If you are a bit confused and not able to match the headline of this article with the image above, we understand. The BMW i3 is known globally as a small zero-emissions hatchback but this model is going out of production in July this year. The Bavarian company won’t retire the name, though, and will give it to a new electric saloon it is currently developing for China. We have a new image of that car that you were not supposed to see.

Someone snapped a distant photo of the new i3 and Cochespias shared it on Instagram to its global audience. The vehicle from the photo above matches what we saw in December last year when China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology released photos and the first details about the new i3. This means this is an authentic unofficial preview of the upcoming electric saloon.

More importantly, at least for people outside China, this vehicle gives us a very good early look at the facelifted BMW 3 Series for the global markets. That vehicle is currently under development and is undergoing cold winter tests in Northern Europe. Obviously, the combustion-powered and hybrid models won’t have the same solid grille, though everything else should probably be very similar if not identical. 

Judging by the single distant shot available this time, the refreshed 3 Series will receive a pair of redesigned headlights with reshaped LED daytime running lights. The front bumper will also be heavily modified with new air openings at the sides. With this car being an electric version of the 3 Series, it rides on EV-specific wheels with a closed-off design for improved aerodynamics. 

Gallery: BMW 3 Series Facelift Spy Shots

This new leak probably suggests the BMW i3 saloon is nearing its completion. It shouldn’t take long until we see it in full and official form, though we suspect BMW will wait at least until the i3 hatchback goes out of production to release its successor in order to avoid confusion among its customers.