Although it’s a vehicle defined as much by what you cannot usually see as what you can – its pioneering carbonfibre-reinforced-plastic passenger cell is only properly revealed when the doors are flung open – the i3 remains an inimitable-looking proposition.
The changes for this revised iteration of it are subtle, the facelift bringing more gloss black trim, new bumper mouldings and alterations to the lights, although the more powerful i3s model tested here also sits 10mm lower, with tracks a substantial 40mm wider.
That is not to say that BMW has justified the ‘s’ moniker with minor aesthetic amendments alone. The lowered ride height is the result of a sports suspension set-up comprising new springs, dampers and anti-roll bars, and there’s the option of sharpening the throttle response and ‘tightening’ the steering by way of a new Sport mode. The implication is that this is an electric hot hatch – and, as such, it would be the first of its kind – with the additional horsepower of the i3s resulting from tweaks to the electric motor control and new taper roller bearings for the drivetrain.
In keeping with the performance vibe, the i3s gets 20in alloy wheels with tyres that are 20mm wider than anything previously offered – the trade-off being improved grip for worsened rolling resistance, although the standard car’s handy 9.86m turning circle also grows to 10.31m.
However, these are mere tweaks and the drivetrain is fundamentally unchanged from before. The Samsung-sourced lithium ion batteries together form the same 33kWh (up from 22kWh but physically no larger) pack introduced to the range in 2016. Only 27.2kWh of that is actually usable, though: and given that a Zoe now gives you 41kWh for considerably less outlay, that looks problematic. The battery is spread over the car’s floorpan, with the electric motor feeding the rear axle through a single-speed gearbox.
Whether in the i3 or the i3s, the optional range extender is a two-cylinder 38bhp petrol affair that drives a generator for the battery. With a tank large enough to supply energy for a claimed 93 miles of driving, it takes the car’s theoretical range to 205 miles on the claimed NEDC test cycle, although it does incur a 120kg weight penalty.