2019 BMW i3 vs. 2019 Tesla Model 3

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 Model 3 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 Model 3 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 8 years and unlimited miles longer than the Model 3’s (12/unlimited vs. 4/50,000).

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. Tesla doesn’t pay scheduled maintenance for the Model 3.

There are over 5 times as many BMW dealers as there are Tesla dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the i3’s warranty.

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 40 points higher than the Model 3.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2018 Auto Issue reports that BMW vehicles are more reliable than Tesla vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks BMW 19 places higher in reliability than Tesla.

Brakes and Stopping

In an emergency stopping situation, many drivers don’t press the brakes with enough force to stop the vehicle in the shortest distance. The i3 has a standard Brake Assistant to detect emergency braking situations (by how hard and how quickly the brake pedal is pressed) and then automatically apply maximum braking immediately in order to help prevent a collision. The Model 3 doesn’t offer a brake assist feature.

The i3 stops much shorter than the Model 3:

 

i3

Model 3

 

70 to 0 MPH

163 feet

176 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

108 feet

119 feet

Motor Trend

Tires and Wheels

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the i3 has standard 19-inch wheels. Smaller 18-inch wheels are standard on the Model 3.

Suspension and Handling

For better maneuverability, the i3’s turning circle is 5.7 feet tighter than the Model 3’s (32.4 feet vs. 38.1 feet). The i3s’ turning circle is 4.3 feet tighter than the Model 3’s (33.8 feet vs. 38.1 feet).

Chassis

The BMW i3 may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs about 800 to 850 pounds less than the Tesla Model 3.

The i3s is 2 feet, 2.7 inches shorter than the Model 3, making the i3 easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

The i3 is 5.9 inches narrower on average than the Model 3, making the i3 easier to handle and maneuver in traffic.

Ergonomics

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 Model 3’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 Model 3 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 Model 3 doesn’t offer cornering lights.

The i3’s standard outside mirrors include heating elements to clear off the mirrors for better visibility. Tesla charges extra for heated mirrors on the Model 3.

The i3’s power mirror controls are mounted on the armrest for easy access. The Model 3’s power mirror controls are on the dash, hidden behind the steering wheel, where they are awkward to manipulate.

Economic Advantages

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the i3 is less expensive to operate than the Model 3 because typical repairs cost less on the i3 than the Model 3, including $25 less for a water pump, $34 less for front brake pads and $46 less for front struts.

Recommendations

Consumer Reports® recommends both the BMW i3 and the Tesla Model 3, 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 Model 3 isn’t in the top three.

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

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