2018 BMW i3s has a go at being an all-electric hot hatch

The i3 has always made a solid case for a gasoline-free future. But can the i3s satisfy those who still want the fun of driving a hot hatch in a battery-powered world?

Henry Catchpole
Henry is an award-winning and alarmingly hirsute motoring journalist who now stands in front of the camera for Carfection. He's driven pretty much every supercar in existence, often on some of the world's most beautiful roads. Yes, we hate him too. He also rallies a Mk2 Escort and is happy to chat about bicycles.
Henry Catchpole
2 min read

Since I was already out in Portugal for the launch of the new M5, driving the BMW i3s was something of an added bonus. 

In many ways, the i3s and M5 are an odd pair of cars to launch together. But they do neatly encapsulate the wide range of cars that BMW produces these days. 


It may look small but the BMW i3s has a reasonable amount of space inside. 


You could also easily imagine the two sitting next to each other on a driveway. The M5 is huge fun and brilliant on a long journey, but you don't always need a twin-turbo V8 to propel you 10 minutes to the shops for some milk. You don't even need it for a half-hour commute through congested streets. For those everyday necessities, an EV makes total sense. And the serenity of a near-silent environment could be relaxing and welcome.


The rear does make the i3s look tall despite its extra width. 


The i3s moves the goal posts, however, and asks us to examine the quirky-looking little runaround in a different context. With wider tracks and more power, the i3s is a sportier version of the car, and as such it dips a toe into the warm waters of the hot hatch. This suggests a slightly different manner of driving -- at least on occasion. You can easily imagine taking a more circuitous route to or from the office purely to drive an entertaining piece of road on the way. 

Bearing this in mind, does the i3s deliver? Is it as engaging and fun to drive as a traditional hot hatch? In some ways you can't directly compare the two. But cornering demeanor, steering feel and outright pace are fair game to weigh up.

Watch this: Is the BMW i3s an all-electric hot hatch?

You can see the verdict on the i3s in the video above. But it's worth adding that we'll undoubtedly see more and more takes on the sporty EV as the breed develops and expands. It's something that will be genuinely intriguing. I'm looking forward to seeing how the greater breadth of torque-vectoring available with electric motors, for example, will open up the dynamic capabilities of cars. (We've seen some of this already in the SLS Electric and the Rimac.) 

Perhaps the next M5 will be electric? Then a combined launch with an i3s really would make sense.

2018 BMW i3s: BMW's compact electric car gets a little more fun

See all photos