leaf, not heard of that. I’ll have to search it later, I’m curious as to why you didn’t get on with it. I’ll have to nip over to Frugal Family and find out ;)

  11. July 8, 2014 / 7:17 AM

    This looks beautful and I am in the market for a new car. Hmm

    • July 8, 2014 / 10:40 AM

      It is beautiful inside and out and it drives like a dream. The performance is excellent. If I had the money I would buy it.

  12. July 8, 2014 / 11:05 AM

    Love this review. We are 10 days into reviewing the Toyota Prius and think it is fabulous. Bit sluggish when pulling away but I can live with that for all the benefits, such as doing 1000 miles on a tank of fuel as it uses the battery too!

    Great review.

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