The i range of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles from BMW got off to a strong start with the compact i3 and performance-oriented i8 launched almost on top of each other in 2013, but the wait for a third model line has been a long one.
That’s set to change soon though, with BMW said to be in the final stages of selecting which body style the coming i5 will wear.
The final decision has been narrowed down to either a medium sedan, in the mould of BMW’s 3 Series, designed to go head to head with Tesla’s as yet unseen Model 3, or an MPV - a model with greater impact in Europe than other international markets.
If the latter choice wins out, then the i5 will likely look more like a lengthened version of the boxy and upright i3. While a van-like body opens up the options for more seating, the mono-volume body may stick with seating for four or five, concentrating instead on interior flexibility.
If BMW chooses to make the i5 a sedan, expect a new styling direction for the first i sub-brand sedan, blending elements of i3 up front, with cues taken from the i8 towards the rear.
Regardless of the bodystyle chosen, the i5 will offer a choice of either full electric power, or a range extending plug-in hybrid model, in a move that echoes the i3's powertrain options.
Although exact timing is yet to be pinned down, an unveiling for the i5 is expected in the second quarter of 2016, to coincide with BMW’s centenary.
BMW board member for sales and marketing, Ian Robertson, suggested in an interview with Autocar that while the centenary celebrations will celebrate BMW’s past, they will mainly look to the future.
“We are in the final stages of deciding what the next car will be and when you’ll see it.” Robertson said, regarding the i range.
“We will look back 100 years at that point, but mainly into the future.”
He also revealed that i3 sales figures were tempered somewhat by consumer demand, pointing to a lack of government incentives in some markets, consumer hesitation over range anxiety, and the continuing low price of petrol in the United States.
Despite that, i3 sales have grown by 60 percent so far, compared with this time last year, and the i brand’s flagship, the i8 still holds a waiting list of buyers, thanks to its combination of sharp looks, and green-focussed performance.
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