BMW i3 Review: Will It Dog?

Can you believe the BMW i3 has been around for a decade? The OG electric Bimmer seemed so wacky looking when it came out, but it’s downright cute compared to some recent brutes from Bavaria. And speaking of cute, if you’ve got dogs to haul, this little car is surprisingly well-suited to canine commuting.

This installment of Will It Dog? is brought to you by SpotOn GPS Fence. Build multiple GPS dog fences, at home or on the go. SpotOn puts the easiest, most advanced GPS fence dog collar in the palm of your hand.

Welcome to Will It Dog, The Drive‘s car review series for canine owners. Here we’ll look at what a BMW i3 (2013-2022) is like to live with if you have dogs and point out any specific aspects that help or hurt its case as a dog taxi. We’re going to pretty much gloss over the tech specs and engineering since that info is already all over the internet, and focus on the car’s physical attributes when it comes to carrying animals.

Andrew P. Collins

Our main test dogs Bramble, Indi, and Silas are littermates; half Golden Retriever (dad) and half Australian Shepherd (mom). Bramble’s the smallest at 40-odd pounds while her brothers are about 60 pounds apiece. They’re energetic animals but comfortable with car rides, harnesses, and travel.

Which snoot would you boop first?

BMW i3 Specs for Dog Owners

  • Base price when new, 2019 model (general prices today): $45,445 ($20,000-$27,000)
  • Seating capacity (people): 4
  • Seating capacity (dogs): 4 medium-size breed, (one in the cargo bay)
  • EPA fuel economy (EV-only model): 124 mpge city | 102 highway | 113 combined
  • Cargo volume: 15.1 cu. ft. (36.9 cu. ft. with seats folded)
  • Dimensions:
  • Rear seat to ground height: 28 inches
  • Rear seat to ceiling height: 32 inches
  • Front seatback to rear seat: 29 inches
  • Total side door opening width (both side doors open): 48 inches
  • Door sill to ground height: 20 inches
  • Trunk opening to ground height: 29 inches
  • Rear cargo height: 26 inches
  • Rear cargo width (main usable area): 40 inches
  • Quick take: A small car that feels big thanks to exceptional space utilization, with an unconventional look that’s aging surprisingly well.
  • Will It Dog Score: 9/10

Interior Materials and Layout

Stepping out of my E46 3 Series, or any traditional car for that matter, and into the i3’s cockpit is a little jarring. BMW’s compact electric vehicle has something like 30 different material types visible from the driver’s seat and an unusual-looking dashboard. The continuous footwell that spans between the driver and front passenger side (EV means no transmission tunnel of course) is something you usually only find in golf carts, not cars.

The chunky hatchback-shaped BMW has standard doors up front and reverse-opening (aka “suicide doors”) for the back, like some extended-cab pickup trucks or the Mazda RX-8.

But you probably knew all that—as we opened with, the i3 came out in 2013 and its design didn’t really change right up to its discontinuation last year. For those who have not sat in one, the layout and stubby/tall cabin give a breezy vibe that’s quite pleasant to ride in. The small screens are a relief for those of us fatigued by fully digital cockpits; riding in an i3 in 2023 still feels modern without being exhausting. But by today’s standards, the look is more whimsical than techy.

Andrew P. Collins

As for animal transportation, if you wanted to get creative (and had no regard for safety) you could load this thing up like a clown car with dogs. Not that you should, but hypothetically two small to medium-sized pooches could fit in the front footwell, two big dogs (or three medium ones) could sit in the back seat, and you’d still have room for a grown Golden Retriever in the cargo bay and a young Chihuahua or Pomeranian in the center console. Not that we would condone packing yourself in that tight—it’d be highly sketchy and God help you if those dogs ate something farty before loading up.

Climbing In and Out

Our test dogs vibed with the i3 right away—in fact, we had trouble keeping them from jumping into the car long enough to pose for pictures with the doors open. Bramble (the merle) went straight from the driver’s side to the passenger’s footwell before we could get her back out. The dogs took a little more coaxing to get into the back, where you’d actually want them to ride, but the rear door opens plenty wide enough for large-medium breeds. Getting very large dogs into the back will take a little more coaxing and scootching forward of the front seats.

While our springy Shepherds easily scampered from the ground to the back seat, the door sill is pretty high for smaller or older dogs. Expect to pick up anything with shorter legs—a Corgi or Dachshund would be unlikely to be able to get in on their own.

Since the cargo area behind the rear seats is pretty much the same size and at the same level as the seats themselves, you could safely transport a dog there too—this is particularly beneficial if you have a baby seat for the back and need to be able to carry a kid and animal at the same time. Based purely on size, most common dog breeds could comfortably ride in the i3’s cargo area. But many pups may need to be helped back there as the cargo floor is really high. I’m sure you’d be able to find a ramp that would work if you’re not strong enough to lift your dog, or, consider agility training for your animal! Our Aussie-Shep Retrievers really seemed to enjoy leaping from the ground into the open rear hatch, but, they love a good jumping obstacle.

Driving With the Dog

Another advantage to a car like this with a cargo bay that’s viable for dog transportation is that it gives you an easy option for dog-securing that doesn’t eat seating space. Put a quality kennel in the back and your pup will be pretty well locked-down.

Andrew P. Collins

Medium-sized dogs fit in the back seats fine, and if you roll the front windows down they can get some air to their snoots without actually sticking their heads outside the vehicle. I would always recommend against letting a dog ride in the front of any car, but in the case of the i3 I have to insist even more strongly—that undivided footwell would make it very easy for an animal to get to the pedals and I don’t have to explain why that could be disastrous.

Driving in General

The i3 still feels swift and planted, in spite of its comically small pizza-slicer tires. But nothing about being behind the wheel of this car provokes any semblance of spirited driving. The cockpit is so much more “sitting room” than “sporty” that driving one of these in anger just feels wrong. Not every car needs to be for carving canyons though, and the i3 is absolutely enjoyable to get around in at reasonable speeds. It reacts quickly to inputs and visibility is great.

My mother-in-law has had several, and a couple of my car-industry friends drive these too. Finally, I can see why—it’s pleasant, cool, and quiet. The vehicle’s shape and stature make it extremely easy to maneuver, BMW build quality is solid, and the design is interesting enough to make the machine feel special.

Pack Hauling

Andrew P. Collins

We were only able to test the i3 with two dogs in it at once, and our 40- and 60-odd-pound pups were quite comfortable next to each other in the back seat. I guess one more could fit between them, but this is a four-human car, not a five-seater—that rear seat is tighter than it is in most modern vehicles. If I were transporting three dogs in this car I’d try to do two in the back and one in a kennel behind the seats.

Carrying Kennels

The i3’s 50/50 split fold-down seats give you a lot of flexibility when it comes to kennel carrying. While a smallish one would fit behind the rear seats, you could stash a fairly large one on half of the car’s back section and still have space for three humans and a few duffel bags.

Andrew P. Collins

BMW i3 Dog-Friendliness Verdict

I grabbed this 2019 BMW i3 out of my family’s fleet because I think these are among the better buys in used cars right now. But shucks, it turned out to be one of my favorite dog haulers of the year so far. Cursory research indicates that some used examples won’t have the 150-mile range these cars claimed when they were fresh, but even if you can find one that’s a little more limited it’s still a great car for local driving. If your local driving includes animal hauling, a used i3 in good shape would make an excellent choice even if you don’t really care about electric car adoption.

Andrew P. Collins

That said, dogs are more sensitive to sound and smell than people, and an electric car makes less of both than gasoline-powered alternatives. I’ve definitely talked myself into shopping for one writing this review—maybe I’ll even price out how much it’d cost to get a charger put in at my house.

Featured Dog Car Gear and Travel Accessories

  • Harness: Kurgo Tru-Fit Enhanced Strength ($39.05 on Amazon)
  • Seat Cover: Dickie’s Repreve ($29.88 at Walmart)
  • Hard Kennel: PetMate Vari Kennel (1998 model, $NLA) (Similar: $159.50 on Amazon)
  • Soft Kennel: Backcountry x Petco Foldable Dog Travel Crate ($169.99 at Petco)

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This installment of Will It Dog? was brought to you by SpotOn GPS Fence. Build multiple GPS dog fences, at home or on the go. SpotOn puts the easiest, most advanced GPS fence dog collar in the palm of your hand.

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