5 BMW i3 Model Years to Avoid (and Why)


5 BMW i3 Model Years to Avoid (and Why)

What are the BMW i3 model years to avoid? The recently discontinued BMW i3 has its fair share of fans. The i3 was the first all-electric vehicle to come from the German auto manufacturer and proved to be a fairly popular early EV on the market. While it lacks the overall style and range of something like the Tesla Model S. There are plenty of years to go for when purchasing an i3.

What about the worst years to purchase? Just about every car has its run of dud years. The BMW i3 has some notable years for which you should give a wide berth, for reasons that will be explored over the course of this guide. The i3 is still a great car. However, the runs on some of these years are going to leave you wanting something different.

The BMW i3 was BMW’s first foray into the fully electric market. It debuted in 2013, with the 2014 production year marking its first real commercial entry. The earliest entries have a fairly distinct style, which seems very much like BMW’s take on a vehicle like the Nissan Leaf. Much like the Leaf, the earliest models were fraught with growing pains.

The vehicle hit its stride in the 2018 production year. The battery capacity and other elements are fully aligned to make a fantastic EV. Production has since ceased with the 2021 production year being its last commercially available model.

BMW is still developing EVs, but the i3 is on ice while they go in a different direction. EVs are trending very much toward SUV-type vehicles. The subcompact i3 just is too small to make much of a splash on the market currently.

2014 BMW i3

2014 bmw i3
The 2014 i3 was the first model introduced to the general public.

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The 2014 saw the very first model of the i3 to hit the market. As you can imagine with any new and unproven technology, there were problems a-plenty. The EV market was still in its relative infancy. The Tesla line of vehicles served as the apex of performance and vehicles like the Nissan Leaf addressed the lower end.

You should avoid the 2014 BMW i3 for a few different factors — first, is the battery capacity. Many long-time users have noted severe range drop-off with moderate usage. The i3 already has a reduced battery capacity when compared to the likes of a Tesla Model 3.

As the battery gets more wear and tear on the cells, you can go from around 100 miles of operation range to 70 or less. This is a perfectly valid reason to make this one of the BMW i3 model years to avoid.

The other odds and ends you’d associate with a modern EV aren’t present on the 2014 model either. Apple CarPlay or Android Auto are nowhere to be seen. You’ve got far fewer safety features to make your drive safe.

2015 BMW i3

2015 BMW i3
The 2015 model is largely unchanged from the previous year.

©Navigator84 / CC BY-SA 4.0 - License

The second year of the BMW i3’s life saw some improvements. It is not enough to make this an EV to purchase. At the time of its release, this was a potent rival to contemporary vehicles like the Nissan Leaf. However, looking back almost nine years later, it does leave something to be desired.

The same issues that plague the 2014 BMW i3 are going to be found in the 2015 model. The range is still subpar, with range loss being a very real phenomenon. Couple in the fact that these older EVs are out of their warranty period. You’re not really saving much going with an older i3.

You won’t find Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. The central infotainment system is largely unchanged from the 2014 to 2015 models. Range with the standard battery pack is a paltry 80 miles, with the i3s still years away at this point. The range is again one of many valid reasons to avoid one of these BMW i3 model years.

As with 2014, it’s best to avoid this BMW i3 model. You’re only setting yourself up for disappointment in the long run.

2016 BMW i3

You’ll want to avoid the 2016 model due to the poor range and warranty coverage period lapsing.

©Mariordo / CC BY-SA 4.0 - License

The biggest thing to note with the 2016 BMW i3 is that nothing major has changed in the slightest. If you were new to the product line, this might have been a massive benefit as replacement parts from the previous two models would be plentiful. However, you’re still plagued with the same short-range and lackluster performance.

One thing to note that was also present on 2014 and 2015 models is the Range-extended trim option. This turns the i3 from a pure EV into an erstwhile hybrid vehicle. While the range is greatly extended, performance still suffers when compared to more dedicated hybrids like the Prius Plus line from Toyota.

As a whole, you can just write off the first three production years of the BMW i3. Performance doesn’t change and most of them are out of the limited warranty’s coverage period at this point in time.

2017 BMW i3

2017 BMW i3
2017 is regarded as the best model year for the BMW i3 but still suffers from the same issues as previous years.

©Vauxford / CC BY-SA 4.0 - License

The 2017 is regarded as the best model for the BMW i3. However, we’ll have to agree to disagree on the subject. This model run saw a massive increase in terms of overall range, which is always a great thing to see. Yet the base trim level only delivers an awful 81 miles on a single charge. That is completely eclipsed by a budget vehicle like the Chevy Bolt.

The i3 still retains its original styling, meaning you’d be hard-pressed to discern which year is which without hopping in the driver’s seat. What set 2017 apart from earlier models was the option for a 33.2 kWh battery pack. This greatly boosts the overall range, giving up to 114 miles on a single charge.

Finding one of these in good condition in the wild is fairly easy to do. Be aware BMW’s warranty coverage is no longer valid for any of these vehicles. Your best bet might be to purchase certified pre-owned directly from BMW. You’re paying a premium for a vehicle that is readily outperformed by the Chevy Bolt.

2018 BMW i3

2018 BMW i3
The 2018 BMW i3 features a massive facelift for the visuals and features the option for an extended battery pack.

©Vauxford / CC BY-SA 4.0 - License

The 2018 is a fantastic vehicle, at least, where it matters. This is where the i3 really hits its stride in terms of overall performance. That said, it still isn’t enough today to count it apart from the likes of a Chevy Bolt or a pre-owned Tesla.

While these are reliable and dependable vehicles, your range is greatly diminished. You’re not going to get over 200 miles of range on a single charge. That is still true when accounting for the REX addition on the i3s model available at the time.

If you can find one of these for under $20,000 it might be worth considering. Current prices for the 2018 i3 are between $19,000 to $25,000 depending on the options available. Just remember that if you stretch the budget just a bit more, you’ve got a more dependable vehicle with a better overall range in the Chevy Bolt.

Not only that, but the 2018 model still lacks support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The 2019 model would see that fully introduced. BMW also charges a monthly subscription fee to use the basic functionality of your phone in the infotainment console.

BMW i3 Models Years to Avoid Summary Table

Model YearReasons to Avoid
2014Poor battery capacity, terrible range, no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto support
2015Poor battery capacity, terrible range, still no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto support
2016Range loss, minuscule battery capacity, no smartphone support
2017The range has improved but is still low, slow charging rate, out-of-warranty
2018The range is vastly improved but still low, slow charging rate, no smartphone support, zero warranty coverage

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the BMW i3 still in production?

No, the BMW i3 is discontinued as of 2022.

Does the REX option let the BMW i3 act as a hybrid?

In a sense, it has less overall power than a dedicated plug-in hybrid.

Is the BMW i3 still a good buy?

If you live in an urban area with a short commute, it can do just fine. Using the vehicle as a daily driver over longer distances isn’t advised.

Does the BMW i3 use a J1772 charger?

Yes, it does.

Is BMW going to continue to support the i3?

As with any other discontinued vehicle, it is unlikely.

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