In-depth reviews

BMW i3 review - Reliability and safety

There’s an 8-year warranty on the battery, but pedestrian safety costs the BMW i3 vital Euro NCAP stars

BMW is new to electric car technology, but you can guarantee it’s worked hard to make the i3 as reliable as its internal combustion-engined models. The combination of a strong carbon fibre-reinforced plastic structure, six airbags and standard stability control means the i3 has some decent safety credentials. However, the bluff front end cost it points in Euro NCAP’s pedestrian assessments – resulting in a disappointing four-star score.

You can add a number of hi-tech safety options, though, such as the £790 Driving Assistant Plus. This clever kit brings adaptive cruise control, forward collision alert and Traffic Jam Assist, which will accelerate, steer and brake the car at speeds up to 24mph. A pedestrian warning noise generator is £80 and works up to around 20mph.

The BMW i3 is yet to feature in our Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, but in 2020 BMW itself finished a rather disappointing 27th out of 30 manufacturers – just one place ahead of Mercedes, but behind Audi in 21st. The year before, the average share of BMW owners who reported having experienced a fault with their car was 22.3%, an improvement on 2018’s score of 28.2%, but still not a good position for such a premium brand. Running costs are responsible for some of the poorest results, with reportedly high servicing bills and insurance. Infotainment quality was a highlight, with customers stating no other brand offers a better sat-nav system. 

However, according to customer feedback, BMW dealers are also needing to improve aspects of after-sales service, with the two biggest issues being the time it takes their workshops to complete repairs and maintenance, and the friendliness of staff. Franchise facilities garnered decent results, but customers don’t think dealers offer good value for money and also questioned the work carried out.

Warranty

In a bid to reassure buyers who may be nervous about living with unfamiliar electric drive technology, BMW provides an eight-year and 100,000-mile warranty for the lithium-ion battery pack. The rest of the car – including the electric power system and the motor itself - is covered by a standard three-year guarantee, much like the rest of the BMW range.

By way of comparison, Renault covers the Zoe’s entire electric drivetrain for five years and 100,000 miles, while Nissan offers the Leaf with its standard three-year warranty cover plus eight years for the battery. Toyota now covers its hybrid batteries for up to 10 years and 150,000 miles.

Servicing

BMW offers its Pay Monthly Service Plan to help spread the cost of routine maintenance. The plan is offered at £15 per month over 36 months and covers two services.

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