Shown in Sydney for the first time - in conjunction with a first local appearance of the BMW i8 supercar - the i3 will be available with an electric-only drivetrain, called the BMW i3 BEV (battery electric vehicle), or with a range extending petrol engine (called the i3 REx) priced from $69,900 before on roads.
BMW attribute its delayed arrival in Australian showrooms to its popularity overseas, with wait times there of up to six months.
The i3 BEV has an electric mode range of 130-160km with zero tail-pipe emissions, while the i3 REx with a small 0.65-litre two-cylinder petrol range extender engine, producing 27kW of power and capable of travelling up to 300km in total.
The electric-only i3, however, is actually faster from 0-100km/h, claiming 7.2 seconds versus 7.9sec for the heavier petrol-electric version that drinks 0.6 litres per 100 kilometres - making the latter still the most fuel efficient petrol vehicle on sale in Australia.
BMW has designed the i3 from the ground up to be powered by an electric drive system and, according to managing director of BMW Group Australia Phil Horton, it will change the perception of electric mobility in Australia.
Continuing the environmentally friendly theme, three different interiors will be available; all featuring sustainably sourced materials including wood, natural fibres and naturally tanned leather.
Using sustainable production processes, the i3 has a lightweight carbonfibre body set on an aluminium chassis, which is claimed to maximise speed and power delivery from the lithium-ion battery.
The electric motor, power electronics and battery have been developed and manufactured independently under the eDrive programme by the BMW Group.
The i3 comes in a choice of six colours with three alloy wheel options.
BMW has developed special assistance programs to help new i3 owners. 360° ELECTRIC offers multiple charging solutions – from using the BMW I Wallbox Pure for charging at home, to helping locate public charging points.
For those who enjoy the occasional holiday beyond the distance range of the i3, or who may need a bigger car every now and then, i3 owners will have access to a tailored hire program giving them access to a range of conventional BMW models.
When it comes to tech, one of the more interesting features is the inclusion of an embedded SIM card in the car to enable connected technology.
Through BMW i ConnectedDrive, an Apple iOS or Android app will allow owners to check the battery charge status, vehicle location, charging locations and distance, as well as remote locking and unlocking of the vehicle.
Safety has been enhanced through the inclusion of an e-call system, where emergency services will be automatically called in the event of a crash, and can also be activated by the driver directly.
The i3 will initially be distributed through just four 'i' dealerships in Australia, in Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. That network is expected to increase to Canberra and Adelaide in early 2015, while service facilities will be established at 10 additional dealerships.
Read CarAdvice's overseas first drive of the BMW i3 here.