The little branded boy is here with a better stamina

BMW introduced the i3 in 2013 and literally invented the premium compact EV segment in the industry. Not to mention, it has been ruling ever since. However, the i3 has been facing some heat lately from other market players like the Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Bolt. In my opinion, it’s got the best looks and interior, but was lagging behind in its core duty – long travel range. But it seems like BMW has worked on this and has introduced the 2019 model with 120Ah battery pack.

Exterior

2019 BMW i3 120Ah
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The 2019 i3 is based on the LifeDrive vehicle architecture platform, which combines an aluminum chassis with a passenger cell made from carbon fiber reinforced plastic.

The exterior changes are minimal, though, but BMW has offered a new exterior color on the new i3.

The i3 also comes with cornering lights and Adaptive LED headlights with anti-dazzle function. The trademark BMW i Black Belt running from the bonnet over the roof to the car’s rear end is now complemented by A-pillars and roof lines that also sport a black finish.

Interior

2019 BMW i3 120Ah
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On the inside, however, one can find a lot of changes.

A new interior color called Jucaro Beige Metallic with frozen gray accents finds its place in the 2019 i3.

It replaces the Protonic Blue Metallic shade from last year. Customers can also choose a Mega World interior theme with electronic brown trim. BMW has used recycled materials for over 80-percent of the surfaces inside.

In terms of technology, the new i3 and i3s come with Wi-Fi hotspot and wireless charging tray. A navigation system that features iDrive 6.0, which was previously offered only with the Navigation Professional optional, also finds its place here.

Drivetrain

2019 BMW i3 120Ah
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The 2019 i3 120Ah will have a 170 horsepower motor and can zoom from naught to 62 mph in 7.2 seconds.

It generates 184 pound-feet of torque before topping out at 93 mph. The BMW i3s can do the same speed in 6.8 seconds with its 181-horsepower motor and 199 pound-feet of torque. This has a top speed of 99 mph.

Battery

2019 BMW i3 120Ah
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The BMW i3 provided owners with electric cars that were not just environment-friendly, but also fun to drive. Sticking to those very values, BMW has now increased the capacity to 120Ah and a gross energy content of 42.2kWh. When introduced, the i3 came packed with a 60Ah battery and range of 81 miles. BMW improved it slightly in 2017, giving the i3 a 94Ah battery and 115 miles driving range. Although the battery capacity has increased, the size hasn’t. It still sits deep in the floor with a cooling system to keep the batteries at an optimum temperature at all times.

According to NEDC, the new 120Ah i3 has an official range of 223 miles, and the i3s has a range of 214 miles.

This is an increase of almost 30-percent over the previous models. The combined power consumption is rated at 13.1kWh per 62 miles for the i3 and 14.6kWh per 62 miles for the i3s.

Charging

2019 BMW i3 120Ah
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It takes 15 hours to recharge the battery if using a regular 2.4W output. If charged using BMW’s iWallbox with a capacity of 7.4kW, it’ll take 3.2 hours.

BMW claims that the battery can be charged to 80-percent in just 42 minutes using a fast charging 50kW DC system.

BMW also offers the i3 and i3s owners to control the charging process using a smartphone app and manage usage by means of an access card. Drivers with a registered ChargeNow card have simple access to the UK’s largest network of public charging stations.

Prices

2019 BMW i3 120Ah
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Pricing has been announced only for the U.K market for now. The i3 starts at £35,180, while the i3s costs from £37,670 in the UK. As of today, the conversion translates to around $46,000 for the i3, and $49,000 for the i3s. A little too high, right?

Competition

Chevrolet Bolt

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV High Resolution Exterior
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The Chevrolet Bolt has been on the i3’s back for a very long time. It is one of the cars that is just not letting the BMW i3 rule the market. The Bolt is Chevrolet’s first mass-produced electric car and even sells under the Opel Ampera-e badge in Europe. The Bolt breaks the rather conventional design language of the Chevrolet stable. It’s like the designers were told to use their full creativity on the Bolt. The Bolt is also pretty fancy on the inside. While it’s not made from recycled and sustainable materials, it feels modern and more upscale than a typical Chevy. It’s loaded on the tech-front as well, with an impressive list of features, including Bluetooth connectivity, personalized settings, MyChevrolet App, 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto, just to name a few.

Despite the i3’s big improvement, the Chevy Bolt seems to still be in another league. If not for the BMW brand value, the Bolt would be sitting on top of the list with a heavy lead. The drivetrain is a 200-horsepower and 266-pound-foot electric motor with an estimated range of 238 miles. Charging, however, takes around 9.5 hours. This is where Chevrolet needs to improve the Bolt. In pure numbers, it is better than the i3 but falls a millisecond short against the i3s in a 0-62 mph battle. Top speed is on par with the i3, but lesser than the i3s. The Chevrolet Bolt retails for around $37,500. If not for the BMW badge, and the sexy looks, my pick would be this American beauty.

Read our full review on the 2018 Chevrolet Bolt.

Tesla Model 3

2018 Tesla Model 3 High Resolution Exterior
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A brand born as an EV-only, Tesla has a car in all shapes and sizes. Here, we are pitting the Model 3 against the BMW i3, even though it’s not a hatchback. The Model 3 is a smart looking sedan that is almost as long as the BMW 3 Series. The plain-jane looks goes well with about everyone and hardly draws any polarizing opinions. On the inside, the car lacks the bells and whistles but borrows technology from the future to make up for it. Basically, everything is operated from the Brobdingnagian touchscreen found on the center console. Seats are plush and comfortable, making the Model 3 a nice place to be.

A 50 kWh battery that provides a range of up to 220 miles is found beneath. Zipping from naught to 60 mph takes 5.6 seconds before it tops out at 130 mph. The Model 3 is better than the i3 in almost all aspects. But wait, go with the Long Range update, and the range jumps to 310 miles, while the 0-to-60 mph sprints drops to only 5.1 seconds. Top speed increases to 140 mph. Making things that much more impressive, Tesla’s Supercharger needs only 30 minutes to give the standard model 130 miles of range and the Long Range version no less than 170 miles of range. Pricing starts from $35,000 for the bare-bones version. Spending another fifteen grand would make the Model 3 a fully loaded car.

Read our full review on the 2018 Tesla Model 3.

Conclusion

2019 BMW i3 120Ah
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The BMW i3 is getting better and better with every iteration. The only major con was the competition offering better range, and BMW seems to have fixed... well, almost. It’s still on par with the competition, not better. This bigger battery capacity, however, should reflect in the sales figures as well. Anything you particularly liked or disliked in the 2019 BMW i3 120Ah? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

  • Leave it
    • Prices have increased with the capacity. Competition is still cheaper.
    • The bold, in-your-face colors, inside and outside, may not please all.
    • Despite the increase, could have offered bigger battery to blow away the rivals.
Sidd Dhimaan
Associate Editor and Truck Expert - sidd@topspeed.com
Sidd joined the Topspeed.com team in 2017 as an intern and in less than a year he earned a full-time position as an associate editor and junior automotive expert. He is currently our pickup truck expert and focuses his attention on heavy-duty and off-road vehicles.  Read More
About the author

Consistent further development of BMW eDrive technology once again ensures enhanced driving pleasure in the purely electrically powered models of the BMW i brand. With cell capacity increased to 120 ampere hours (Ah) and a gross energy content of 42.2 kilowatt hours (kWh), a new generation of high-voltage batteries enables the BMW i3 (120 Ah) (combined power consumption: 13.1 kWh/100 km; combined CO2 emissions: 0 g/km)* and the BMW i3s (120 Ah) (combined power consumption: 14.6 – 14.0 kWh/100 km; combined CO2 emissions: 0 g/km)* to achieve a significantly further enhanced range as of November 2018. In everyday use, the two models are now able to cover a distance of 260 kilometres*** – an increase of almost 30 per cent.

In this way, BMW i is consolidating its position as an innovation leader and trendsetter in the field of pioneering electromobility with hallmark brand driving pleasure and excellent everyday practicality. Since the market launch of the BMW i3, the storage capacity of its high-voltage battery has been doubled, thereby increasing the car’s range as well. At the same time as the introduction of the new battery, a new body finish, a new colour for the optional interior design Loft and adaptive LED headlights with matrix function for the high beam are also available for the BMW i3 and BMW i3s. In future, a sports package will be available for the BMW i3 that includes black wheel arch surrounds and a sports suspension with specific dampers, springs and stabilisers, lowered suspension, a widened track and 20-inch light alloy wheels. The optimised guidance system in the tile design of the iDrive operating system is now available in conjunction with the optional navigation system Business. In future, the options telephony with wireless charging and wireless LAN hotspot will also be available for the BMW i3 and BMW i3s.

Ongoing progress in battery development: increased energy content while dimensions remain the same.

Like the electric motors and power electronics, the high-voltage batteries are an integral part of the BMW eDrive technology used in BMW i automobiles and developed independently by the BMW Group. Its lithium-ion cells are produced exclusively based on specifications defined by the BMW Group. Based on sound research and development work conducted in close cooperation with the manufacturer of the battery cells, consistent optimisation of the storage units is achieved in terms of power output, range, safety and durability. Installed deep in the floor of the vehicle, the high-voltage battery is produced at the BMW plant in Dingolfing and consists of eight modules, each with twelve storage cells: the latest advancements have resulted in a capacity of 120 Ah along with a gross energy content of 42.2 kWh – while the size remains unchanged. This is yet another major step towards increased range. For comparison: at the market launch of the BMW i3 in 2013, the equivalent figures were 60 Ah and 22.6 kWh, while the second-generation battery introduced in 2016 reaches a level of 94 Ah and 33 kWh.

In addition to vehicle weight and the installation space taken up by the high-voltage battery, driving performance and energy consumption likewise remain virtually unaltered by the increased range achieved by the latest advancements. The BMW i3, powered by a 125 kW/170 hp electric motor, accelerates in 7.3 seconds from zero to 100 km/h, while the BMW i3s with 135 kW/184 hp completes the standard sprint in 6.9 seconds. This means that the two models both set the benchmark for sporty performance within their vehicle segment. Thanks to spontaneous power delivery as is typical of electric motors, the BMW i3 and BMW i3s even reach the level of sports cars that have a considerably more powerful combustion engine: here the figures are 5.1 and 4.3 seconds respectively for the sprint from 80 to 120 km/h.

The combined power consumption of the BMW i3 (120 Ah) is 13.1 kWh per 100 kilometres*, while the BMW i3s (120 Ah) has a power consumption of 14.6 kWh to 14.0 kWh per 100 kilometres*. The high efficiency of the electric motor and the enhanced battery capacity result in a range that is nearly 30 per cent higher than that of the predecessor models. The range of the BMW i3 (120 Ah) is 359 kilometres* (previously 290 to 300 km) according to NEDC, and 285 to 310 kilometres** (previously 235 – 255 km) according to WLTP. For the BMW i3s (120 Ah), a range of 330 to 345 kilometres* (previously 280 km) has been calculated according to NEDC, and a range of 270 to 285 kilometres** (previously 235 –245 km) according to WLTP. In everyday conditions, both models now achieve a range of 260 kilometres*** (previously 200 km).

The high-quality charging electronics of the BMW i3 and BMW i3s allows fast and flexible refreshment of the energy reserves. The standard charging cable is designed to be plugged into a conventional household socket. Here the battery can be charged to up to 80 per cent of its full power in approximately 15 hours with a charging capacity of 2.4 kW. Connection to the BMW i Wallbox enables rapid three-phase charging with a capacity of 11 kW. Here the time required to achieve an 80 per cent charge of the large-capacity high-voltage battery is 3.2 hours. The power electronics and high-voltage battery in the BMW i3 and BMW i3s can also be used in conjunction with quick-charging stations that run on DC power. Here the charging capacity is 50 kW and the high-voltage battery reaches 80 per cent of its total power in just 42 minutes.

With its battery capacity increased to 42.2 kWh, the latest version of the BMW i3 also follows the brand’s holistic concept, applicable since market launch and geared towards responsible use of resources: this includes not just locally emissions-free power but also material selection and production techniques as well as mobility services. The BMW i3 (120 Ah) and the BMW i3s (120 Ah) have a much more favourable CO2 footprint across the entire vehicle lifecycle – from raw material extraction and manufacture through to use and recycling – and this makes for significantly lower global warming potential than is the case with comparable, conventionally powered automobiles.

Sports package as a new option for the BMW i3.

In future, the new sports package will enable additional emphasis of brand-based driving pleasure derived from locally emissions-free mobility in the BMW i3. The key element of the new option is the sports suspension, which is a standard feature in the BMW i3s and includes specific dampers, springs and stabilisers, a suspension lowered by 10 millimetres, a widened track and 20-inch light alloy wheels in Jet Black or Bicolor finish with mixed tyres. This increase in driving dynamics is visually underscored by means of black wheel arch surrounds, which also form part of the BMW i sports package.

New body finishes, adaptive LED headlights, optimised controls and connectivity.

Since 2014 the BMW i3 has been the world’s best-selling electrically powered vehicle in the premium compact segment. On the streets of urban conurbations it has come to stand as a symbol of pioneering mobility. Its characteristic shaping is closely linked to the LifeDrive vehicle architecture, which combines an aluminium chassis with a passenger cell made carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP). With the introduction of the new battery generation, the design of the BMW i3 and the BMW i3s has been enriched with fresh accentuations. The choice of body finish for the two models has been extended to include the new variant Jucaro Beige metallic with accentuations in Frozen Grey. Meanwhile the exterior paint finishes Mineral Grey metallic, Imperial Blue metallic, Melbourne Red metallic, Capparis White and Fluid Black are still available. To match the new body finish, the optional interior design Loft now includes upholstery in the fabric/Sensatec combination "Electronic" – in Carum Grey with accentuations in brown and interior surfaces in Electronic Brown.

As an alternative to the standard LED headlights, adaptive LED headlights are now available with an automatic, selective dip function for the high beam. The innovative matrix technology for the high beam increases visibility range while at the same avoiding any dazzle effect on other road users. For this purpose it is divided into four horizontally arranged segments which can be activated and deactivated independently of each other at speeds of over 70 km/h. The high beam segments are controlled based on the traffic situation. As soon as the front camera registers an oncoming vehicle or a vehicle travelling ahead in the same direction, the space in which this vehicle is located is illuminated using the low beam only. This is effected by deactivation of the matrix high beam segments that are responsible for this area. The remaining areas of the road continue to be illuminated by the high beam. Adaptive LED headlight functions also include the cornering light and the high beam assistant.

The optimised menu display for the iDrive operating system with buttons in tile structure and in live mode is now also available in conjunction with the optional navigation system Business. This means that the desired content is now available even more quickly and conveniently. What is more, the program of optional equipment items now also includes the option of telephony with wireless charging, which allows compatible mobile phones to be recharged without use of a cable. The wireless LAN hotspot, likewise newly available for the BMW i3 and the BMW i3s, provides a fast online connection for up to ten end devices inside the vehicle.

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