2018 BMW 330e vs. 2018 Nissan Leaf

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

The 330e has standard BMW Assist, which uses a global positioning satellite (GPS) receiver and a cellular system to remotely unlock your doors if you lock your keys in, help track down your vehicle if it’s stolen or send emergency personnel to the scene if any airbags deploy. The Leaf doesn’t offer a GPS response system, only a navigation computer with no live response for emergencies, so if you’re involved in an accident and you’re incapacitated help may not come as quickly.

Both the 330e and the Leaf have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, rearview cameras, available crash mitigating brakes, lane departure warning systems, blind spot warning systems and around view monitors.

Warranty

The 330e comes with a full 4-year/50,000-mile basic warranty, which covers the entire car and includes 24-hour roadside assistance. The Leaf’s 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty expires 1 year and 14,000 miles sooner.

The 330e’s corrosion warranty is 7 years longer than the Leaf’s (12 vs. 5 years).

BMW pays for scheduled maintenance on the 330e for 3 years and 36,000 miles. BMW will pay for oil changes, lubrication and any other required maintenance. Nissan doesn’t pay scheduled maintenance for the Leaf.

Reliability

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2017 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that BMW vehicles are better in initial quality than Nissan vehicles. J.D. Power ranks BMW 6th in initial quality, above the industry average. With 5 more problems per 100 vehicles, Nissan is ranked 10th.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2018 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that BMW vehicles are more reliable than Nissan vehicles. J.D. Power ranks BMW 8th in reliability, above the industry average. With 6 more problems per 100 vehicles, Nissan is ranked 10th.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ April 2017 Auto Issue reports that BMW vehicles are more reliable than Nissan vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks BMW 5 places higher in reliability than Nissan.

Engine

The 330e’s 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. hybrid produces 101 more horsepower (248 vs. 147) and 74 lbs.-ft. more torque (310 vs. 236) than the Leaf’s electric motor.

As tested in Car and Driver the BMW 330e is faster than the Nissan Leaf:

 

330e

Leaf

Zero to 30 MPH

1.8 sec

2.7 sec

Zero to 60 MPH

5.8 sec

7.4 sec

Zero to 80 MPH

9.5 sec

12.9 sec

5 to 60 MPH Rolling Start

6.6 sec

7.3 sec

Quarter Mile

14.3 sec

15.8 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

98 MPH

88 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

The 330e’s maximum EPA estimated driving range on a full tank of fuel and a full charge is 381.2 miles, after which it can be refueled at any gas station in minutes. The Leaf’s range is only 150 miles, after which the minimum recharge time is 40 minutes for only an 80% charge at a specially configured quick charge station not available in most areas. A full recharge at a conventional charging station can take up to 35 hours.

Brakes and Stopping

For better stopping power the 330e’s brake rotors are larger than those on the Leaf:

 

330e

Leaf

Front Rotors

12.3 inches

11.1 inches

Rear Rotors

11.8 inches

11.5 inches

The 330e stops much shorter than the Leaf:

 

330e

Leaf

 

70 to 0 MPH

171 feet

191 feet

Car and Driver

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the 330e has larger standard tires than the Leaf (225/50R17 vs. 205/55R16). The 330e’s optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the Leaf (F:225/45R18 & R:255/40R18 vs. 215/50R17).

The 330e’s standard tires provide better handling because they have a lower 50 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Leaf S’ standard 55 series tires. The 330e’s optional 225/45R18 front and 255/40R18 rear tires have a lower 45 series front and 40 series rear profile than the Leaf SV/SL’s 50 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the 330e has standard 17-inch wheels. Smaller 16-inch wheels are standard on the Leaf S. The 330e’s optional 18-inch wheels are larger than the 17-inch wheels on the Leaf SV/SL.

Changing a flat tire near traffic can be dangerous and inconvenient. The run-flat tires standard on the 330e can be driven up to 50 miles without any air pressure, allowing you to drive to a service station for a repair. The Leaf doesn’t offer run-flat tires.

Suspension and Handling

For superior ride and handling, the BMW 330e has fully independent front and rear suspensions. An independent suspension allows the wheels to follow the road at the best angle for gripping the pavement, without compromising ride comfort. The Nissan Leaf has a rear torsion beam axle, with a semi-independent rear suspension.

The 330e offers an optional driver-adjustable suspension system. It allows the driver to choose between an extra-supple ride, reducing fatigue on long trips, or a sport setting, which allows maximum control for tricky roads. The Leaf’s suspension doesn’t offer adjustable shock absorbers.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the 330e’s wheelbase is 4.3 inches longer than on the Leaf (110.6 inches vs. 106.3 inches).

The 330e’s front to rear weight distribution is more even (48.8% to 51.2%) than the Leaf’s (55.1% to 42.3%). This gives the 330e more stable handling and braking.

The 330e handles at .86 G’s, while the Leaf SV pulls only .79 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

Passenger Space

The 330e has 3.8 cubic feet more passenger volume than the Leaf (96.2 vs. 92.4).

The 330e has .8 inches more front shoulder room, .4 inches more rear headroom, 1.6 inches more rear legroom and 2.6 inches more rear shoulder room than the Leaf.

Cargo Capacity

With its sedan body style, valet key, locking rear seatbacks and remote trunk release lockout, the 330e offers cargo security. The Leaf’s hatchback body style, non-lockable folding seat and non-lockable remote release defeat cargo security.

A standard locking glovebox (which can’t be accessed with the valet key) keeps your small valuables safer in the 330e. The Leaf doesn’t offer locking storage for small valuables.

To make loading groceries and cargo easier when your hands are full, just kicking your foot under the back bumper can open the 330e’s available trunk, leaving your hands completely free. The Leaf doesn’t offer a hands-free gesture to open its liftgate, forcing you to put cargo down if your hands are full.

Servicing Ease

The 330e uses gas struts to support the hood for easier service access. The Leaf uses a prop rod to support its heavy hood. It takes two hands to open the hood and set the prop rod, the prop rod gets in the way during maintenance and service, and the prop rod could be knocked out, causing the heavy hood to fall on the person maintaining or servicing the car.

Ergonomics

To help each driver find a more comfortable driving position, the 330e has a telescoping steering wheel. Much better than just a tilt steering wheel or adjustable seat, this allows a short driver to sit further from the steering wheel while maintaining contact with the pedals. The Leaf doesn’t offer a telescoping steering wheel.

When two different drivers share the 330e, the memory system makes it convenient for both. Each keyless remote activates different, customized memories for the driver’s seat position, outside mirror angle, climate settings and radio stations. The Leaf doesn’t offer a memory system.

The 330e offers an optional heads-up display that projects speed and other key instrumentation readouts in front of the driver’s line of sight, allowing drivers to view information without diverting their eyes from the road. The Leaf doesn’t offer a heads-up display.

The power windows standard on both the 330e and the Leaf have locks to prevent small children from operating them. When the lock on the 330e is engaged the driver can still operate all of the windows, for instance to close one opened by a child. The Leaf prevents the driver from operating the other windows just as it does the other passengers.

The 330e’s front and rear power windows all open or close fully with one touch of the switches, making it more convenient at drive-up windows and toll booths, or when talking with someone outside the car. The Leaf’s passenger windows don’t open or close automatically.

If the windows are left open on the 330e w/Comfort Access the driver can close them all at the outside door handle. On a hot day the driver can lower the windows at the outside door handle or from a distance using the keyless remote. The driver of the Leaf can only operate the windows from inside the vehicle, with the ignition on.

The 330e’s rain-sensitive wipers adjust their speed and turn on and off automatically based on the amount of rainfall on the windshield. This allows the driver to concentrate on driving without constantly adjusting the wipers. The Leaf’s manually variable intermittent wipers have to be constantly adjusted.

Heated windshield washer nozzles are standard on the 330e to prevent washer fluid and nozzles from freezing and help continue to keep the windshield clear in sub-freezing temperatures. The Leaf doesn’t offer heated windshield washer nozzles.

In poor weather, headlights can lose their effectiveness as grime builds up on their lenses. This can reduce visibility without the driver realizing. The 330e offers available headlight washers to keep headlight output high. The Leaf doesn’t offer headlight washers.

To help drivers avoid possible obstacles, the 330e offers optional cornering lights to illuminate around corners when the turn signals are activated. The Leaf doesn’t offer cornering lights. The 330e also offers optional adaptive headlights to illuminate around corners automatically by reading vehicle speed and steering wheel angle.

A power rear sunshade is optional in the 330e (except 320i) to help block heat and glare for the rear passengers. The Leaf doesn’t offer a rear sunshade.

The 330e’s standard outside mirrors include heating elements to clear off the mirrors for better visibility. Nissan charges extra for heated mirrors on the Leaf.

When the 330e is put in reverse, the passenger rearview mirror tilts from its original position. This gives the driver a better view of the curb during parallel parking maneuvers. Shifting out of reverse puts the mirror into its original position. The Leaf’s mirror doesn’t automatically adjust for backing.

The 330e has standard automatic dimming rear and side view mirrors which automatically darken quickly when headlights shine on them, keeping following vehicles from blinding or distracting the driver. The Leaf offers an automatic rear view mirror, but its side mirrors don’t dim.

The 330e has a standard center folding armrest for the rear passengers. A center armrest helps make rear passengers more comfortable. The Leaf doesn’t offer a rear seat center armrest.

The 330e’s standard dual zone air conditioning allows the driver and front passenger to choose two completely different temperatures so people with different temperature preferences won’t have to compromise. This makes both the driver and front passenger as comfortable as possible. The Leaf doesn’t offer dual zone air conditioning.

Both the 330e and the Leaf offer rear vents. For greater rear passenger comfort, the 330e has standard rear air conditioning vents to keep rear occupants cool in summer or warm in winter. The Leaf doesn’t offer rear air conditioning vents, only heat vents.

A built-in pollen filter removes pollen, exhaust fumes and other pollutants from the 330e’s passenger compartment. This helps prevent lung and/or sinus irritation, which can trigger allergies or asthma. The Leaf doesn’t offer a filtration system.

The 330e’s optional Parking Assistant can parallel park or back into a parking spot by itself, with the driver only controlling speed with the brake pedal. The Leaf doesn’t offer an automated parking system.

Recommendations

The 3 Series was chosen as one of Car and Driver’s “Top Ten” for 20 of the last 24 years. The Leaf has never been a Car and Driver “Top Ten” pick.

The 3 Series was chosen as one of Automobile Magazine’s “All Stars” for 13 of the last 22 years. The Leaf has never been an “All Star.”

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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