2019 BMW i3 vs. 2018 Toyota Prius Prime

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

Both the i3 and the Prius Prime 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, rearview cameras, available crash mitigating brakes and front parking sensors.

Warranty

The i3 comes with a full 4-year/50,000-mile basic warranty, which covers the entire car and includes 24-hour roadside assistance. The Prius Prime’s 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty expires 1 year and 14,000 miles sooner.

The i3’s corrosion warranty is 7 years longer than the Prius Prime’s (12 vs. 5 years).

BMW pays for scheduled maintenance on the i3 for 1 year and 11000 miles longer than Toyota pays for maintenance for the Prius Prime (3/36,000 vs. 2/25000).

Reliability

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2018 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that BMW vehicles are better in initial quality than Toyota vehicles. J.D. Power ranks BMW 11th in initial quality, above the industry average. With 9 more problems per 100 vehicles, Toyota is ranked 17th, below the industry average.

Engine

The i3 REx’s standard electric motor produces 49 more horsepower (170 vs. 121) than the Prius Prime’s 1.8 DOHC 4 cyl. hybrid. The i3s REx’s standard electric motor produces 60 more horsepower (181 vs. 121) than the Prius Prime’s 1.8 DOHC 4 cyl. hybrid. The i3s’ standard electric motor produces 63 more horsepower (184 vs. 121) than the Prius Prime’s 1.8 DOHC 4 cyl. hybrid.

Fuel Economy and Range

The i3’s maximum driving range in pure electric mode is 153 miles, about 6 times as far as the Prius Prime’s 25 mile range.

Brakes and Stopping

For better stopping power the i3’s brake rotors are larger than those on the Prius Prime:

 

i3

Prius Prime

Front Rotors

11 inches

10 inches

Rear Rotors

11 inches

10.2 inches

The i3’s standard front and rear disc brakes are vented to help dissipate heat for shorter stops with less fading. The rear discs on the Prius Prime are solid, not vented.

The i3 stops much shorter than the Prius Prime:

 

i3

Prius Prime

 

70 to 0 MPH

163 feet

184 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

108 feet

125 feet

Motor Trend

Tires and Wheels

The i3s’ 175/55R20 front and 195/50R20 rear tires provide better handling because they have a lower 55 series front and 50 series rear profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Prius Prime’s 65 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the i3 has standard 19-inch wheels. Only 15-inch wheels are available on the Prius Prime. The i3 offers optional 20-inch wheels.

Suspension and Handling

For better handling and stability, the average track (width between the wheels) on the i3 is 2.1 inches wider in the front and 1.4 inches wider in the rear than the track on the Prius Prime.

The i3 handles at .78 G’s, while the Prius Prime Advanced pulls only .76 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

For better maneuverability, the i3’s turning circle is 1 foot tighter than the Prius Prime’s (32.4 feet vs. 33.4 feet).

Chassis

The BMW i3 may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs about 100 to 400 pounds less than the Toyota Prius Prime.

The i3s is 2 feet shorter than the Prius Prime, making the i3 easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

Servicing Ease

J.D. Power and Associates surveys of service recipients show that BMW service is better than Toyota. J.D. Power ranks BMW 8th in service department satisfaction (above the industry average). With a 30% lower rating, Toyota is ranked 17th.

Ergonomics

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 Prius Prime doesn’t offer a memory system.

If the windows are left open on the i3 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 Prius Prime can only operate the windows from inside the vehicle, with the ignition on.

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 Prius Prime Pure/Advanced’s standard manually variable intermittent wipers have to be constantly adjusted.

To improve rear visibility by keeping the rear window clear, the i3 has a standard rear wiper. The Prius Prime 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 Prius Prime has an automatic headlight on/off feature standard only on the Premium/Advanced.

To help drivers see further while navigating curves, the i3 has standard adaptive headlights to illuminate around corners automatically by reading vehicle speed and steering wheel angle. The Prius Prime doesn’t offer cornering lights.

The i3 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 Prius Prime offers an automatic rear view mirror, but its side mirrors don’t dim.

Economic Advantages

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the i3 is less expensive to operate than the Prius Prime because typical repairs cost less on the i3 than the Prius Prime, including $7 less for front brake pads and $119 less for front struts.

Recommendations

Consumer Reports® recommends both the BMW i3 and the Toyota Prius Prime, 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 Prius Prime isn’t in the top three.

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

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