As part of its relentless niche-filling, BMW has given us both compact crossovers like the X1, and electric cars like the new i3.

It hasn't yet combined the two though--at least not in North America.

Move to China, and it's a different story. The German marque's Chinese partner, Brilliance, has just released the Zinoro 1E--essentially, an electric version of the BMW X1.

It doesn't have BMW's instantly-recognizable kidney grille, but in other respects it's clearly very similar to BMW's smallest X-branded model. Most exterior panels look the same, with only the amorphous-looking front end and restyled tailgate hiding the E1's true identity.

Inside, the differences are even less apparent--every inch of it screams BMW, from the driver-focused dashboard facia to the three-spoke steering wheel, absent blue propeller badge notwithstanding.

According to Motor Authority, the E1 is rear-wheel drive--like any self-respecting BMW should be--using a 170-horsepower electric motor on the rear axle. Maximum torque is 184 pounds-feet, presumably supplied from a standstill like most other electric vehicles--and both figures are identical to those of the new BMW i3.

Acceleration figures aren't forthcoming, but the Zinoro E1 has an 80 mph top speed and a range if 93 miles--pretty much par for the electric car course.

Lithium iron phosphate batteries provide the power and are divided between three areas of the car--under the hood, in the vehicle floor, and in the space previously occupied by the X1's gas tank. The E1 even maintains the original BMW's 50:50 weight distribution--so handling should still be BMW-like.

Despite the similarities to its German parent, Zinoro will be completely separate from the BMW brand out in China, with its own distribution channel. This is especially important once BMW's own "i" electric brand goes on sale, to avoid any confusion between the two electric ranges.

Zinoro's next model is expected to be a sedan based on the previous-generation 3-Series--and will also be electric. Zinoro, and rivals like BYD and Mercedes' Denza, are aimed at a burgeoning electric car market in the country.

The Zinoro 1E certainly isn't as technologically advanced or futuristically-styled as BMW's i3 and i8--but would you buy one if it came to the U.S?


Follow GreenCarReports on FacebookTwitter and Google+