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Face-lifted 2018 BMW i3 & BMW i3s – Drive Zero Car Guide

In the second quarter of 2018 BMW started deliveries of the facelifted 2018 i3 and the new i3s here in Australia. Both models were announced in September 2017, with an upgraded infotainment system featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with the external facelift.

I like the i3 so much that I’ve now owned two – an original 2015 i3, and now a 2018 i3s, so I’m pretty qualified to know what they are like to have in your garage and use on a daily basis.

Drive Zero Car Guides are written for people trying to get a feel of the electric car landscape in Australia. We only wrote guides for battery (BEV) and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) electric vehicles that are confirmed to be on sale in the market in Australia now, or are coming soon.

Our goal is to summarise as much as you might want to know about the different considerations for each of these electric cars and who they may be useful for. That said, we’re not qualified car reviewers, so full reviews of these models, we’ve included the best links and video for reviews that we could find.


The 2018 BMW i3

What’s interesting about the 2018 BMW i3?

The BMW i3 has been on sale in Australia since late 2014 and it has been through several small spec and battery life upgrades since launch, most notably the increase in battery size from 2016 onwards.

The 2018 BMW i3 is a midlife refresh of the 2016 model. This means it shares most of its components, such as having the same 125kW/250Nm drivetrain, the same 94Ah battery and even the same 0-100km/h performance.

In September 2018, BMW also announced that the i3 is now available with a 120Ah battery, extending the battery range to a likely 260km in real-world use. I’m yet to find confirmed pricing or availability, as BMW is launching this officially worldwide in November 2018. We’ll update this guide once we know more.

The biggest changes, however, are probably what matters most to a lot of would-be buyers and is important to make the vehicle a bit more future-proof. The inclusion of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as the change from J1772 charging connector to the newer Type 2 connector similar to those found in Teslas.

In addition, BMW also released a slightly sportier variant of the i3, the i3s, with some different colour combinations, improved acceleration from a more powerful 135kW/270Nm motor and stiffer handling from slightly lower suspension and a wider wheel track. It does carry a $1,500 premium over the base model i3.

I had a chance to see the first batch of i3s that arrived here in Australia in February, and am now an owner of one too. More on my i3s in another post soon.

How much does the 2018 BMW i3 cost and what models are available?

Since they have just been released this year, it’s highly unlikely that you will find any used ones already out in the market, which means you will have to fork out for the full price if you want to get your hands on one.

The base model i3 now starts at around $68,400 before on-road costs and you’re looking at roughly $76,000 for the top ranging i3s model with REX (range-extender), again before on-road costs – so it’s possible to take home a low-optioned i3 or i3s around low $70k, or a fully optioned well at around $90k once you factor in Luxury Car Tax.

2018 BMW i3 Key Details

 2018 BMW i32018 BMW i3s
Table last updated May 2018
Key Modelsi3 BEV = battery powered
i3 REX = battery plus range extender petrol engine
Release Date & AvailabilityOn sale January 2018
Price$68,400 base + taxes
(plus ~$6,000 for the REX)
$69,900 base + taxes
(plus ~$6,000 for the REX)
Electric Range
(real world)
~190-210km on battery
+ ~100km from petrol REX
0-100 km/h7.3 seconds BEV
8.1 seconds REX
6.9 seconds BEV
Battery94Ah (33kwh) BMW battery
Drivetrain125kW/250Nm
REX adds 0.6L 28kW petrol engine generator
135kW/270Nm
REX adds 0.6L 28kW petrol engine generator
Seats4 - no rear middle seat
ChargingType 2 (Mennekes) plus CCS combo
Vehicle & Battery Warranty3 year unlimited km warranty
+ 8 year / 100,000 km for battery

As in the previous years, one key option available on all i3 and i3s is the Battery (BEV) vs Range Extender (REX) specification. For around $6,000 more, it is possible to option a small 0.6l motorcycle engine which, using petrol, acts as a generator to charge the battery and extends the range of the car by around 100km.

REX models are understandably preferred by those looking for increased flexibility from how they can use their i3, but at additional cost – in terms of weight, fuel, maintenance complexity and cost, as well as hard dollars. In my view, it’s worth really thinking hard about whether you’ll need the REX option – it doesn’t come for free on an ongoing basis, as there’s more risk things can go wrong and with increased cost and time required to keep it maintained.

2018 BMW i3 – Battery, Charging and Power

The charging port is one part of the 2018 model that is substantially different from the previous and outgoing models, as it now uses the Type 2 connector similar to those found in Teslas. There is a CCS DC fast charging port too, so CCS2 is now the way forward for the i3 and i3s.

The type 2 plus CCS combo reflects the most up-to-date view on charging standards in Australia, and means that (in theory) the 2018 i3 could potentially use some of the Tesla’s Destination Charger type 2 network, but also means that much of the Chargepoint network already in the wild in Stockland, Westfield and at other locations would need an adapter until they get around to changing their plugs in the future – this likely to take a few years to wash out though.

The 2018 i3 (at least for now) seems to be supplied with an EVSE from Australian supplier EVSE.com.au for home charging, according to an early unit received by my local BMW dealer.

What does the 2018 BMW i3 look like inside?

The interior of the 2018 BMW i3 looks largely similar to the outgoing model, with fully flat cabin floor, a nice large wood dash panel and textured panels that are actually made from recycled plastic.

Thanks to the carbon fibre construction of the body, there’s no central pillar between the front and rear doors, allowing the rear doors to open backwards (known as suicide doors). This enables some of the cabin’s airy feel.

Summing Up

The 2018 i3 and i3s are potent, but expensive, city cars. They’ll do 90% of what many people need on a day to day basis extremely efficiently, and add a hell of a lot of fun to your drive as well. It’s the 10% of use cases which is where the i3 comes unstuck – with only 4 seats and a small boot area being the most common for us.

The other area of consideration is cost. These are premium machines with the BMW badge on the front, plus and no EV price incentives in Australia to help justify the cost. Factor in the inevitable depreciation and you’ll want to be sure this is a car you’re going to enjoy, not just own.

All that said though, I continue to love our i3s. It’s an excellent car, with a lot going for it and I thoroughly enjoy using ours whenever I jump in.

*Supplementary photos courtesy of BMW Australia

Keith enjoys nerding out about Electric Vehicles, owning a BMW i3, Tesla Model X and now, running Drive Zero .

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Other Comments

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  1. I’m really looking forward to the 120Ah battery version of the i3 as it means the i3 finally has enough range for me. But I think it’ll struggle in the market up against the similarly priced and similar range Tesla Model 3 – gonna be tough for BMW to move these unfortunately. Which is a shame as it’s a great car with a lot of innovation going on.

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