2019 BMW i3 vs. 2018 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

The i3 offers optional Collision Mitigation, which use forward mounted sensors to warn the driver of a possible collision ahead. If the driver doesn’t react and the system determines a collision is imminent, it automatically applies the brakes at full-force in order to reduce the force of the crash or avoid it altogether. The ForTwo Electric Drive offers an available collision warning system without the automated brake feature that would prevent or reduce the collision if the driver fails to react.

The i3 has standard Park Distance Control to help warn the driver about vehicles, pedestrians or other obstacles behind or, optionally, in front of the vehicle. The ForTwo Electric Drive doesn’t offer a front parking aid.

The i3 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 ForTwo Electric Drive doesn’t offer a GPS response system, so if you’re involved in an accident and you’re incapacitated help may not come as quickly.

Both the i3 and the ForTwo Electric Drive 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, daytime running lights and rearview cameras.

The BMW i3 weighs 578 to 915 pounds more than the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive. The NHTSA advises that heavier cars are much safer in collisions than their significantly lighter counterparts. Crosswinds also affect lighter cars more.

Warranty

The i3’s corrosion warranty is 8 years and unlimited miles longer than the ForTwo Electric Drive’s (12/unlimited vs. 4/50,000).

BMW pays for scheduled maintenance on the i3 for 3 years and 36,000 miles. BMW will pay for oil changes, lubrication and any other required maintenance. Smart doesn’t pay scheduled maintenance for the ForTwo Electric Drive.

There are over 13 times as many BMW dealers as there are Smart dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the i3’s warranty.

Engine

The i3 REx’s standard electric motor produces 90 more horsepower (170 vs. 80) and 66 lbs.-ft. more torque (184 vs. 118) than the ForTwo Electric Drive’s electric motor. The i3s REx’s standard electric motor produces 101 more horsepower (181 vs. 80) and 81 lbs.-ft. more torque (199 vs. 118) than the ForTwo Electric Drive’s electric motor. The i3s’ standard electric motor produces 104 more horsepower (184 vs. 80) and 81 lbs.-ft. more torque (199 vs. 118) than the ForTwo Electric Drive’s electric motor.

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the i3 gets better fuel mileage than the ForTwo Electric Drive (124 city/102 hwy vs. 124 city/94 hwy MPGe).

The i3’s maximum driving range in pure electric mode is 153 miles, over two and a half times as far as the ForTwo Electric Drive’s 58 mile range. After it exhausts its pure electric range, the i3s REx can then continue for over 82 more miles on its internal combustion engine, while the ForTwo Electric Drive has to recharge for 3 hours. A full recharge at a conventional charging station can take up to 16 hours and 30 minutes.

Brakes and Stopping

For better stopping power the i3’s brake rotors are larger than those on the ForTwo Electric Drive:

 

i3

ForTwo

Front Rotors

11 inches

10.2 inches

Rear Rotors

11 inches

9” drums

The BMW i3 has standard four-wheel disc brakes for better stopping power and improved directional control in poor weather. Only rear drums come on the ForTwo Electric Drive. Drums can heat up and make stops longer, especially with antilock brakes that work much harder than conventional brakes.

In an emergency stopping situation, many drivers don’t press the brakes with enough force to stop the vehicle in the shortest distance. The i3 has a standard Brake Assistant to detect emergency braking situations (by how hard and how quickly the brake pedal is pressed) and then automatically apply maximum braking immediately in order to help prevent a collision. The ForTwo Electric Drive doesn’t offer a brake assist feature.

The i3 stops much shorter than the ForTwo Electric Drive:

 

i3

ForTwo

 

60 to 0 MPH

108 feet

131 feet

Motor Trend

Tires and Wheels

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the i3 has standard 19-inch wheels. Smaller 15-inch wheels are standard on the ForTwo Electric Drive. The i3’s optional 20-inch wheels are larger than the 16-inch wheels optional on the ForTwo Electric Drive.

The BMW i3’s wheels have 5 lugs for longer wheel bearing life, less chance of rotor warping and greater strength. The Smart ForTwo Electric Drive only has 4 wheel lugs per wheel.

Suspension and Handling

For superior ride and handling, the BMW i3 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 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive has a rear torsion beam axle, with a semi-independent rear suspension.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the i3’s wheelbase is 27.5 inches longer than on the ForTwo Electric Drive (101.2 inches vs. 73.7 inches).

For better handling and stability, the average track (width between the wheels) on the i3 is 4.5 inches wider in the front and 5.8 inches wider in the rear than the track on the ForTwo Electric Drive.

The i3 handles at .80 G’s, while the ForTwo Electric Drive Passion Coupe pulls only .71 G’s of cornering force in a Motor Trend skidpad test.

The i3 executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver 2.9 seconds quicker than the ForTwo Electric Drive Passion Coupe (27.2 seconds @ .69 average G’s vs. 30.1 seconds @ .53 average G’s).

Passenger Space

The i3 has standard seating for 4 passengers; the ForTwo Electric Drive can only carry 2.

The i3 has 38.2 cubic feet more passenger volume than the ForTwo Electric Drive (83.6 vs. 45.4).

Cargo Capacity

The i3 has a much larger trunk with its rear seat up than the ForTwo Electric Drive Coupe (15.1 vs. 9.2 cubic feet).

Ergonomics

To help each driver find a more comfortable driving position, the i3 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 ForTwo Electric Drive doesn’t offer a telescoping steering wheel.

When two different drivers share the i3, the memory system makes it convenient for both. Each setting activates different, customized memories for the driver’s seat position, outside mirror angle, climate settings and radio stations. The ForTwo Electric Drive doesn’t offer a memory system.

Comfort Access standard on the i3 allows you to unlock the driver’s door, trunk and start the engine all without removing a key from pocket or purse. This eliminates searching for keys before loading groceries, getting in the vehicle in bad weather or making a hurried start to your trip. The Smart ForTwo Electric Drive doesn’t offer an advanced key system.

The i3 has two rear doors to provide better access for cargo and rear passengers. The ForTwo Electric Drive doesn’t offer rear doors.

The i3’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 ForTwo Electric Drive’s standard intermittent wipers change speed with vehicle speed, but can’t turn on and off or change speed based on changing rainfall.

To improve rear visibility by keeping the rear window clear, the i3 has a standard rear wiper. The ForTwo Electric Drive Cabrio doesn’t offer a rear wiper.

The i3 has a standard automatic headlight on/off feature. When the ignition is on, the headlights automatically turn on at dusk and off after dawn. The ForTwo Electric Drive only offers an automatic headlight on/off feature as an extra cost option.

The ForTwo Electric Drive’s optional cornering lamps activate a lamp on the front corner when the turn signal is activated. The i3’s standard adaptive cornering lights turn the actual headlight unit up to several degrees, depending on steering wheel angle and vehicle speed. This lights a significant distance into corners at any speed.

The i3’s standard outside mirrors include heating elements to clear off the mirrors for better visibility. Smart charges extra for heated mirrors on the ForTwo Electric Drive.

The i3’s standard rear and side view mirrors have an automatic dimming feature. These mirrors can be set to automatically darken quickly when headlights shine on them, keeping following vehicles from blinding or distracting the driver. The ForTwo Electric Drive doesn’t offer the luxury of automatic dimming mirrors.

To keep a safe, consistent following distance, the i3 offers an optional Active Cruise Control, which alters the speed of the vehicle without driver intervention. This allows the driver to use cruise control more safely without constantly having to disengage it when approaching slower traffic. The ForTwo Electric Drive doesn’t offer an adaptive cruise control.

To direct the driver from any location to a given street address, a GPS navigation system is standard on the i3. The i3’s navigation system also has a real-time traffic update feature that offers alternative routes to automatically bypass traffic problems. (Service not available in all areas.) The ForTwo Electric Drive doesn’t offer a navigation system.

The i3’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 ForTwo Electric Drive doesn’t offer an automated parking system.

Recommendations

Consumer Reports® recommends the BMW i3, based on reliability, safety and performance.

J.D. Power and Associates rated the i3 third among small premium cars in owner reported satisfaction. This includes how well the vehicle performs and satisfies its owner’s expectations. The ForTwo Electric Drive isn’t in the top three.

The BMW i3 outsold the Smart ForTwo by almost five to one during 2018.

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

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