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by Daniel DeGasperi

The BMW i3 has been caught undergoing final-round testing as the German company readies its dedicated ‘i’ showrooms in Europe and the US.

Due on sale in those markets late 2013, the small wagon will be available in both all-electric and plug-in hybrid versions, the latter of which is seen here.

BMW i3 5

Although we’ve seen spy photos of the BMW i3 before, this test car appears completely production-ready except for the fancy paint.

It keeps the i3 concept’s slim twin-kidney BMW grille and headlights, but gets a less angular front bumper with only a small, wide front air dam mounted low.

BMW i3 2

The production BMW i3 also looks to have kept frameless doors and ‘suicide’ backward-opening rear doors with hidden handles.

Replacing the slim front door handles of the i3 concept are regular, larger pull-type handles.

BMW i3 3

While the roofline with curvature C-pillar ornamentation remains true to the concept shown at the 2011 Frankfurt motor show, the rear end is more mainstream, with straight surfacing and tail-lights moulded into the rear tailgate. The i3 will use high-strength carbonfibre reinforced plastic to reduce body mass.

The electric-only version gets a 130kW electric motor, fed by a 22kWh lithium-ion battery pack to achieve a 130-160km driving range on a single charge.

BMW i3 4

The ‘range extender’ hybrid version caught here will add a 0.65-litre two-cylinder petrol engine, borrowed from the BMW C650 GT motorcycle, to boost range to 320km in total.

Two years after the BMW i3 concept was unveiled, this production version is tipped to be revealed at the 2013 Frankfurt motor show in September, ahead of its European and US on-sale late this year. Currently the only other BMW ‘Project i’ model confirmed for production is the i8 super car, but the company has confirmed that ‘i’ cars will exist as their own electric-vehicle sub brand, with bespoke dealerships.




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