The BMW i3 is a lightweight, rear-wheel drive plug-in car that the automaker is plugging as a playful and versatile alternative to the current crop of electric vehicles. But can it hang with a hot hatchback on the test track? AutoExpress put the BMW i3 up against a Suzuki Swift Sport to see if the German plug-in is worthy of being called a “hot hatch.”
In the early 80s the British motoring press coined the term “hot hatch” to describe performance-focused hatchbacks like the now-legendary Volkswagen Golf GTI. Now a multitude of automakers offer their own take on the hot hatch to varying degrees of success; the all-new GTI remains towards the top of the pack, but even miniscule Suzuki got in the game with its 134 horsepower Swift Sport model. That may not sound like much power (and it isn’t), but it’s enough to get the Swift from 0 to 60 MPH in 8.7 seconds; the 168 horsepower BMW i3, meanwhile, can sprint from 0 to 60 MPH in just 7.9 seconds. Advantage, i3.
On the race track though, things are much difference. For one the Swift wears better, thicker tires, allowing for better high-speed cornering ability. While the i3 felt strong on the track, drivers had to fight the traction control system the whole way, effectively limiting their ability to put power to the ground. In the end the less-powerful, front-drive Suzuki beat the tech-laden BMW by a substantial margin, but its clear that there’s plenty of fight lift in the i3…perhaps for a future, performance-focused model?
Could the i3 be lead the way for a new generation of plug-in hot hatches? Keep your fingers crossed.