About a year ago I wrote a story for the CarGurus blog about how the BMW i3 was somewhat like a reincarnation of the Audi A2. Perhaps it isn’t surprising then, that when time came to replace my own A2 that it was the BMW that got the nod.
My used BMW i3 is a late-2015 60Ah range extender (or REX). It has covered 40,000 miles, and is the spec I wanted. Specially, that’s Professional nav, rapid charge preparation, and dark upholstery so the kids won’t ruin it. I bought it from a BMW main dealer, so it’s an approved used car with a full history. There’s also a 12-month warranty and it the car was immaculately prepared. In terms of price, I’ve been monitoring these cars for a few months, and know from CarGurus Instant Market Value that what I paid represents a fair deal rather than a great one. That’s fine, though, because I felt I received a high level of service, and the car came fully prepared including a full service and new MOT.
NOT AN EV EVANGALIST
I’ll say now that I appreciate the limitations of an electric car, and I’m far from an EV evangelist. But for the type of driving this car will do, which is 90% local journeys of less than 10 miles, an EV makes sense. And while I do like the idea of doing my bit for local air quality, and I hope to enjoy the cost savings of running an EV, it was the design, construction and driving manners of the i3 were probably more important to me when deciding what car to buy.
To me, the i3 is one of the most interesting products to come along since I started out writing about cars for a living 16 years ago. As with the A2, I love the fact that it is constructed in a way that completely defies convention. With the Audi it was the extensive use of aluminium (including in its unconventional Audi spaceframe) that made it different; in the BMW it’s the carbon-fibre reinforced plastic cell and polymer plastic panels (among many other things). In both cases, what I see is not the difficult-to-justify expense that such methods bring. No, I see the satisfaction of seeing exotic construction techniques and materials applied to the small car market.
Given the role my car plays of shifting my kids around, there’s an irony that I’ve replaced the A2 with something less practical. The Audi, you see, remains a wonder of packaging. It has a decent boot complete with dual-height floor, and enough room in the cabin to comfortably accommodate four people. The BMW, by comparison, doesn’t have as much space for luggage, and is much tighter for rear passengers. Worse still, while the way the back doors are hinged at the rear might look novel, it also dents practicality. I’ve already had to avoid a few tight parking spaces, which wouldn’t have left room to open the rear doors.
Then there’s the fact you can drive 300 miles in the A2 before you need to refill its tank. The BMW, on the other hand, will have exhausted its battery in what so far seems to be about 60-70 miles.
WHY I CHOSE THE i3 RANGE EXTENDER
That’s one of the reasons I wanted the rapid charge preparation in my used BMW i3. This allows for an 80% battery charge in about 30 minutes (I’m yet to use it, so excuse the approximation). And it’s also why I thought having the range extender could be a good idea. This two-cylinder petrol motor is mounted in the back of the i3 and acts as a generator to hold the battery charge. When the tank runs dry (it lasts around 60 to 70 miles) you can simply put another £10 of petrol in and keep driving.
As it stands I don’t really know how often I’ll use the range extender. However, I have already seen how useful it can be thanks to a 170-mile journey from Devon to Surrey, which I completed with just one full battery charge and one quick stop for petrol. It therefore required no more planning or time than it would have in a car with an internal combustion engine – and that is important to me. If I’m completely honest though the main reason for choosing the REX was not simply for the reassurance that I’ll always be able to use the car for longer journeys if I need to, but because I think it might hold on to its value better than a 60Ah i3 with only battery power (time will tell on that one).
EV OWNERSHIP SO FAR
So what are my thoughts of EV ownership and my used BMW i3 so far? To be honest, I love it. Part of that is down to the i3 itself. Its interior is, to me, the most impressive of any ‘normal’ car I can think of in recent years. It’s airy (helped by my car having a sunroof), and the materials are beautifully chosen and put together. Lack of Apple CarPlay aside it has what to me is the optimum blend of modern technology without anything over-complicated.
I also adore the way the i3 drives. It has instant response, strong performance, and runs silently. Plus, there’s the ability to drive for most of the time using just the accelerator thanks to the regenerative braking. I can’t see the novelty of being able to pre-heat the car on a cold morning ever wearing off, either.
I’ll confess that there are also a lot of unknowns with running a used BMW i3. I don’t yet have a home charger installed, for example. Also, as I type, the car is in to have winter tyres fitted so it’ll be fascinating to see how they perform. I also don’t know how the impending cold weather will affect the battery range. Or indeed the impact that charging the car at home will have on my electricity bills. As a result, picking up my i3 didn’t feel like the culmination of my car-buying journey, but the start of it. Which I suppose, is another reason I’m so taken with it.
What I can say is that so far I don’t feel like I made the wrong decision in buying a used BMW i3. Whether that remains the case in the long term we’ll have to wait and see. That’s why I’ll be updating this story as the months go on, and probably make a couple of videos, too. So, if you’re interested in what it’s like to buy and run a second-hand electric car, please do check back in, or message CarGurus UK via Twitter.
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