Say hello to…
…the BMW i3 in racy ‘s’ designation, rather than the more modest i3. It’s the electric hatchback that spearheaded BMW’s initial electric vehicle (EV) push. That was back in 2013.
Since then the i3 has dropped its Range Extender version, added greater battery capacity and introduced the lowered, quicker i3s. Oh, and importantly for SME firms, the cars were also reduced in price at the end of March to ensure they complied with the reduced price cap for the Plug-in Car Grant (£35,000) – introduced 18 March 2021.
There are currently two versions of the i3 – the i3 (range of 191 miles) and i3s (175 mile range), which is the model we are reviewing here.
Once you have decided between i3 and i3s then it’s just a question of choosing an interior trim. There are:
Antelier is the standard interior trim – the three others are price upgrades. Lodge offers a cloth interior with LED interior lighting; Lodge offers some leather trimming to the seats and interior surface in Eucalyptus fine wood; while Suite provides Vernasca leather, and Dark Oak fine wood interior.
It’s worth noting, particularly when speccing up your car for business, that the additional cost options will not affect the availability of the Plug-in Car Grant – that criteria is fixed on the retail price. Prices start from £33,805 OTR for the BMW i3 and £34,805 OTR for the BMW i3s.
Is The BMW i3s Suitable For My Fleet?
Absolutely it is. While the BMW i3 is showing its age in terms of battery range – the Renault Zoe, for example, offers 238 miles at a similar price – in terms of taxation for SME company directors and company executives it really is the best way to have a BMW at virtually no expense for benefit in kind taxation.
If you pay tax at 40% the i3s will cost you the modest amount of £139 per year for the 2021/22 tax year; and then £278 for the following two years. So you get to drive a premium electric car for virtually no company car tax. How good is that?
What about the cost to your company?
In terms of monthly rentals on a BMW i3s you would expect to pay around £317 + VAT per month for a business lease; however, including tax allowances, insurance and maintenance it’s likely to be closer to £390 a month. To put that into perspective, a similarly priced BMW 318d saloon would cost the business £594 a month to run (and the driver some £343 a month in tax)*.
So it’s good value for both the SME fleet operator and the company car driver. The only drawback would be the range of the battery depending on the driver’s usual work patterns of driving.
*Costings: based on 3+33 profile, 10,000 miles a year, source: BCF Wessex/Gensen.
Leasing A BMW i3s
Finding a business lease for the i3s should not be too difficult. We saw headline deals for a 36 month lease of £262 a month on a 9+48 month deal at 5000 miles per annum from Intelligent Car Leasing, while BMW’s partnership programme for small businesses had a good leasing deal at £283 + VAT a month for a 6+36 month profile with 8000 miles per annum. So the deals are available on the electric hatchback.
Driving A BMW i3s
After eight years, the BMW i3 still feels a fabulously futuristic car to step into. It doesn’t mean it’s difficult to get to grips with the controls; far from it. But the visibility, the sense that you are in a different sort of transport, is apparent from the (nearly) silent off.
What does tend to spoil things a bit is the level of low speed noise from the eDrive Sound Module which is an option which acts as a warning to pedestrians. It’s a bit like a Hammond Organ hung up in the wind.
Of course, it is now a requirement that EVs feature audible sound protection to protect vulnerable road users. So there is a real practical use to this. Just not sure about BMW’s choice of mood music.
But once you are up to speed the quietness and that serene sensation that comes from driving a silent EV are hallmarks of the i3s.
And let’s qualify the ‘once you are up to speed bit’…the car fairly zings away when you want to accelerate, covering the 0-60 in a zippy 6.9secs.
Speed also smooths out the ride, the test car sitting on fabulous looking 20 inch black alloys which, while looking the part, also tend to make the urban ride a little lumpy in partnership with the lowered suspension.
That aside, the BMW is a gem to drive, handles well, is so, so easy to turn around in tight spaces and if you choose its ECO Pro setting, you can ease out the range of the battery by using different driving techniques than perhaps you are used to from a diesel or petrol car.
FleetandLeasing.com Verdict On The i3s
It’s been with us for eight years, but the i3’s appeal continues to grow, year by year, despite the appearance of newer EVs with greater range. But those newer rivals don’t have the premium appeal, or forward-thinking modernity of the i3. With the current low tax climate, the i3 or i3s makes a terrific choice for a company vehicle in an SME fleet or small business owner.
Model: i3s 120Ah
Power: 181 hp
Max speed: 99mph
0-62mph: 6.9 s
Official range: 175 miles
Test range: 162 miles
CO2 emissions: 0g/km
BIK tax band 2021/22: 1%