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BMW i3 2023: small EV transforms into electric 3 Series sedan

 
Zak Adkins
Journalist

The long-awaited fully-electric BMW 3 Series is here, badged the i3 – but it’s only available to Chinese buyers for now


BMW has announced that an all-electric 3 Series is set for launch, though the 2023 BMW i3 will be exclusively sold in mainland China – at least for now.

Fans of BMW will know the i3 badge from its presence on the brand’s avant-garde i3 electric hatchback that was sold in Australia from 2013 until early 2022.

The discontinuation of the i3 hatchback freed up the badge to be applied to the new long-wheelbase, China-market i3 sedan, which runs the same Cluster Architecture chassis as the petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid G20 3 Series. 

The i3 sedan is 115mm longer than a standard 3 Series

The first variant of the i3 is called the eDrive35L, with the electric 3 Series making use of a 210kW/400Nm rear motor for rear-wheel drive (RWD) – a powertrain it largely shares with the new iX3 midsize SUV that is sold in Australia.

Based on the long wheelbase version of the G20 3 Series sedan that is sold only in China, the i3 measures in at 4872mm long and has a wheelbase of 2966mm, making it 115mm longer than a standard 3 Series. 

While it very much looks like the current G20 3 Series, there are hints of 2 Series and even X3 in the headlights especially.  

From this view, it looks very much like a regular 3 Series sedan

The i3 sedan will compete with other midsize electric cars, including the market-leading Tesla Model 3, the Polestar 2 and the incoming BYD Seal.

What sort of power does the eDrive35L have?

The i3 sedan contains a 70kWh battery pack which feeds a single electric motor that produces a respectable 210kW of power and 400Nm of torque. The i3 sedan can sprint to 100km/h in 6.3 seconds. 

Like the iX3 SUV, the i3’s single electric motor is found at the rear of the vehicle – meaning it has RWD, in the tradition of combustion 3 Series vehicles, while the car uses a single-speed automatic transmission.

Large dual screens dominate the interior space

BMW claims a range of 526km for the i3 according to China’s more lenient electric range standard, so expect real-world range of 400-450km.

What about technology and comfort?

Inside the i3 sedan, the interior features the same OS8.0 infotainment system found in other BMW models such as the iX SUV and i4 Gran Coupe. A 12.3-inch digital driving cluster is front and centre for the driver while a 14.9-inch touchscreen is positioned centrally for all infotainment needs. 

Like the i4 Gran Coupe, the i3 sedan retains the rotary iDrive controller to make navigating menus simpler and easy to use. 

A 12.3-inch driving cluster and 14.9-inch touchscreen are standard

No station wagon version – or Touring, in BMW parlance – of the i3 has been announced, though the dominance of the 3 Series wagon over its sedan counterpart in Europe means an electric 3 Series Touring is likely in future.

Will we see an electric 3 Series here in Australia?

Although the i3 sedan is unlikely to be sold in Australia, the model does hint at what is to come for the brand in terms of luxury electric sedans. 

The smaller grille remains for the i3 electric sedan

There could be greater hybridisation or electrification of the 3 Series when the next generation arrives, however this could be some time away as the current 3 Series only arrived in Australia in 2019. 

BMW is planning to develop another 3 Series-sized sedan in 2025 based on a new platform called the Neue Klasse architecture. 

This platform will eventually replace the CLAR and FAAR platforms currently in use today.