Used BMW i3 vs VW e-Golf
22 Oct 2017  


Used electric cars are becoming more and more widely available, so we’ve put
two of the most desirable to the test

The Contenders

BMW i3

List price when new £30,980

Price today £15,500

Electric motoring doesn't come much more desirable than the BMW i3

Volkswagen e-Golf

List price when new £31,680

Price today £16,000

Most of the good points of a normal Golf, but with lower running costs

Price today is based on a 2014 model with average mileage and full service
history, correct at time of writing

Electric cars are still a relatively rare sight on UK roads, but as the
charging infrastructure grows, so does the number on sale on the used
market. And with the increases in range that have come along with the latest
battery technology, a used electric car is now a viable proposition for far
more buyers than it used to be.

The BMW i3 is one of the best, with its sci-fi looks, high-quality interior
and surprisingly punchy performance at all speeds. However, here it faces
tough competition from the Volkswagen e-Golf.

By simply swapping a standard Volkswagen Golf’s engine for an electric
motor, Volkswagen has ensured the e-Golf retains most of the standard car’s
impressive practicality, but with the bonus of cheaper running costs.

But is that enough to give it the edge over its more extrovert rival? Well,
that’s what we’re here to find out. Last month, we put the latest versions
of both of these cars to the test – but now it’s time to find out whether
our verdict still holds true for this pair as used purchases.
What are they like to drive?

Both cars have three drive modes (Normal, Eco and Eco-plus) that are
increasingly restrictive on performance, limiting power, torque and top
speed, as well as switching off the air-con to eke out every last mile from
the batteries. They also have three levels of braking regeneration, which
increases the amount of energy that's put back into the batteries whenever
you lift off the accelerator.

With both fully charged, the i3 managed 85 miles in our real-world range
tests; the e-Golf beat that by only two miles, despite having a notably
larger battery.

Electric power means no gears and instant acceleration, which means both
cars feel extremely punchy at low speeds.

However, because the i3 has an extra 54bhp and weighs 300kg less than the
e-Golf, it keeps pulling hard at higher speeds, whereas acceleration in the
e-Golf starts to tail off above 40mph. In fact, the i3’s 0-60mph time of
6.9sec would embarrass some hot hatches.

The i3 is more than just fast in a straight line, too. Its quick, nicely
weighted steering and good body control make it feel more agile in town.
However, while the e-Golf’s steering is slower, it gives you a better sense
of connection with the road.

The i3 feels less sure of itself when pushed harder, because its skinny
tyres cause its front end to wash wide surprisingly early. This, combined
with its quick steering, makes it feels nervous and flighty. The e-Golf’s
more relaxed turn-in and lower, wider stance ultimately helps it feel the
more confident and means it grips harder in corners.

Ride quality is another area where the i3 is second best. It feels firm –
although never uncomfortable – over broken surfaces and potholes at low
speeds, and it fails to settle at motorway speeds. The e-Golf’s softer
set-up can’t match that of a regular Golf, because you feel more bumps.
However on most roads, and especially at high speeds, it feels more secure
than the i3.

The e-Golf is also a more relaxing place to spend time, mainly because it
does a better job of dealing with wind and road noise. The i3 is worse in
both respects.

Used electric cars are becoming more and more widely available, so we’ve put
two of the most desirable to the test

BMW i3 interior
What are they like inside?

Tall adults will have enough head and leg room in the front of either car,
but the i3’s narrower body means less room for shoulders. There’s a wide
range of adjustment on both cars’ front seats, but the VW e-Golf’s backrests
adjust using a wheel, meaning it’s easier to fine-tune a position than with
the BMW i3’s lever.

Forward visibility is good in both, but the e-Golf’s larger rear screen and
thinner pillars give you a better over-the-shoulder view.

The e-Golf is the more spacious in the back, offering more head and shoulder
room, as well as more knee room. The i3 also has only two rear seats,
although a couple of adults will sit in relative comfort. Families will find
the e-Golf easier to live with because three children can sit across its
rear seats, and the conventionally-opening rear doors make access much
easier in car parks.

The e-Golf’s boot has a wider opening and the load bay is longer, deeper and
wider than the i3’s. As a result, slotting in a suitcase can be a tight
squeeze in the i3, whereas the e-Golf makes an easy job of it.

Both cars’ rear seats split (the i3’s 50:50, the e-Golf’s 60:40) and fold to
let you extend the load area. The i3’s seats are more fiddly to fold,
although they do lie flatter than the Golf’s when down.

BMW has done a superb job with the i3’s dashboard. Its layout is seriously
user-friendly and the materials all feel solid – the use of recycled
materials offers unique but surprisingly high-quality textures.

BMW’s iDrive infotainment system, meanwhile, remains one of the easiest to
use on the market, and the i3’s 6.5in colour screen is super-sharp.

Aside from some blue detailing on its steering wheel, gearlever and door
trim, the e-Golf’s interior is much the same as any other Golf’s. That means
the plastics feel dense and solidly constructed, although you might find the
design a little dull by comparison with the i3’s. It’s certainly functional,
though: the 8.0-inch touch-screen is really responsive, with simple menus,
and the climate controls are easy to reach and logically laid out.

BMW i3 rear
What will they cost?

Electric cars might be becoming more accessible on the used market, but they
still don’t come all that cheap. Both the BMW i3 and Volkswagen e-Golf will
set you back quite a bit more than comparable petrol- or diesel-powered cars
of a similar age. And of the two, it’s the Golf that’s the more expensive,
albeit not by very much.

However, the extra cost of either of these is countered by the low running
costs. Neither will cost you much to charge up on a standard household
tariff, and as we’ve already discussed, both will travel a similar number of
miles on a charge.

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that there aren’t that many
independent local garages who’ll work on electric cars just yet, so you
might have to take it back to the dealership for any maintenance work that
does need to be done. That said, servicing and maintenance costs will be
minimal, as there are so few moving parts, further mitigating the high
purchase prices.

Reliability is harder to gauge, too, as so few examples of either car have
been sold, which means we’re lacking the data to pronounce conclusively on
either car’s dependability. However, we haven’t heard of any major common
problems on either car, and with the motors’ relative mechanical simplicity,
the chances are they should last a long time.

Both cars come with alloys, climate control, automatic lights and wipers,
cruise control, rear parking sensors, DAB, sat-nav, Bluetooth, USB and aux
sockets and a multi-function steering wheel. The e-Golf adds LED headlights,
front parking sensors and benefits from a standard rapid-charging inlet –
allowing for half-hour charges if you have access to one.

The i3 has been crash tested by Euro NCAP, where it received four stars. The
e-Golf hasn’t been tested but the regular model managed five stars and very
good adult, child and pedestrians scores. The Golf comes with more airbags
(seven versus six), a city braking system and the option of rear side ’bags,
but both get tyre pressure monitoring, ESP and an alarm.


The BMW i3 wows with its superb interior, while its strong performance and
real-world range also give it plenty of appeal. If you’re after an electric
car that stands out from the crowd and makes you feel special, it’s a solid

Just be aware that that extrovert styling comes at a price. The i3 is not an
ideal family car, with its smaller boot and one less rear seat, and around
town its firm ride makes it less enjoyable to drive.

The Volkswagen e-Golf is a complete contrast. You’d be hard-pushed to tell
it apart from normal Golfs on the outside, and while that might make it
bland for some, it gives the Golf its own appeal for more no-nonsense
buyers. However, it is a little more expensive to buy – and it’s worth
noting, too, that its relative rarity makes it very hard to find.

If you can find one, though, the e-Golf is the better car here. It’s
considerably more practical, better to drive, has a more comfortable ride,
and comes with more standard equipment. With all that in mind, we think it’s
worth the small additional cost.
1st – Volkswagen e-Golf

For Great to drive; well equipped; spacious inside

Against Ride isn’t as good as standard Golf’s; not as quick as the i3

Verdict One of the most convincing electric cars yet

Rated 4 out of 5

2nd – BMW i3

For Impressive performance; stunning interior; brilliant infotainment system

Against Choppy ride; nervous handling; small boot

Verdict Hugely desirable, but the e-Golf makes more sense

Rated 4 out of 5

Specifications: Volkswagen e-Golf

Battery Li-ion, 24.2kWh

List price when new £30,845

Price today £16,000

Power 113bhp

Torque 199lb ft

0-60mph 9.7sec

Top speed 87mph

Official range 118 miles

CO2 emissions 0g/km
Specifications: BMW i3

Battery Li-ion, 18.8kWh

List price when new £30,680

Price today £15,500

Power 167bhp

Torque 184lb ft

0-60mph 6.9sec

Top speed 91mph

Official range 118 miles

CO2 emissions 0g/km

Price today is based on a 2014 model with average mileage and full service
history, correct at time of writing

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