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This looks like the BMW i4 or i5 hatchback

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Thanks to the Japanese patent office, we now have our first look at what will probably be the next model in BMW's i lineup. The car is a large hatchback that looks like a lengthened and puffed-up i8. It features four-doors, and it appears the rear ones may open in a "suicide" fashion, since the handle is at the leading edge of the rear door and lines up with the front handle.

Nothing else is revealed by the patent filing, not even a name. It's certainly going to be bigger than the i3 compact, and it's likely not big enough to merit a 7 designation. Autocar believes it will be called i4, citing sources at BMW that have said an i5 will be an SUV. Judging by the drawing, and by how liberally SUV and crossover designations are given, we'd say there's still a possibility this could fill the SUV criteria and be called i5.

Whatever the name, a new i model could benefit BMW in a few ways. The i brand is in need of revitalization. Last month, sales of both the i3 and i8 dropped by 27 percent and 19 percent respectively. In addition to giving the i brand some fresh product, another pure electric or plug-in hybrid would also support some other upcoming electrics from BMW. The company plans to launch an electric Mini in 2019 and an electric X3 crossover in 2020. Having a healthy electric lineup will be important to counter Mercedes, which is preparing to launch its own electric brand under the EQ name.

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