Well, the cat is out of the bag, and in a rather muted fashion too – BMW has very quietly released the first photo of the facelifted G20 BMW 3 Series with the announcement of the electric i3 eDrive35L (not to be confused with the soon-to-be-discontinued city car) for the Chinese market. This gives us our first proper look of what the updated sports sedan will look like, after a year of spyshots and renders.

As you can see, the new styling is an evolution over the outgoing model‘s, retaining many of the same elements. The biggest differences are the slimmer headlights, which feature inverted L-shaped LED daytime running lights and have a straight edge at the bottom, ditching the Peugeot-like “claw” design of old.

The signature double kidney grille (which is closed-off on this electric model) is more angular than before but remains largely the same size – those of you petrified the 3er will get the 4 Series‘ big nostril look can breathe a sigh of relief.


The rear of the i3 was leaked last December

The bumper has also been re-profiled with sharper contours, a much larger U-shaped centre air intake and the jettisoning of the NACA duct-style corner air inlets, making the standard car look more like the pre-facelift M Sport. From our understanding, the M Sport model will get a more aggressive front fascia with an even bigger central inlet and L-shaped bumper corners, as shown in last year’s render.

Along the side, you can also spot the new Air Breather vents and the “hockey stick” graphic that emerges from it, although that might be exclusive to the i3. No images of the rear were shown but you can expect the 3 Series to get a redesigned rear bumper but retain the same L-shaped taillights, as was hinted at in leaked photos of the i3 in China in December.

As yet, there are no details beyond initial specifications of the i3 eDrive35L model. However, the regular 3 Series should receive a large widescreen display panel linked to the latest BMW Operating System 8, as per the i4. The current range of three-, four- and six-cylinder engines will also likely soldier on, possibly augmented with a new mild hybrid system to match the latest W206 Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

GALLERY: G20 BMW 3 Series spyshots with M Performance Parts