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BMW i3s 2018 review

Our test was of a regular i30s, not the range-extended version, and it’s certainly more fun than the standard i3. I don’t think it’s controversial to say that ‘fun’ and ‘EV’ are phrases that don’t sit easily next to each other, but the i3s’s extra keenness is evident from the off. 

There are recalibrated spring and dampers settings and steering (and stability control) to get the best out of a car that now grips harder, and whose front end resists skipping gently across surfaces much better than it did before. 

With bigger wheels, lower-profile tyres and lower suspension, you might expect the ride to suffer – and you’d be right, I’m afraid. It has been a while since I drove a standard i3, so I can’t make a back-to-back judgement, but around town the i3s is pretty firm. It’s not uncomfortable and it takes the edges off hard lumps, but it’s tall and, even with a lowish centre of gravity, BMW has had to make a compromise between body lean and control versus ride comfort, and obviously decided that keener is best. And if you don’t like that? Well, the regular i3 remains on sale, too.

Performance is good. Motor response is incredibly linear, there’s strong torque from standstill and acceleration from zero to 62mph is a claimed 6.9sec. Not that you’ll want to stay up at that speed for vast amounts of time, because lengthy high-speed running is what tends to cane the range of electric vehicles. The official European test cycle range is quoted at 174 miles for the i3s, 12 miles less than standard i3, but BMW predicts a real-world range of 125 miles, which seems about right by our testing. Bear in mind that it’ll be less than that when it’s cold.

Inside, there are a few new surface treatments, but the overall ambience remains coolly confident, with BMW’s excellent ergonomics accompanying a style that’s more exuberant than your regular BMW. It’s airy, too, with good visibility. And it gets a lot into quite a small space; it’s less than four metres long, but its rearward opening doors give decent access, and its boot space of 260-1100 litres is on a par with most superminis. 

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Rating: 8.7 out of 10


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