2019 Chevrolet Bolt vs. 2019 BMW i3

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

In the past twenty years hundreds of infants and young children have died after being left in vehicles, usually by accident. When turning the vehicle off, drivers of the Bolt are reminded to check the back seat if they opened the rear door before starting out. The i3 doesn’t offer a back seat reminder.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tests front crash prevention systems. With a score of 6 points, IIHS rates the Low Speed Forward Automatic Braking optional in the Bolt as “Superior.” The i3 scores only 3 points and is rated only “Advanced.”

The Bolt’s optional lane departure warning system alerts a temporarily inattentive driver when the vehicle begins to leave its lane and gently nudges the vehicle back towards its lane. The i3 doesn’t offer a lane departure warning system.

The Bolt Premier has a standard Surround Vision to allow the driver to see objects all around the vehicle on a screen. The i3 only offers a rear monitor and front and rear parking sensors that beep or flash a light. That doesn’t help with obstacles to the sides.

To help make backing safer, the Bolt’s optional cross-path warning system uses wide-angle radar in the rear bumper to alert the driver to vehicles approaching from the side, helping the driver avoid collisions. The i3 doesn’t offer a cross-path warning system.

Both the Bolt and the i3 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 and available blind spot warning systems.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates the general design of front seat head restraints for their ability to protect front seat occupants from whiplash injuries. The IIHS also performs a dynamic test on those seats with “good” or “acceptable” geometry. In these ratings, the Bolt is safer than the i3:

 

Bolt

i3

Overall Evaluation

GOOD

ACCEPTABLE

Head Restraint Design

GOOD

GOOD

Distance Below Top of Head

-14 mm

-4 mm

Dynamic Test Rating

GOOD

ACCEPTABLE

Seat Design

Pass

Fail

Neck Force Rating

Low

Low

Max Neck Tension

424

561

(Lower numerical results are better in all tests.)

For its top level performance in all IIHS frontal, side, rear impact and roof-crush tests, and with its optional front crash prevention system, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the Bolt the rating of “Top Pick” for 2017, a rating granted to only 154 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The i3 was not even a “Top Pick” for 2016.

Warranty

Chevrolet’s powertrain warranty covers the Bolt 1 year and 10,000 miles longer than BMW covers the i3. Any repair needed on the engine, transmission, axles, joints or driveshafts is fully covered for 5 years or 60,000 miles. Coverage on the i3 ends after only 4 years or 50,000 miles.

There are almost 9 times as many Chevrolet dealers as there are BMW dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the Bolt’s warranty.

Reliability

J.D. Power and Associates rated the Bolt third among small cars in their 2018 Initial Quality Study. The i3 isn’t in the top three in its category.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2018 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Chevrolet vehicles are better in initial quality than BMW vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Chevrolet 6th in initial quality, above the industry average. With 5 more problems per 100 vehicles, BMW is ranked 11th.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2018 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Chevrolet vehicles are more reliable than BMW vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Chevrolet 6th in reliability, above the industry average. With 3 more problems per 100 vehicles, BMW is ranked 8th.

Engine

The Bolt’s electric motor produces 30 more horsepower (200 vs. 170) and 82 lbs.-ft. more torque (266 vs. 184) than the i3’s standard electric motor. The Bolt’s electric motor produces 16 more horsepower (200 vs. 184) and 67 lbs.-ft. more torque (266 vs. 199) than the i3s’ standard electric motor.

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the Bolt gets better fuel mileage than the i3 (128 city/110 hwy vs. 124 city/102 hwy MPGe).

On the EPA test cycle the Bolt gets better fuel mileage than the i3 REx running on electricity (128 city/110 hwy vs. 107 city/93 hwy MPGe).

On the EPA test cycle the Bolt gets better fuel mileage than the i3 REx running its gasoline engine (128 city/110 hwy MPGe vs. 30 city/31 hwy).

The Bolt’s maximum EPA estimated driving range is 238 miles on a full charge, over 50% further than the i3’s 153-mile range.

The Bolt’s maximum EPA estimated driving range is 238 miles on a full charge. The i3 can only travel about 126 miles before it has to start its internal combustion engine.

Environmental Friendliness

In its Green Vehicle Guide, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the Chevrolet Bolt higher (10 out of 10) than the BMW i3 (7 to 10). This means the Bolt produces up to 11.8 pounds less smog-producing pollutants than the i3 every 15,000 miles.

The EPA certifies the Chevrolet Bolt as a “Zero Emissions Vehicle” (ZEV). The BMW i3 REx is only certified to “Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle” (PZEV) standards.

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the Bolt has larger tires than the i3 (215/50R17 vs. 155/70R19). The Bolt’s tires are larger than the largest tires available on the i3 (215/50R17 vs. 175/55R20).

The Bolt’s tires provide better handling because they have a lower 50 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the i3’s standard 70 series tires. The Bolt’s tires are lower profile than the i3s’ 55 series front tires.

The Bolt has a standard easy tire fill system. When inflating the tires, the vehicle’s integrated tire pressure sensors keep track of the pressure as the tires fill and tell the driver when the tires are inflated to the proper pressure. The i3 doesn’t offer vehicle monitored tire inflation.

Having a flat tire is dangerous, inconvenient and expensive. The self-sealing tires standard on the Bolt can automatically seal most punctures up to 3/16 of an inch, effectively preventing most flat tires. The i3 doesn’t offer self-sealing tires.

Suspension and Handling

The Bolt has a standard front stabilizer bar, which help keep the Bolt flat and controlled during cornering. The i3’s suspension doesn’t offer a stabilizer bar

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the Bolt’s wheelbase is 1.2 inches longer than on the i3 (102.4 inches vs. 101.2 inches).

The Bolt Premier handles at .80 G’s, while the i3 pulls only .78 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

Passenger Space

The Bolt has standard seating for 5 passengers; the i3 can only carry 4.

The Bolt has 10.8 cubic feet more passenger volume than the i3 (94.4 vs. 83.6).

The Bolt has .1 inches more front headroom, 1.1 inches more front legroom, 1 inch more front shoulder room, .7 inches more rear headroom, 4.6 inches more rear legroom and 3.6 inches more rear shoulder room than the i3.

Cargo Capacity

The Bolt has a larger cargo volume with its rear seat up than the i3 with its rear seat up (16.9 vs. 15.1 cubic feet). The Bolt has a larger cargo volume with its rear seat folded than the i3 with its rear seat folded (56.6 vs. 36.9 cubic feet).

Ergonomics

The Bolt has a standard remote vehicle starting system, so the vehicle can be started from inside the driver's house. This allows the driver to comfortably warm up the engine before going out to the vehicle. The climate system will also automatically heat or cool the interior. The i3 doesn’t offer a remote starting system.

The Bolt’s standard power windows have a locking feature to keep children in the rear seat from operating them. BMW does not offer a locking feature on the i3’s standard power windows.

To improve rear visibility by keeping the rear window clear, the Bolt has a standard rear fixed intermittent wiper with a full on position. The rear wiper standard on the i3 only has an intermittent setting, so in a hard rain visibility isn’t as good.

While driving with high beams on, sensitive light sensors available for the Bolt detect other vehicles which could be blinded and automatically switch to low beams. The i3 doesn’t offer automatic dimming high beams.

To shield the driver and front passenger’s vision over a larger portion of the windshield and side windows, the Bolt has standard extendable sun visors. The i3 doesn’t offer extendable visors.

Both the Bolt and the i3 offer available heated front seats. The Bolt Premier also has standard heated rear seats to keep those passengers extremely comfortable in the winter. Heated rear seats aren’t available in the i3.

On extremely cold winter days, the Bolt’s optional heated steering wheel provides comfort, allowing the driver to steer safely and comfortably before the car heater warms up. The i3 doesn’t offer a heated steering wheel.

The Bolt Premier has a standard center folding armrest for the rear passengers. A center armrest helps make rear passengers more comfortable. The i3 doesn’t offer a rear seat center armrest.

Economic Advantages

Insurance will cost less for the Bolt owner. The Car Book by Jack Gillis rates the Bolt with a number “5” insurance rate while the i3 is rated higher at a number “10” rate.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Bolt is less expensive to operate than the i3 because it costs $171 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost much less on the Bolt than the i3, including $480 less for a water pump, $102 less for front struts and $455 less for a power steering pump.

Recommendations

Both are recommended, but Consumer Reports® chose the Chevrolet Bolt as its “Top Pick,” the highest scoring vehicle in its category, based on reliability, safety and performance.

J.D. Power and Associates rated the Bolt first among small cars in owner reported satisfaction. This includes how well the vehicle performs and satisfies its owner’s expectations. The i3 was rated third in its category.

The Bolt was chosen as one of Car and Driver’s “Top Ten” in 2017. The i3 has never been a Car and Driver “Top Ten” pick.

The Bolt was chosen as one of Automobile Magazine’s “All Stars” in 2017. The i3 has never been an “All Star.”

A group of representative automotive journalists from North America selected the Bolt as the 2017 North American Car of the Year. The i3 has never been chosen.

The Chevrolet Bolt outsold the BMW i3 by almost three to one during 2018.

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

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