With a 2570 mm wheelbase and measuring 3999 mm in length, 1775 mm in width and standing 1578 mm tall the i3’s dimensions are virtually identical to those of the MINI Paceman. Thanks to a carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic (CFRP) passenger compartment, which is fixed to the aluminium Drive module, the i3 not only enjoys a 1,195 kg kerb weight, but the structural rigidity allowed this four-door citycar to be designed without the need for b-pillars. A 22 kWh lithium-ion battery pack mounted beneath the floor feeds an electric motor, which sends 125 kW (168 hp) and 250 Nm of torque to the rear wheels via a single-speed transmission. On the road 60 km/h (37 mph) appears in 3.7 seconds and 100 km/h (62 mph) in 7.2 seconds, with top speed limited to 93 mph (150 km/h).
In everyday driving, a range of 130 to 160 kilometres (81 – 99 miles) is possible, rising by 20 kilometres (12 miles) in ECO PRO or ECO PRO+ mode which cuts such luxuries as heating and music. Additionally, a range-extending 25 kW (34 hp) 650 cc two-cylinder petrol engine can be specified, which sits immediately adjacent to the electric motor above the rear axle and raises range to around 300 kilometres (180 miles). A full charge from a regular household socket or BMW’s i Wallbox takes around six house, while the public fast-charging stations (50 kW) take just 30 minutes to reach 80 per cent capacity.
Visually the i3 sits on 19-inch alloy wheels with low rolling resistance tyres and wears blanked-off kidney grilles, U-shaped LED head and tail-lights and aerodynamic Air Curtains that reduce air resistance and drag. Sculpted flanks feature large windows and hidden rear handles as with the MINI Clubman. Regardless of colour, all models feature black aprons, side skirts, roof panel, glazed tailgate and diffuser.
Moving inside, the cabin features free-standing 6.5-inch instrument cluster and control displays (8.8-inch optional), an iDrive controller between the lightweight driver and front passenger seats at surface height, while 25 per cent of the plastic used in the interior has been replaced with recycled materials or renewable raw alternatives, meaning the utilization of such materials as fibres from the kenaf plant for the instruments surrounds and door panels, open-pored eucalyptus wood for the glove compartment and olive tree leaf extract used to treat the leather trim. The vehicle’s built-in sim card allows access to the BMW ConnectedDrive services, while interaction with the smartphone app means the occupant’s destination is mapped out for them – even after they’ve parked the car and continued on foot.
Pricing in Germany will start at €34,950 when the i3 goes on sale this November, with BMW confirming that it has already had 90,000 requests for test drives.