- Intriguing powertrain
- Attention-grabbing looks
- Detailed interior
- Comfortable ride
- Terrible value
- Outdated range
- Driving dynamics not up to BMW norm
- Ineffective range extender
features & specs
Once cutting edge, the 2020 BMW i3 has fallen well behind other electric cars. Only purists need apply.
The 2020 BMW i3 was a bold choice among plug-in hybrids when launched, but other electric cars have since rendered it a tough sell.
For those intrigued by its style and its sublime interior, the 2020 i3 may be worth a look. We rate it at 5.8 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
This year, the i3 is largely carried over after a modest update last year, and it can be had in both standard and slightly more powerful i3s forms. A new appearance package may add interest for some, but we have a hard time overlooking its modest 153-mile range.
The electric motor provides 170 horsepower (184 hp in the i3s), which is enough to give the fairly light car decent acceleration. Narrow tires give it a distinctly firm ride, and its handling isn’t up to our expectations for a BMW. The optional range extender can give 200-plus miles of utility, though its small fuel tank means that long road trips will still be a chore. Rather than spend for the range extender, we would consider renting a car periodically.
The i3’s biggest draw for many will be its appearance. Its striking lines and busy exterior will draw attention. Inside, it’s more soothing thanks to excellent materials and attractive colors. Outward vision is a plus, but rear-seat space is not. The i3 has decent cargo utility, especially with row two folded flat. It’s not plush, it’s not a performer—it’s expressly a BMW, but isn’t in so many ways.
BMW is stingy for charging extra for i3 collision-avoidance features now standard in most rivals. Its good warranty and maintenance coverage does extend to the i3, though.
2020 BMW i3
The BMW i3 is distinctive, but that’s not always a compliment.
The BMW i3 doesn’t even try to blend in. Its narrow tires and tall body scream "dorky," though its detailing is more in line with what we expect from BMW.
We rate the 2020 i3 at 5 out of 10, with the point that we deduct for its homely exterior returned for its innovative interior.
The i3’s exterior remains an acquired taste, though at least it stands out in a parking lot. An update last year did little to improve things. Lines seem to intersect willy-nilly, and the ultra-tall, ultra-narrow tires that help reduce its rolling resistance give it even more of a toy-like look than its bizarre lines.
A new RoadStyle limited edition version this year includes attractive copper accents outside but does little to alleviate the car’s relentless, um, specificity.
At least you don’t have to look at it from inside, where the Scandinavian spa-like colors, surfaces, and materials do a better job of pointing to the future. BMW installs gorgeous wood, leather, and fabric trims that help the i3 justify its hefty price tag. The big 10.2-inch touchscreen and steering column-mounted shifter look otherworldly, too.
2020 BMW i3
The 2020 BMW i3 is an electric car that doesn’t want to leave town.
BMW has a reputation for building cars that gobble up miles better than just about any other make, but the 2020 i3 would prefer to stay close to home.
We rate the 2020 BMW i3 at 5 out of 10. It’s not particularly good at anything, though it’s pleasantly refined and nimble.
Base versions boast an electric motor rated at 170 horsepower, while a sport version nudges that figure to 184 hp. A relatively lithe curb weight helps the i3 make the most of what power it makes. There’s no conventional gearbox, but acceleration is seamless and refined.
Base i3 cars ride on narrow tires that squeal in corners when pushed but deliver a firm but composed ride. The i3s swaps in slightly wider rubber and a lowered suspension, but it seems to miss the point.
An optional range extender fires up when the battery is depleted for an estimated 90 miles of range, but it doesn’t provide the comfort to drive across the country. The gas engine makes a lot of noise, and it’s limited by the tiny 2.4-gallon fuel hold. For around $3,000, the range extender strikes us as a poor buy. If you need more range, either look at a different electric car or consider using that cash on a rental car for occasional longer treks.
2020 BMW i3
Comfort & Quality
Though gorgeous inside, the 2020 BMW i3 is not especially practical.
The 2020 BMW i3’s interior design is a few years old now, but it still delights with excellent materials and design. It’s just a shame that there’s not much space for cargo or rear-seat passengers.
The 2020 i3 winds up with a 4 out of 10 on our scale.
Up front, thin but reasonably comfortable front seats offer good outward vision. Row two is tricky to access, even with the rear-hinged side doors, and there is less than 32 inches of leg room available. Cargo space is 15 cubic feet, which is more in line with a compact car than a tall hatchback, though the rear seats can be flopped forward for 39 cubic feet of space.
Most versions of the i3 have beautiful, largely recycled materials, though the i3s can feel comparatively dour with its relentless black trim broken up only by splashes of bright blue.
2020 BMW i3
The 2020 BMW i3 has not been crash-tested by the NHTSA.
The BMW i3 has some crash-test ratings, but lacks a complete set. Short of official data from the feds, we'll withhold our score.
The IIHS has crash-tested the i3 and it came away with mostly top "Good" scores, although its head restraints were rated "Acceptable."
The 2020 i3 comes with what we consider the bare minimum in terms of safety equipment. Automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control are part of a pricey $2,000 option package, and they’re items standard on rivals costing half as much.
At least outward vision is good and the car is easy to park thanks to a high-resolution rearview camera.
2020 BMW i3
The expensive 2020 BMW i3 comes well-equipped.
There’s nothing bargain-basement about the 2020 BMW i3, which may help explain tepid demand.
We rate the lineup at 6 out of 10, dialing back a point for its lousy value proposition but returning two for its big screen and its impressive warranty.
The i3 comes in base and i3s form, the latter denoting a little more power, wider tires, and a lower suspension for around $3,200 more than the nearly $46,000 BMW charges for the base model.
Base cars come with a cloth interior, a 10.2-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay compatibility, Bluetooth, power features, and heated front seats. Deka, Mega, Giga, and Tera trim levels are available, and each brings a few features as well as different interior trim. The range-extender is nearly $4,000, and we’d save our money.
The standard warranty provides four years of coverage plus three years of maintenance, which is nice—although electric-only cars don’t require much more than tire rotations and windshield wiper blades.
2020 BMW i3
The 2020 BMW i3 is an efficient choice, but its range is subpar.
With 153 miles of electric range, the 2020 BMW i3 can handle nearly any commute, but it has nowhere near the reserve range of its rivals. We rate it at 9 out of 10, which is on the low side for an electric car.
The optional range extender enables the i3 to travel up to 200 miles, though it isn’t intended to make the i3 into a road-tripper.
Most serious competitors deliver around 240 to 310 miles of range, making them far more practical choices for most drivers.