In more ways than one, the i3 has been the little hatchback that could—it sparked the modern electrified era for BMW and cleared the way for followers. First put into production in 2013, the i3 was the first and only electric vehicle available in the full BMW fleet at the time. Now, six years later, the legendary little EV has inspired a whole new side of BMW as a brand, with the highly-anticipated iNext lineup set to debut in 2021 and the full 25-model electrified fleet promised to arrive by 2023.
Unfortunately, as many enthusiasts feared, some good things must come to an end. Up until recently, there were many rumors circulating throughout the community regarding BMW’s first flagship all-electric EV, which considered the possibility that the i3 would surrender its throne to a new successor. Other enthusiasts within the community wondered if the i3’s legacy might meet a more immediate end, like that of the plug-in-supercar i8, which will come to its bittersweet conclusion this coming April when production is scheduled to end.
It is now safe to say that almost all of these speculations have been quashed, following a recent statement from Oliver Zipse, BMW’s new CEO. Zipse revisited the i3’s strong roots within the brand, claiming that for some icons, they are simply too great and legendary to have a worthy successor. For the i3, this means that it will not only benefit from an extended production timeline, but will also evolve into a more modern, sophisticated version of itself with new and well-deserved upgrades. Part of this decision may have stemmed from renewed demand for the i3, especially in Europe, where Zipse says that sales have increased 20% over last—not common for a car in its sixth model year.
In order to keep up with this growing demand, we can expect to see a few new and more powerful battery options become available, engineered to compete with the European market’s newest EVs, like Volkswagen’s new ID.3 hatchback, which when fully optioned with a 77.7-kWh battery boasts a 340-mile range. For BMW i enthusiasts, this means we can anticipate the newest i3 model to come out of the box with a 42.2-kWh battery, good for 170 horsepower and a 153-mile all-electric driving range, a respectable increase from the 33.3-kWh battery currently in use. Opt for the sportier i3S, and you’ll benefit from 181 horsepower.
If driving range is your deal-breaker, consider buying the Range Extender package. If you’re looking for your i3 to stand out even more, consider the limited-edition RoadStyle i3S with its black-and-copper aesthetic. With the i3 is in its prime, and with a model for every enthusiast, now is as good a time as any for BMW’s futuristic hatchback EV to stay on the big screen.
As Zipse put it, “Why in God’s name should we give up this car, which is now at the height of its time? We are sure that the i3 still has great potential… it is already an icon today. Which car can claim this after only six years?” With both the 2021 iNext and 2023 full electrified lineup debuts fast approaching, it is only apropos that the i3 stick around to fulfill its destiny of leading the new electrified image of BMW as a brand.—Malia Murphy
[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]