Australian new car buyers love performance cars. Not so popular though, are green vehicles.
In a back-to-back analysis of BMW’s high-performance M division next to its enviro-friendly i department, the former sold 1545 cars for 2017 while the latter contributed only 142 electric cars.
To help solve the problem of slow EV sales BMW has added some sportiness to its compact electric car - the i3.
A new, more powerful electric motor, a redesigned look and wider tyres have created the i3s. It joins the updated range for 2018 alongside a revamped i3, that features only styling and trim updates.
Vehicle Style: Prestige small hatch
Price: $69,900 plus on-road costs
Engine/trans: 135kW/270Nm electric motor | single-speed transmission
Fuel Economy Claimed: 14.3 kWh/100km
To help the it stand out as a more performance oriented variant the i3s gains unique front and rear bumpers that have been designed to give the compact machine a wider, more purposeful look.
The 20-inch alloy wheels have also been redesigned and shod with 20mm wider tyres for more contact with the road although at 175mm up front and 195mm at the rear the low rolling resistance rubber is still quite narrow by conventional standards.
The other exterior change is a move to full LED headlights, replacing the previous model’s combination of LED and halogen illumination.
Inside there’s nothing different about the i3s and the standard i3, save for the addition of a Sport mode in the drive select system, which makes the throttle feel more responsive.
But if you’re expecting these changes to turn the i3s into an electric hot hatch, think again. Even our brief test drive of the battery-powered machine was enough to tell us that this is still a car built for the city.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 135kW/270Nm electric motor (output and configuration)
- Transmission: single-speed automatic, rear wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, five-link independent rear
- Brakes: Four-wheel disc brakes, vented front rotors
- Steering: (type, electrically assisted, variable-ratio rack, etc, turning circle)
- Towing Capacity: Electric power steering
Nowhere did the i3s feel more out of place than on the open roads north-east of Melbourne where BMW launched its newest EV variant.
The ride is firm and tended to bounce and shudder down the uneven surfaces, rather the absorb the imperfections.
Despite the new-look body and wider wheels there’s no escaping this is quite a tall car running on narrow tyres, so there’s lean when cornering and its grip threshold feels low.
That’s not to say the i3s is in any way a bad, or unfit car, far from it. There are several positive changes with the i3s, especially the new engine.
The extra power and torque, up 10kW to 135kW and 270Nm a 20Nm increase, make the i3s feel fleet-footed on the move.
It’s 0-100km/h acceleration time has been cut by half a second but it’s still just under 7.0-seconds, so don’t expect Tesla-style ‘ludacious’ performance. But it impresses with its rolling acceleration, the way it picks up speed immediately when you squeeze the throttle.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The small step-change to the updated i3 range may bring extra visual appeal, and more accessible performance in close-quarters urban situations, but it doesn’t fundamentally transform the i3S into an altogether different car.
There’s a bit more pep in its step when you put your foot down. But the i3s is still a quirky electric hatch that will appeal to those who want to help the planet and make a statement doing it.
For those in search of a traditional hot hatch replacement, the i3s isn’t it - though as far as urban commuter cars go, it certainly turn the tide on the dreary expectations of what a frugal city car should be.
- Interested in buying BMW i3? Visit our BMW showroom for more information.