The BMW i3 is already one of our favourite electric cars, and the ‘S’ version adds more likability to the range
Pros: Thrilling acceleration, stand out styling, impressive equipment
Cons: Highly priced, stiffened ride quality, practicality
Sales of new electric cars in Ireland have doubled this year with further incentives on the way including discounted motorway toll rates, zero percent BIK rates for business users and further expansion of the national charge point network. BMW’s all-electric i3 has been growing in popularity too, so much so that it has introduced a new ‘S’ model to the range for 2018. The i3s is more powerful, sportily styled and lower to the ground than the regular i3, and we recently spent a week driving it on Irish roads to see what it’s like to live with day to day.
What is it like?
As the ‘S’ in its name suggests, the BMW i3s is much sportier than the regular i3. For starters, it is 10mm lower to the ground, 40mm wider at the rear and most noticeably, it is adorned with huge 20-inch wheels and upgraded body styling too. This all lends to the sporty look and the i3s gets lots of attention out on the road as a result. Our test car is finished in a funky red and black two-tone paint scheme, and it is equipped with LED lights as standard which offer supreme visibility during night time driving.
The i3s gains 14 horsepower over the standard i3 which brings its total tally to 184 horsepower. The i3s uses the same 33kWh high-voltage battery and thanks to an increase in torque, it is noticeably faster off the line with the sprint from 0-100km/h taking just 6.9 seconds. As with all electric cars, throttle response is instant and there are few cars which can match it at lower speed sprints. The i3s is incredibly fun to drive as a result.
The i3s offers between 200 and 260 kilometres in range when fully charged. We drove almost 500 kilometres during our test and the range largely depends on how you drive, with several different modes available. ECO Pro+ is the most-efficient driving mode, and it limits climate control functions and top speed to 90km/h. Sport mode is the best fun, with sharpened acceleration and power delivery at lower speeds. Those who suffer range anxiety can opt for a range extender which adds a small two-cylinder petrol engine to recharge the batteries when range levels are low.
Stepping into the i3s, it is very futuristic with lots of interesting shapes and recycled materials surrounding the driver’s area. A pair of TFT screens sit in front of the driver, while infotainment is controlled with a user friendly rotary dial, although the screens can’t be operated by touch. The front doors open wide while the rear doors open in reverse. This can create awkwardness as the front door needs to be opened before the rear can be opened. The i3s only had four seats and a small 260 litre boot which will limit certain family buyers, however there is enough room to accommodate four tall adults comfortably.
Out on the road, the i3s is incredibly relaxing to drive thanks to the hush of the electric motor and smooth automatic transmission. It offers a relatively commanding view of the road compared to most traditional hatchback cars, and it corners rather confidently too. Due to the sports suspension and larger wheels, it isn’t as refined as the standard i3 with more cabin noise at higher speeds and less cushioning on back roads. The i3s is especially-suited to urban driving with the regenerative breaking providing an ideal setup for stop-start traffic.
Prices for the new BMW i3s start from €42,130 including the VRT rebate scheme and SEAI grant, so it is priced at the premium end of the electric cars class, ahead of the Nissan LEAF and Hyundai IONIQ. It is filled with all sorts of equipment and tech as a result, such as heated seats for those frosty Irish mornings, BMW Online services with real time traffic information, satellite navigation, digital radio, automatic window wipers and LED headlights, park distance control and a Harmon Kardon sound system.
Carzone verdict: 4/5
The BMW i3 is already one of our favourite electric cars, and the ‘S’ version adds more likability and outright appeal to the range. It is sportier outside, better equipped inside and offers surprising performance in a straight line. The i3s demands a hefty price tag as a result however, with base prices over €5,000 more than the standard i3. What’s more, it isn’t quite as refined and comfortable as the entry i3 model. Premium small electric cars are few and far between on the market right now, but the i3s rightfully claims its spot at the top of the pile.
Test Car Details:
Model driven: BMW i3s
Prices from: €32,395
Price as tested: €52,861
Annual Road Tax: €120
Engine: 353-volt 94.0 amp 33.0 kWh lithium ion battery
Power/Torque: 184hp / 270 Nm
Top Speed: 159km/h
0-100km/h: 6.9 seconds
Body style: Hatchback
Boot Space: 260 litres
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