BMW’s new i3 has leaked, ahead of its Chinese launch – but this new electric sedan is very different to the city hatch familiar to local customers.
Images of the new 2022 BMW i3 have leaked out of China – but it’s a very different vehicle to the i3 known to Australian BMW buyers.
Whereas the i3 currently (or formerly) adorns a city-sized electric hatchback with rear-hinged doors and concept-like styling, BMW will repurpose the moniker on an electric version of the 3 Series sedan for the Chinese market, offered solely in long-wheelbase guise (not sold in Australia or Europe).
Outed in these images from China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the new i3 previews the upcoming mid-life facelift (or Life Cycle Impulse, as BMW terms it) for the wider 3 Series range, evidenced by its restyled headlights (with flipped daytime-running light signatures compared to today’s car) and ever-so-slightly larger ‘kidney grilles’.
Distinguishing the i3 from its standard 3 Series counterpart are an array of eco-themed tweaks, including closed-off front grille inserts, aerodynamics-oriented alloy wheels (available in 18- or 19-inch varieties), and a new rear bumper similar to its i4 liftback sibling, with two swept sections.
Ensuring onlookers know it’s an electric vehicle are blue accents around the body, adorning the badges, front grilles and rear bumper.
The Chinese filings don’t provide a glimpse inside the cabin, though spy photos indicate the wider 3 Series LCI range will gain BMW’s latest twin-screen iDrive 8 dashboard, with a 12.3-inch digital instrument display and 14.9-inch infotainment touchscreen integrated into one curved panel.
The eDrive35L badge on the boot lid indicates this i3 is the entry-level version of two available powertrains – with a more potent eDrive40L variant also rumoured to be available – with one electric motor driving the rear wheels.
The MIIT listing suggests the eDrive35L will develop 250kW, a match for the i4 eDrive40 set for Australian showrooms next year – despite the higher nomenclature – which pairs a 250kW/430Nm electric motor with an 80.7kWh (net) battery for a 5.7-second 0-100km/h time, and 590km of European WLTP claimed driving range.
That opens the door for a higher-output (but still single-motor) eDrive40L, slotting above the eDrive35L, but below the 400kW/795Nm (during overboost) dual-motor i4 M50 sold elsewhere.
Available features on the i3 in China will include surround-view cameras, front and rear parking sensors, rear-axle air suspension (as per the i4), and an optional blue accent delete package.
Production of the 2022 BMW i3 is rumoured to start in China in March 2022 – some four months before the wider 3 Series range for global markets.
As a long-wheelbase-only model, the i3 won’t make the trip to Australia, as only the standard-wheelbase 3 Series is sold locally. The i3 would also compete in the same segment as the new i4, stealing sales in an already-niche market.
The second incarnation of the i3 name breaks the German car maker’s rule of not applying the same nameplate to two different styles of vehicle; after all, the high-performance M version of the former 1 Series coupe wore the 1 Series M name, rather than apply the M1 badge used on BMW’s late 1970s supercar.