The arrival of the BMW i3 in 2013 was a landmark moment for not just the German carmaker but the entire automotive industry.
Before this battery-powered hatchback, electric cars were widely seen as a joke, a super-niche toy for geeks with too much money.
However, the i3 – which launched as a full-electric and petrol-electric plug-in hybrid – changed everything and suddenly, almost every car manufacturer was in the game of plug-in and electric vehicles.
Fast forward four years and over 8,000 UK sales and it’s mid-life refresh time for the UK’s best-selling premium compact electric car. So how has BMW improved on what came before?
The big news is that a new sportier variant – named the i3s – has been introduced, boasting a higher power output, enhanced handling, revised styling and new model-specific chassis technology.
Priced upwards of £36,975 on the road, the i3s uses a more powerful motor turning out 184bhp – up from the 170bhp in the standard model – and generating a peak torque of 270Nm, which is 20Nm more than before.
This means it can get up to 62mph in 6.9 seconds, with a top speed of 99mph – figures which improve on the 7.3s and 93mph possible in the regular i3.
Mileage range is often a sticking point for some motorists, but based on the NEDC cycle (which is the standard for working out fuel consumption and emissions), it can run for up to 174 miles. However, because no one will be driving the i3 in these lab-like conditions, you and I can expect that to drop to 125 miles in everyday use.
A hybrid ‘Range Extender’ version of the i3s – costing £40,125 – can dispatch a 0-62mph sprint in 7.7 seconds with the same 99mph top speed as the all-electric i3s, with CO2 emissions capped at 15g/km. Introducing a two-cylinder petrol engine stretches its mileage range to 205 miles, but again, don’t expect that in the real world.
The facelift treatment has introduced a black finish for the car’s A-pillars and roof lines, while all exterior lights are now LED as standard.
Inside, both the i3 and i3s boast an updated version of the iDrive infotainment operating system, featuring a 10.2-inch touchscreen with an increased resolution of 1,440 by 540 pixels.
BMW will show off the revised i3 and new i3s at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September.