2019 BMW i3 vs. 2019 Kia Niro Plug-In Hybrid

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

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 Niro Plug-In Hybrid 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 Niro Plug-In Hybrid 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’s corrosion warranty is 7 years and unlimited miles longer than the Niro Plug-In Hybrid’s (12/unlimited vs. 5/100,000).

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. Kia doesn’t pay scheduled maintenance for the Niro Plug-In Hybrid.

Engine

The i3 REx’s standard electric motor produces 31 more horsepower (170 vs. 139) than the Niro Plug-In Hybrid’s 1.6 DOHC 4 cyl. hybrid. The i3s REx’s standard electric motor produces 42 more horsepower (181 vs. 139) and 4 lbs.-ft. more torque (199 vs. 195) than the Niro Plug-In Hybrid’s 1.6 DOHC 4 cyl. hybrid. The i3s’ standard electric motor produces 45 more horsepower (184 vs. 139) and 4 lbs.-ft. more torque (199 vs. 195) than the Niro Plug-In Hybrid’s 1.6 DOHC 4 cyl. hybrid.

Fuel Economy and Range

The i3 REx’s maximum driving range in pure electric mode is 126 miles, almost 5 times as far as the Niro Plug-In Hybrid’s 26-mile range.

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 Niro Plug-In Hybrid are solid, not vented.

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 Niro Plug-In Hybrid’s 60 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the i3 has standard 19-inch wheels. Only 16-inch wheels are available on the Niro Plug-In Hybrid. The i3 offers optional 20-inch wheels.

Suspension and Handling

For better maneuverability, the i3’s turning circle is 2.4 feet tighter than the Niro Plug-In Hybrid’s (32.4 feet vs. 34.8 feet). The i3s’ turning circle is 1 foot tighter than the Niro Plug-In Hybrid’s (33.8 feet vs. 34.8 feet).

Chassis

The i3s is 1 foot, 1.4 inches shorter than the Niro Plug-In Hybrid, 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 Kia. J.D. Power ranks BMW 8th in service department satisfaction (above the industry average). With a 31% lower rating, Kia is ranked 18th.

Ergonomics

The i3’s front power windows 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 Niro Plug-In Hybrid’s standard passenger windows don’t open or close automatically. The Niro Plug-In Hybrid EX/EX Premium’s rear windows don’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 Niro Plug-In Hybrid 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 Niro Plug-In Hybrid’s manually variable intermittent wipers have to be constantly adjusted.

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 Niro Plug-In Hybrid doesn’t offer cornering lights.

The i3’s standard outside mirrors include heating elements to clear off the mirrors for better visibility. Kia only offers heated mirrors on the Niro Plug-In Hybrid EX/EX Premium.

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 Niro Plug-In Hybrid offers an automatic rear view mirror, but its side mirrors don’t dim.

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 Niro Plug-In Hybrid 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 Niro Plug-In Hybrid isn’t in the top three.

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

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