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Both the i3 and the Volt 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.
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 Volt’s 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty expires 1 year and 14,000 miles sooner.
The i3’s corrosion warranty is 6 years and unlimited miles longer than the Volt’s (12/unlimited vs. 6/100,000).
BMW pays for scheduled maintenance on the i3 for 1 year and 12000 miles longer than Chevrolet pays for maintenance for the Volt (3/36,000 vs. 2/24,000).
A reliable vehicle saves its owner time, money and trouble. Nobody wants to be stranded or have to be without a vehicle while it’s being repaired. Consumer Reports rates the i3’s reliability 57 points higher than the Volt.
From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2018 Auto Issue reports that BMW vehicles are more reliable than Chevrolet vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks BMW 15 places higher in reliability than Chevrolet.
The i3 REx’s standard electric motor produces 21 more horsepower (170 vs. 149) than the Volt’s 1.5 DOHC 4 cyl. hybrid. The i3s REx’s standard electric motor produces 32 more horsepower (181 vs. 149) than the Volt’s 1.5 DOHC 4 cyl. hybrid. The i3s’ standard electric motor produces 35 more horsepower (184 vs. 149) than the Volt’s 1.5 DOHC 4 cyl. hybrid.
The i3 REx’s maximum driving range in pure electric mode is 126 miles, over two times as far as the Volt’s 53-mile range.
In its Green Vehicle Guide, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the BMW i3 higher (7 to 10 out of 10) than the Chevrolet Volt (3 to 7). This means the i3 produces up to 36.3 pounds less smog-producing pollutants than the Volt every 15,000 miles.
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 Volt are solid, not vented.
The i3 stops much shorter than the Volt:
70 to 0 MPH
Car and Driver
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For better ride, handling and brake cooling the i3 has standard 19-inch wheels. Only 17-inch wheels are available on the Volt. The i3 offers optional 20-inch wheels.
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 Chevrolet Volt has a rear torsion beam axle, with a semi-independent rear suspension.
For better handling and stability, the average track (width between the wheels) on the i3 is 1.7 inches wider in the front and .3 inches wider in the rear than the track on the Volt.
The i3’s front to rear weight distribution is more even (48.4% to 51.6%) than the Volt’s (58.5% to 41.5%). This gives the i3 more stable handling and braking.
For better maneuverability, the i3’s turning circle is 4 feet tighter than the Volt’s (32.4 feet vs. 36.4 feet). The i3s’ turning circle is 2.6 feet tighter than the Volt’s (33.8 feet vs. 36.4 feet).
The BMW i3 may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs about 250 to 550 pounds less than the Chevrolet Volt.
The i3s is 1 foot, 10.3 inches shorter than the Volt, making the i3 easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.
The i3 has 1.8 inches more front headroom and 1.4 inches more rear headroom than the Volt.
The i3 has a much larger trunk with its rear seat up than the Volt (15.1 vs. 10.6 cubic feet).
J.D. Power and Associates surveys of service recipients show that BMW service is better than Chevrolet. J.D. Power ranks BMW 8th in service department satisfaction (above the industry average). With a 8% lower rating, Chevrolet is ranked 10th.
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 Volt doesn’t offer a memory system.
The i3’s front power windows open or close with one touch of the switches, making it more convenient at drive-up windows and toll booths, or when talking with someone outside of the car. The Volt’s front passenger window doesn’t close automatically.
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 Volt can only close 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 Volt’s 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 Volt doesn’t offer a rear wiper.
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 Volt doesn’t offer cornering lights.
The i3’s standard outside mirrors include heating elements to clear off the mirrors for better visibility. Chevrolet charges extra for heated mirrors on the Volt.
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 Volt offers an automatic rear view mirror, but its side mirrors don’t dim.
According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the i3 is less expensive to operate than the Volt because it costs $81 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost less on the i3 than the Volt, including $44 less for front brake pads.
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 Volt isn’t in the top three.
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