7 Reasons to Avoid a BMW i3 at All Costs

The BMW i3 sparked imagination when it arrived in 2013 as one of the first bespoke electric vehicles from an established luxury automaker. With its visionary design and sustainability ethos, the i3 seemed poised to revolutionize electric mobility. However, beneath the sleek styling and initial fanfare, legitimate reasons exist why shoppers should exercise caution before purchasing a used BMW i3. This expert guide will analyze the i3‘s drawbacks – from limited range and exorbitant repair costs to fragile interior materials and tight passenger space. Alternative electric vehicles better suit most buyers‘ needs.

BMW i3 Specs and Background

Prior to scrutinizing the i3’s weaknesses, let’s review key specs and historical context around BMW’s first dedicated EV:

Debut: 2013
Range: Up to 153 miles
Battery: 42.2 kWh
Drive: Rear-wheel
0-60 mph: 6.9 seconds (i3s model)
Seating Capacity: 4 passengers

Part of BMW’s “i” sub-brand focusing on sustainable mobility solutions, the i3 was conceived in 2007 under the code name Mega City Vehicle. The final production model premiered in 2013 with buzz centering on its avant-garde styling and extensive use of carbon fiber and renewable materials.

Over nearly a decade in production, the i3 saw relatively modest sales around 250,000 units globally. It exits the stage in 2022 as BMW shifts attention to larger EVs like the iX SUV.

7 Key Reasons to Avoid a BMW i3

While the i3 carved a niche as an eccentric high-end EV, prudent buyers should weigh the following weaknesses before purchasing:

1. Limited Electric Range

With a maximum 153 miles per charge, the i3 falls well short of most newer EVs’ range. The Tesla Model 3 offers 263 miles from its Standard Range Plus battery, for example. Limited range equates to more frequent charging stops and range anxiety on longer journeys in the i3. Owners also complain that the optional range extender, a small gas generator, provides underwhelming extra range assistance.

2. Frequent Motor Mount Failures

Another prevalent owner grievance centers on the i3’s motor mounts. These components secure the electric motor to the chassis, mitigating vibrations and noise. However, the plastic mounts equipped on the i3 often fail prematurely, resulting in a $5000+ repair bill. BMW attempted to rectify this issue with a motor torque-limiting software update. Nonetheless, problems persisted for unlucky owners.

3. Starting Issues from Failed 12V Battery

Surprisingly the i3‘s 12-volt battery has posed problems for owners in the form of no starts or electrical gremlins. Expert analysis suggests the i3’s complex electronics overtax this battery. Owners are often left paying for tow trucks and buying replacement batteries with little warning.

4. Potential for Immobilizing Electrical Failure

While not widespread, BMW i3’s produced after 2018 have suffered complete drive failure stemming from issues with the KLE charging module or EME motor controller. Solder joint deterioration can trigger data transmission errors between these components – shutting off power to the electric motor unexpectedly. Diagnosing and addressing the root issue becomes a complex repair procedure.

5. Low-Grade Interior Materials

BMW marketed the i3’s interior as an eco-conscious oasis, emphasizing renewable materials and natural fibers. In reality, many owners report shoddy durability from surfaces prone to scratching, peeling, and color fading. The resultant interior wears poorly compared to luxury EVs from Tesla or Audi.

6. Carbon Fiber Roof Delamination

Within a few years of ownership, the i3’s carbon fiber roof begins exhibiting ugly delamination, or separation between layers of material. Besides poor aesthetics, this degradation raises concerns on structural stability. Further, fixing the eyesore becomes a costly endeavor given the exotic roof material.

7. Tight Cabin Dimensions

The i3’s chopped, upright proportions prioritize navigating congested urban areas over passenger space. Adults find quarters tight, especially in back. Other small EVs like the MINI Cooper SE or Fiat 500e manage similar external dimensions with better interior room.

In summary, limitations around range, reliability and cabin comfort combined with expensive repairs for issues like damaged motor mounts and delaminating carbon fiber make the case to avoid buying this BMW EV. Refer to the comparisons below for superior electric vehicle options that dodge the i3’s pitfalls.

Similar Electric Vehicles With Better Outlooks

  • Nissan Leaf – More affordable purchase price and ownership costs than i3, improved reliability ratings over later Leaf models
  • Volvo XC40 Recharge – Luxury SUV provides better range, roomier interior than i3
  • Polestar 2 – Sportier Swedish-made EV offers 300+ mile range and high-end cabin materials
  • Chevrolet Bolt EUV – Roomy interior with 259 miles range; lower MSRP than i3

The Bottom Line:
The BMW i3 always scored points for its uniqueness and sustainability bonafides in the developing luxury EV segment. However, real-world drawbacks spanning reliability, cabin space, interior durability and costly repairs mount a convincing case for why wise buyers should avoid this BMW electric vehicle. More well-rounded options exist – the above alternatives offer longer range, cheaper ownership costs and better built interiors devoid of the i3‘s quirks.

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