BMW i3 returns as China-only fully-electric 3 Series, previews upcoming facelift

Remember BMW’s funky city hatchback called the i3? Well, it’s back – but only sort of. Against all preconceptions of what we knew about BMW, they’ve now just unveiled a new fully-electric 3 Series model for China, reusing the ‘i3’ nameplate for a completely different vehicle altogether.

The China-exclusive BMW i3 is built on the long-wheelbase model, and just like most other BMW i models, it only differs slightly in looks from the standard 3 Series counterpart. These aesthetic tweaks include a closed-off front grille, blue accents, unique bumpers (particularly at the back), and aerodynamic-focused alloy wheel designs.

There’s also a new headlight design with a reworked light signature, alongside a slightly tweaked front grille shape, but it’s believed that these changes will also be carried onto the other petrol-powered BMW 3 Series models as part of the G20’s LCI facelift exercise, thus giving us a first look at the upcoming model update!

Inside, the fully-electric 3-er is equipped with BMW’s latest iDrive 8 set-up, consisting of a single curved pane of glass perched above the dashboard made up of a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a 14.9-inch touchscreen infotainment display.

There’s also a bank of new control buttons to go along with the new software (just like the i4), and a new short gearshift lever in line with BMW’s other electric models. But aside from those changes, however, the rest of the cabin remains largely unchanged from before. Boot space has slightly suffered from the switch to the EV powertrain, however, dropping from the regular 480L to 410L on the i3.

RELATED: The latest BMW iDrive 8 system could be the best-looking yet!

The BMW i3 will be offered in China in a sole eDrive35L variant for now, packing a single electric motor on the rear axle providing 281 hp (210 kW) and 400 Nm of grunt, for a 0-100 km/h time of 6.2 seconds.

The powertrain is juiced by a 70.3 kWh battery that provides up to 526 km of driving range based on China’s light-duty vehicle test cycle (CLTC). Charging the i3’s battery pack can be done via AC (11 kW) or DC (95 kW), the latter taking approximately 35 minutes to fill it up from 10-80%.

ALSO READ: BMW i4 Gran Coupe EV previewed in Malaysia!

Other changes under the sheet metal include a reworked suspension set-up, which BMW says has been tuned specifically for the Chinese preference and road conditions, and also adapted some of the car’s componentry to the local requirements of the supply chain in China.

The BMW i3 eDrive35Lis priced from CNY349,900 (approx. RM232k) in China, and will be assembled at the BMW Brilliance plant in Lydia, Shenyang. Sales of the fully-electric 3 Series sedan is expected to begin in May.



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