When the BMW i3 first hit the scene back in 2014, it was the hottest new EV on the market. It was far more premium than the Nissan Leaf, significantly cheaper than the Tesla Model S and funkier looking than both. So it was a pretty big deal back in the day…which was just four years ago. Now, though, there a few new competitors and they’re all pretty impressive. So does the i3 still stack up just four years later?
In this new comparison test from Auto Express, we take a look at how the BMW i3 compares to the new Nissan Lead, the Volkswagen e-Golf and the cutely named Renault ZOE. Now, this is not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison, as these are all pretty different cars. However, it’s a good example of how well the i3 compares to more modern competitors and how well its aged.
Auto Express placed the Renault ZOE in fourth place. It’s by far the smallest of the four, being an electric super-mini. So it lacks any sort of cargo space but it is very easy to drive and park in cramped European cities. It’s also by far and away the cheapest car of the bunch, at under £18,000 ($25,356 USD) and it has the furthest range, of 250 miles on the EU Cycle. But its old chassis, aging technology and brittle ride make it the worst car of the bunch to drive. Its batteries and electric motor have been updated recently but it’s not enough to keep the ZOE competitive, no matter how adorable it and its name are.
In third place comes the BMW i3, which is a long fall from the top, where it used to reside. Although, most of the reason for its fall has to do with its price. While the BMW i3 is more premium than any of its other competition in this test, it’s also by far the most expensive, costing over £32,000 ($45,078 USD) for the i3S. There’s a cheaper, normal model that’s probably the better buy. But the other two cars in this test offer similar ranges, performance and technology all for quite a bit less money. It also has the lowest range of the bunch, with 174 miles on the EU cycle.
Second place goes to the Volkswagen e-Golf. Being based on the MkVII VW Golf, it’s a great driving little car. It even gets Volkswagen’s XDS front-differential, which is very clever and helps wring some fun out of the electric Golf, even if it isn’t as fun to drive as the i3. It has a slightly further range than the i3, with 186 miles, which isn’t significantly better but it’s also cheaper. Plus, it just looks and drive like a Golf, which is a good thing.
That leaves the Nissan Leaf in first place. It has more range than the VW and BMW while also being cheaper than both. It’s quiet and comfortable to drive and is loaded with cabin tech. For the money, range and technology, AE feels that the Nissan Leaf is the best EV of these four.