2019 BMW i3 vs. 2019 Nissan Leaf

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 Leaf 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 Leaf 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, rearview cameras and available crash mitigating brakes.

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 Leaf’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 Leaf’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. Nissan doesn’t pay scheduled maintenance for the Leaf.

Reliability

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 20 points higher than the Leaf.

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 Nissan vehicles. J.D. Power ranks BMW 8th in reliability, above the industry average. With 6 more problems per 100 vehicles, Nissan is ranked 10th.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2018 Auto Issue reports that BMW vehicles are more reliable than Nissan vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks BMW 6 places higher in reliability than Nissan.

Engine

The i3 REx’s standard electric motor produces 23 more horsepower (170 vs. 147) than the Leaf’s electric motor. The i3s REx’s standard electric motor produces 34 more horsepower (181 vs. 147) than the Leaf’s electric motor. The i3s’ standard electric motor produces 37 more horsepower (184 vs. 147) than the Leaf’s electric motor.

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the i3 gets better fuel mileage than the Leaf (124 city/102 hwy vs. 124 city/99 hwy MPGe).

The i3 REx’s maximum driving range in pure electric mode is 126 miles. After it exhausts its pure electric range, the i3 REx can then continue for 71 more miles on its internal combustion engine, while the Leaf has to recharge for 40 minutes for only an 80% charge at a specially configured quick charge station not available in most areas. A full recharge at a conventional charging station can take up to 35 hours.

Brakes and Stopping

The i3 stops much shorter than the Leaf:

 

i3

Leaf

 

70 to 0 MPH

163 feet

191 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

108 feet

129 feet

Motor Trend

Tires and Wheels

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the i3 has standard 19-inch wheels. Smaller 16-inch wheels are standard on the Leaf S. The i3’s optional 20-inch wheels are larger than the 17-inch wheels on the Leaf SV/SL.

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 Nissan Leaf 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 1.9 inches wider in the front and 1 inch wider in the rear than the average track on the Leaf.

The i3 handles at .80 G’s, while the Leaf SL pulls only .76 G’s of cornering force in a Motor Trend skidpad test.

For better maneuverability, the i3’s turning circle is 2.4 feet tighter than the Leaf S’ (32.4 feet vs. 34.8 feet). The i3s’ turning circle is 2.3 feet tighter than the Leaf SV/SL’s (33.8 feet vs. 36.1 feet).

Chassis

The BMW i3 may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs about 250 to 450 pounds less than the Nissan Leaf.

The i3s is 1 foot, 6.3 inches shorter than the Leaf, 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 Nissan. J.D. Power ranks BMW 8th in service department satisfaction (above the industry average). With a 33% lower rating, Nissan is ranked 20th.

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 Leaf 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 Leaf doesn’t offer a memory system.

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 Leaf’s passenger windows don’t open or 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 Leaf 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 Leaf’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 Leaf doesn’t offer cornering lights.

The i3’s standard outside mirrors include heating elements to clear off the mirrors for better visibility. Nissan charges extra for heated mirrors on the Leaf.

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 Leaf offers an automatic rear view mirror, but its side mirrors don’t dim.

A built-in pollen filter removes pollen, exhaust fumes and other pollutants from the i3’s passenger compartment. This helps prevent lung and/or sinus irritation, which can trigger allergies or asthma. The Leaf doesn’t offer a filtration 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 Leaf doesn’t offer an automated parking system.

Economic Advantages

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the i3 is less expensive to operate than the Leaf because typical repairs cost less on the i3 than the Leaf, including $10 less for front brake pads.

Recommendations

Consumer Reports® recommends both the BMW i3 and the Nissan Leaf, 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 Leaf isn’t in the top three in its category.

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

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