2019 BMW i3 vs. 2019 Fiat 500e

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

To maximize occupant safety, the front seat shoulder belts of the BMW i3 have pretensioners to eliminate dangerous slack in the event of a collision. The Fiat 500e doesn’t offer pretensioners.

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 500e doesn't offer collision warning or crash mitigation brakes.

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 500e 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 500e 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 i3 and the 500e have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, daytime running lights and rearview cameras.

Warranty

The i3’s corrosion warranty is 7 years longer than the 500e’s (12 vs. 5 years).

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. Fiat doesn’t pay scheduled maintenance for the 500e.

Reliability

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 Fiat vehicles. J.D. Power ranks BMW 8th in reliability, above the industry average. With 65 more problems per 100 vehicles, Fiat is ranked 29th.

Engine

The i3 REx’s standard electric motor produces 59 more horsepower (170 vs. 111) and 37 lbs.-ft. more torque (184 vs. 147) than the 500e’s electric motor. The i3s REx’s standard electric motor produces 70 more horsepower (181 vs. 111) and 52 lbs.-ft. more torque (199 vs. 147) than the 500e’s electric motor. The i3s’ standard electric motor produces 73 more horsepower (184 vs. 111) and 52 lbs.-ft. more torque (199 vs. 147) than the 500e’s electric motor.

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the i3 running on electricity gets better fuel mileage than the 500e:

 

 

 

MPGe

i3

 

 

i3 Electric Motor

124 city/102 hwy

 

 

i3s Electric Motor

124 city/102 hwy

500e

 

 

Electric motor

121 city/103 hwy

The i3’s maximum driving range is 153 miles, 82% further than the 500e’s 84-mile range.

The i3 REx’s maximum driving range in pure electric mode is 126 miles, 50% further than the 500e’s 84-mile range. After it exhausts its pure electric range, the i3 REx can then continue for 71 more miles on its internal combustion engine, while the 500e has to recharge for 4 hours. A full recharge at a conventional charging station can take up to 24 hours.

Brakes and Stopping

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 500e are solid, not vented.

The i3 stops much shorter than the 500e:

 

i3

500e

 

70 to 0 MPH

163 feet

175 feet

Car and Driver

Tires and Wheels

The i3s’ 195/50R20 rear tires provide better handling because they have a lower 50 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the 500e’s 55 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the i3 has standard 19-inch wheels. Only 15-inch wheels are available on the 500e. The i3 offers optional 20-inch wheels.

The BMW i3’s wheels have 5 lugs for longer wheel bearing life, less chance of rotor warping and greater strength. The Fiat 500e 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 Fiat 500e 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 10.6 inches longer than on the 500e (101.2 inches vs. 90.6 inches).

For better handling and stability, the average track (width between the wheels) on the i3 is 6.9 inches wider in the front and 7 inches wider in the rear than the track on the 500e.

The i3 handles at .78 G’s, while the 500e pulls only .77 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

Chassis

As tested by Car and Driver while under full throttle, the interior of the i3 is quieter than the 500e (67 vs. 68 dB).

Passenger Space

Because it has more passenger and cargo room, the EPA rates the i3 a Subcompact car, while the 500e is rated a Minicompact.

The i3 has 12 cubic feet more passenger volume than the 500e (83.6 vs. 71.6).

The i3 has .7 inches more front headroom, 4.2 inches more front shoulder room, 1.7 inches more rear headroom, 4.3 inches more rear legroom and 2.8 inches more rear shoulder room than the 500e.

Cargo Capacity

The i3 has a much larger trunk with its rear seat up than the 500e (15.1 vs. 7 cubic feet).

Servicing Ease

J.D. Power and Associates surveys of service recipients show that BMW service is better than Fiat. J.D. Power ranks BMW 8th in service department satisfaction (above the industry average). With a 113% lower rating, Fiat is ranked 31st.

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 500e 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 500e 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 500e’s power windows’ switches have to be held the entire time to close them fully.

The i3’s standard power window controls are mounted on the armrest for easy access. The 500e’s available power window controls are spread out on the center console where they can’t be seen without the driver completely removing his eyes from the road.

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 500e can only operate the windows from inside the vehicle, with the ignition on.

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 Fiat 500e doesn’t offer an advanced key system.

The i3 has two rear doors to provide better access for cargo and rear passengers. The 500e 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 500e’s intermittent wipers change speed with vehicle speed, but can’t turn on and off or change speed based on changing rainfall.

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 500e doesn’t offer automatic headlights.

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 500e 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 500e has an automatic rear view mirror, but its side mirrors don’t dim.

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 500e doesn’t offer an adaptive cruise control.

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 500e 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 500e isn’t in the top three.

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

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