Since its debut, the BMW i3 has always been a surprisingly fun little electric hatchback for city driving. So surprisingly good, in fact, that some fans had reckoned that it would be a halfway decent hot hatchback, if given more power and a sportier suspension. So BMW gave it that. Sort of. The new BMW i3S is the brand’s new attempt at making a more enthusiastic i3. But can it actually be a hot hatch? Carfection finds out.
In this latest video, Henry Catchpole brings up a really good point about why the BMW i3s is not a proper hot hatch but is something that has a place in someone’s garage. And his point is really an indictment of all electric cars. Basically, he makes the point that the entire excitement of an electric car is within the first few seconds of throttle application. That’s when you get the instant wave of torque and you feel its acceleration. After that, though, once you’re on the move, that feeling is gone and there’s nothing to build to. No crescendo.
In a proper hot hatch, like a BMW M140i, Volkswagen GTI or Renault Megane RS, there’s a buzzy little engine whose excitement builds as the revs rise. Then you change gears and get to do it all over again. In any electric car, there’s no gear to select, no engine speed to match, nothing. It’s just an on/off switch of instant torque. That’s fun for a bit but quickly loses its luster, its joy.
Having said that, though, the BMW i3S is a fun little car to drive, especially in city traffic, thanks to its compact size, surprising grip and rear-drive balance. It’s not the sharpest hatchback in the world but it could actually challenge something like a Ford Fiesta ST on a twisty back road. Though, it will never match the excitement of something like a Fiesta ST on a twisty back road. In urban cities, though, it can be very enjoyable to drive and makes a great everyday sort of car. As Catchpole claims, buy a BMW M5 for your tire-shredding fun but have an i3S in the garage for when you just need to pop out to a store or two.
So the BMW i3S fits a need and fits it well but it isn’t a proper hot hatchback. And maybe not electric car every actually can be. Hot hatchbacks are built around the idea of fun, irrational excitement. We’re not sure if an electric car can ever deliver that.