There can't be many sub-supercars over recent times that have matched the BMW i8 for sheer impact and shock value on launch; everyone had seen the EfficientDynamics concept, sure, and mostly liked it, but very few people actually believed that such a thing would make production. Yet there it was, just five years later, a production i8 in BMW showrooms, a genuine hybrid sports car that promised performance and petrol-electric parsimony.
Much like the smaller i3, the i8 ensured BMW stole a march on its immediate rivals; look at the current desire from Audi and Mercedes to create valid electric ranges, to push their hybrid wares and generally put distance between what's happening now and a fossil-fuelled past. Interestingly, though, the tack is slightly different, with other manufacturers focussing on more conventional applications of the technology, underlining the fact that the BMW i cars haven't been quite the successes they were forecast to.
That's not reflecting any lack of ability. The i8, while not the most dynamic of sports cars, was desirable, fast and a pleasure to spend time with. The sense of occasion for a car with a 1.5-litre engine and a price that started at less than £100,000 was unmatched, and don't underestimate the importance of that to prospective buyers. Maybe not a car for a track day, but supreme for the journey there and back. There's an argument to say the primary reason is one associated with cost; both i3 and i8 were priced in line with (or above) more conventional rivals. Those with experience of them could make a valid argument that they were worth it, but we all know how hard it is to get consumers to break their buying habits. You knew what you were getting buying a 911 at £100k; an i8 represented more of a gamble.
Still, some did take the plunge, spurred on by good deals that were available, like the original owner of this particular i8. In 2014 this was a £100,000 car; five years and 50,000 miles later, though, and it's shed more than half its value, on offer at BMW Sytner Birmingham for £43,000. As far as we know, it's the cheapest i8 yet seen, and therefore rather interesting.
Clearly it's been used, with somewhere around 10,000 miles a year covered. The natural assumption being that the petrol engine will have been more responsible for that than the batteries, because obviously there's only so far that can be covered on electric power alone. Don't forget, though, that the battery is covered by a BMW warranty for eight years and 100,000 miles, which should put some minds at ease. Because, let's be honest, there will be a little apprehension about buying a used hybrid, even if there needn't be.
Of course, running something like this beyond those miles is the step into the unknown, which may put some off, but what a fascinating opportunity this represents. A 911 or Vantage at similar money will be older (and with mileage not that much lower) and, while each is great, they perhaps represent a more traditional, less intriguing sports car formula.
So, if the initial purchase price put some off an i8, does the worse than expected depreciation makes it a more appealing prospect now? Or is the more appropriate question how much further values could yet fall? Perhaps this is one to revisit in another five years time...
SPECIFICATION - BMW I8
Engine: 1,499cc 3-cyl turbo plus lithium-ion battery pack and electric motor
Transmission: 6-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
Power (hp): 362@ (combustion engine 231@5,800rpm, electric motor 131@4,800rpm)
Torque (lb ft): 420 (combustion engine 236@3,700rpm, electric motor 184@0rpm)
MPG: 134.5 (NEDC combined)
First registered: 2014
Recorded mileage: 54,000
Price new: £99,845
Yours for: £43,000