Review of the BMW i3 Rex
Want a premium EV but got a case of serious range anxiety? The new BMW i3 Rex is a lot like the i3 electric car – but crucially, it has more range.
As such, it’s a hugely compelling proposition for buyers who want an upmarket EV so that they can do their bit for the environment, but who have lingering range anxiety issues. This striking car, which combines an electric motor with a petrol engine, can do 0-62 in 8.1 seconds, and has a driving range of 288 miles. Not bad, huh?
OSV takes a closer look at what it’s all about with our 2018 BMW i3 Rex review.
On the Road
Apart from range, one of the biggest concerns buyers have with electric cars is performance. Is an electric BMW going to be as fun and as ballsy on the road as a petrol-powered 3 Series?
This is no 3 Series, but it is just as playful as your typical BMW, with its rear-wheel-propulsion ensuring that it’s entertaining to drive.
Unlike the i3, which runs purely on electric power, the i3 Rex gets a two-cylinder 0.65-litre petrol engine. Thankfully, this small engine isn’t too heavy at all, and the i3’s weight of 1,265kg doesn’t change all that much. As such, i3 Rex drives very much like the i3, and indeed a conventional BMW.
Moreover, the car never relies solely on the petrol engine at any point. Instead, the petrol power plant acts as an onboard generator that only joins the party when battery power is diminishing to top things up.
The electric motor and petrol engine combine to develop up to 168bhp and 250Nm of torque and have a 0-62 time of 8.1 seconds. Top speed is 93mph, but truth be told the car feels like it’s running out of oomph after 70mph. It’s also slower than the all-electric i3.
The raised driving position means it’s easy to weave in and out of traffic with ease, but BMW has had to fit the car with special skinny tyres that aren’t as grippy as the bigger ones usually found on a conventional BMW.
A regenerative braking system will feel weird to use at first, but it’s a rewarding system as it helps to maximise charge while enhancing the easygoing driving experience.
If performance from the i3 Rex isn’t enough for you, the all-electric i3 can cover the 0-62 dash in 7.3 seconds, while a more performance-based i3s model does it in just 6.9 seconds.
BMW i3 Rex Interior, Design and Build
One thing the i3 Rex isn’t is conventional. Its striking looks give its electric roots away, although its a look that won’t appeal to everyone. If ever BMW has produced a quirky car, this is it.
Inside, the conventional theme continues. The cabin has a futuristic vibe to it, but there are also plenty of clues that this is another top-notch BMW product. For one thing, there’s the eucalyptus wood that, as well as having great appeal to environmentally aware buyers, gives the cabin a very upmarket feel. Pillar-less doors, hi-tech screens and a minimalist design further enhance its plush atmosphere.
The car is also fairly comfortable. Skinny tyres don’t help with ride quality, but the driver’s seat and steering wheel are plenty adjustable. Insulation, however, is hit and miss. The engine is almost silent, but this just means you’ll be more aware of tyre noise as you pick up speed, as well as wind whistles. The audio system – which is standard – will drown the noise out if you turn it on.
The dash looks attractive enough and, as usual for a BMW, is logically arranged.
Is the BMW i3 Rex practical? It’s definitely small but because it’s been built from the ground up, BMW has been able to maximise space. As such, anyone sat upfront will have plenty of room, while rear leg and headroom is decent.
Taller individuals will feel the squeeze, however, and the car is strictly a four-seater.
Large windows create an airy vibe, while storage spaces include a lidded glovebox, a cubby hole located beneath the front armrest and cup holders.
The boot, meanwhile, measures 260-litres, which is small for this class. A lack of load lip is a bonus, and you can extend the boot’s total capacity to 1,100-litres by folding the rear seats.
Equipment and Safety of the BMW i3 Rex
Standard kit is good, with all models getting the latest iDrive system. As ever, it’s intuitive and simple to use, and comes with a crisp screen with graphics that are easy to understand. The menus can be a bit of a hassle at first, but once you’re up and running it’ll be a cinch.
Standard also is sat-nav, a digital radio, automatic windscreen wipers and headlights, rear parking sensors, Bluetooth and 19” alloys.
The i3 Rex gets ConnectedDrive too, while an upgraded trim costs as little as £1,000 or as much as £2,000, while adding LED headlights will set you back £700.
In terms of how safe the car is, it’s disappointing that the i3 only scored 4/5 when crash tested by Euro NCAP. It scored well for both child and adult occupant protection, but it was its low 57% score for pedestrian protection that brought its overall rating down.
Its standard safety kit includes a seatbelt reminder, electronic stability control and six airbags.
Costs of the BMW i3 Rex
Prices for the new car start out from £31,560. For more information on our leasing deals, check out our page here.
In terms of its running costs, the i3 Rex is the cheapest BMW to run at the moment. BMW reckon it averages 470.8mpg economy, an astounding figure for a premium car.
However, the burning question on buyers’ lips will relate to the driving range. This range extender version of the i3 can keep going for 288 miles according to BMW. When the charge is diminishing, its petrol engine cuts in to top things up.
The car is free from all sorts of bills, including road tax, the London Congestion Charge and road fund licence.
Pros and Cons of the BMW i3 Rex
Has a longer range than the i3
The i3 Rex is ideal for those with serious range anxiety, its 288-mile range is much higher than the i3’s 183-mile range.
It’s not quite as fast as the i3, but a 0-62 time of 8.1 seconds is still impressive.
Unlike so many electric cars these days, the i3 Rex actually looks like an EV with its quirky styling.
The skinny tyres don’t make for great ride quality.
That’s kinda the point, but this is strictly a four-seater with a modest boot.
BMW i3 Rex vs Audi e-Tron vs Ford Focus Electric
Let’s see how the car fares against its rivals in the comparison section of our 2018 BMW i3 Rex review.
BMW i3 Rex vs Audi e-Tron
The new Audi e-Tron might be an electric car but it’s so Audi: It looks great, feels quick and boasts excellent build design.
That said, it’s also typically Audi in the way it handles: It’s just not as fun as the BMW, with its driving experience feeling a tad unrewarding. The e-Tron has to find a way to cope with the extra weight of the batteries, and drivers are aware all the time of how heavy it is. In bends, the Audi feels unwieldy.
On the positive side of things, the e-Tron’s precise steering is a plus and there’s plenty of grip on offer. Overall, though, the i3 Rex is a better choice for enthusiasts.
In terms of its engine, the Audi combines an electric motor with a turbocharged 1.4-litre 148bhp TFSI petrol engine to produce a total output of 201bhp. That’s enough to make the car feel muscular wherever you are, and it covers the 0-62 dash in 7.6 seconds, which makes it faster than the BMW.
That said, this is a heavy car and it doesn’t feel as fast as those numbers suggest.
The car is paired up with a 6-speed S Tronic automatic transmission, which feels like any other automatic ‘box fitted to a conventional car. However, when you’re running out of charge, the automatic becomes a bit more hesitant.
Running costs? Audi claim the e-Tron can return as much as 166.2mpg economy, while a full charge will take around 2 hours and 15 minutes from a wall box charger, and 3 hours from a three-pin plug at home.
The hybrid system, meanwhile, has a range of 19 miles.
Inside, the e-Tron boasts a fabulous interior that gets the brands Virtual Cockpit as an optional extra. It’s well worth adding, as it relays all kinds of important information to the driver, including a 3D sat nav.
The dashboard is solidly built, the cabin is rich in high-quality materials and insulation is good.
Is the Audi e-Tron practical? It’s a five-door that’s pretty damn spacious. In fact, rear seated passengers have more legroom than they do in the standard Sportback model, while accessibility is excellent.
That said, two adults will be much more comfortable in the three, and it’s better to think of this as a four-seater than a five-seater.
The boot, meanwhile, loses 100-litres and measures 280-litres.
BMW – £31,560
Audi – £36,465
BMW i3 Rex vs Ford Focus Electric
It’s hard to imagine that an electric car can already be showing signs of ageing, but the new Ford Focus Electric is beginning to look dated.
In many ways, a Ford Focus Electric sounds like a great idea. After all, the Focus is one of the UK’s most popular family cars. But one of the things buyers love about the standard model is its sharp handling and keen sense of fun. Unfortunately, the extra weight of the batteries robs the electric version of these things.
Like all EV’s, the Focus gets a firm suspension setup that is the main reason it’s not as entertaining as its standard sibling. When you take bends, you’ll notice its extra weight.
Its electric motor produces 143bhp, which is a good amount of power. However, a 0-62 time of 11.0 seconds is less impressive when compared to the BMW. Together with an uninvolved driving experience, the sluggish nature of the car is a real problem for Ford if they’re to convince buyers to forgo the BMW.
Running costs? A 9% BiK rating is attractive, as are zero emissions and exemption from the London Congestion charge and road tax. The Focus Electric occupies insurance group 20, while charge time can be slashed by 5 hours if you spend an extra £300 on a 32A charger.
Inside, the Ford is a pleasant place to be. The dashboard is premium stuff, while part-leather seats offer plenty of comfort. The driver’s seat and steering wheel offer lots of adjustability, too.
The firm suspension is the biggest downside; crash over lumps and bumps and you’ll certainly notice it!
Is the Ford Focus Electric practical? It isn’t a purpose-built EV, which means Ford have had to find room in the original model for the battery pack. As a result, the boot measures just 237-litres, making it around 80-litres smaller than the standard Focus.
Other than that, interior space is largely as you were, and Ford claims the electric motor has a 140-mile range. That’s considerably less than the BMW and most rivals.
Ford – £31,680
Verdict of our 2018 BMW i3 Rex Review
So BMW has entered the EV market, and while they haven’t conjured an electric version of the 3 Series, the i3 Rex is still a very good car. It’s aimed at buyers who want as much range as possible, and with its excellent build quality, lush eucalyptus wood and gorgeous interior, the BMW i3 Rex is a premium product for buyers who care about the environment and image.
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