New BMW i model previewed by patent images

BMW’s next i model could be a five-door hatchback rather than an SUV, after patent drawings leaked online

A new electrified BMW i model has been leaked online via a series of patent images, hinting that the eco sub-brand’s next model could be a practical hatchback, rather than a trendy SUV.

While the i5 nameplate had previously been speculated for the new SUV, patents have been filed for all badges ranging i1 to i9. It’s difficult to say which this new car would use, though in terms of size, it looks to fit neatly above the existing i3.

Last year, board member for sales and marketing Ian Robertson insisted no decision had been made on the next i model’s body style: “Legislation means we’ll inevitably have more zero emissions cars,” he said. “We’re exploring more i models, although no firm decisions have been made yet.”

BMW i5 SUV: exclusive pics show 'i' brand's future potential

However, these pictures confirm a final judgement is edging ever closer. They show a familiar BMW face - similar to that found on the brand’s i3 hatchback and i8 sports car, while the headlights are almost identical. The steeply raked windscreen and sloping roofline should help with aerodynamics, too.

The five-door body is clear to see, though the rear doors look compromised in terms of ingress and egress. It looks like this could be rectified by a rear-hinge system like that seen on the i3. Reinforcing both the front and rear doors would also remove the need for a structural B-pillar.

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The floating C-pillar is reminiscent of the i8, likely designed to channel air past the rear flanks. Its rear lights are evolutionary rather than revolutionary, with the squared off tail similar to that found on eco rivals such as the Toyota Prius and Hyundai Ioniq. Big wheels with skinny tyres will help reduce rolling resistance – and thus boost fuel economy – too.

It’s unclear whether BMW will choose to offer the new model as an EV or utilise other green technologies brewing within the brand. It could lift the i3’s recently upgraded battery pack unchanged – offering a range of around 200 miles – or use a system similar to that found on the i8, which uses a small petrol engine boosted by a plug-in motor. There’s a good chance this new model could debut a host of semi-autonomous driving technologies.

Robertson was keen to stress that the i brand isn’t just about electric power, telling Auto Express: “i is about all technologies. We have advanced technologies feeding into our other products, such as the carbon fibre used throughout the new 7 Series.”

What do you think about BMW's plans? Let us know in the comments section below...

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