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BMW I3 Versus the Nissan Leaf (GEN 1)

2898 Views 3 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  Paul
I have had my leaf GEN 1 since May and had a test drive in an I3 REX at the weekend. Here is how I found them in comparison however a longer test in the I3 would really be nice to gain an overall comparison.

I posted part of this review on the Leaf Talk forum, this is my first post over here so I hope you find it of some use.


The Gen-1 Leaf suspension is floaty and a little wishy washy (tuned for Japanese roads) the ride in the I3 is much much firmer and responsive, more sporty.


The I3 is amazingly fast just a little tap on the throttle throws you forward at head snapping speed (its very addictive) and so much quicker than the Leaf, which is no slouch either. Above 50mph I found the acceleration to be the same as the Leaf.


Even the entry level trim in the BMW is very nice and is a lot better than the Leaf, the seats are firm but comfortable however I do prefer the classic car seat in the Leaf however that’s a very personal thing, the screens in the I3 are very clear and bright, the overall experience of the on screen stuff in general is more slick than the Leaf however the charge point information the I3 was relaying was wrong however it is supposed to tell you if the charge points are being used which is nice.

I liked the overall finish and the controls around the wheel and elsewhere are easy to use.


Now its tiny on the I3 compared to the Leaf, you couldn’t get a baby stroller in there so may be an issue if the I3 is the only car for a small family, strollers easily fit in the Leaf.

Interior space:-

The I3 is tardis like, it’s a little bigger inside than it looks on the outside, the opposite of what I find with the Leaf, lots of headroom in the I3 compared to the leaf.

Now having been rather anti the REX I have to say I have changed my mind on that one a little after the test drive and here is why, far from being loud and annoying the REX is very quiet you cant tell its even on, now others have said its more noisy when the battery gets lower I understand that, the trick is to turn it on earlier in the journey to prevent that from happening, this will also help prolong the life of the battery as well as no Lipo pack likes being drained fully all the time.

It would be nice to have the chademo socket but after trying a REX I think I could live without it, Its amazing that a test drive can make you change your mind on something you had set your mind against, there is no visible evidence of a petrol engine as the exhaust for the REX is hidden under the nearside rear end of the car, the only other clue being the flap on the side of the car for the fuel.

Now while the boot is not suitable for a pushchair, the rear seats are a godsend for people with little ones that need to get them in to car seats, anyone who does this on a regular basis knows how awkward this can be, the lack of a door pillar in this car means that you have full access to the passenger seats, the only caveat being the front door has to be open but that’s no big problem.

The car is full of recycled plastic as is the Leaf but you wouldn’t know it, I love the visible weave of the carbon fibre that you can see on the door shuts a constant reminder that this is no ordinary car.

You feel very safe in this car for 3 reasons, you are a little higher up in the seat, you have great visibility and you have some fearsome acceleration to make sure that you get out of junctions and up to speed quickly, the youtube videos of the car rolling along and accelerating looked quick so you know in reality its going to be quick and it is, talk about an EV grin, this car puts a smile on your face permanent like the Joker!

I came away from the showroom feeling like a little kid, excited for what they have done with this car and the potential of it, if its their first try at an EV we are in for a treat IMHO, they have set a very high standard for this car that all the others including Tesla will have to try hard to beat.

Overall the I3 is the better overall car IMO which is not surprising really considering its lineage and its price its also the next generation when compared with the Leaf which is not exactly old tech but is maybe starting to show its age a little, however price is a big factor for many, at the moment you can pick up a GEN 1 Leaf with 21K miles on it for less than 10K however if cost isn’t your main consideration then the I3 is very hard to beat.

The lack of a fast charging infrastructure needs to be considered if you are not going to go for the REX however at the moment the REX really is the sensible option over here at least until BMW offer something.

All that said I am very happy with the Leaf and wont even think of changing it for another 18 months or so, the Leaf even though it looks a little old next to the I3 its still an amazing electric car although the more I look at the I3 brochure the more tempting it becomes!! Dear Santa……
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I understand were your coming from, the i3 is certainly radical - they've broken new ground on the styling. Even engineering wise - with the carbon-fibre and lots of textured materials - it is in a class of it own! Durability and longevity have been fundamental to the spec and design - totally unknown if family cars. Sitting between the Leaf and the Tesla it really has no peers. VW are unlikely to offer any competition - so the next car of this pedigree may well be a Mercedes?
However, when you walk away from the i3 and see the competition from other BMW models - that are available off the shelf - its simply doesn't cut it. i3 is hip and trendy - and BMW will sell all they can produce - but its a 'gadget' and its 'bling'! You couldn't choose the i3 by any objective assessment.
However, there is hope they become the new fad in Chelsea, Westminster and Notting Hill! They will be great for the 'Sloanes' on the school run and get the carcinogens out of the Public School playgrounds!
Drive ON!
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I am comparing the I3 to my Nissan Leaf as it isnt comparable by anything else from BMW at the moment, I have always liked the I3 and now I really like it having had a test drive in it, test driving the Leaf changed my mind about that car as well, the instant I had a go in it my brain said get one! so I did, my brain is telling me the same about the I3 but as I only got my Leaf in May its a bit too soon to jump.

BMW are pitching this car at the first time EV user for sure, I am not their typical target I am sure, they are going after middle to high income families maybe already owning a higher end car that are looking for something different, new and head turning.

It would be a stretch for a young family to use one if they had small children (like me) but it could be made to work if you really wanted it to.

The Leaf is brilliant for us at the moment and at only 99 quid a month in lease its cheap as well to go I3 REX will cost nearly 4 times that but my brain says thats still OK! ha ha such is the lure of this car.

Now I am a big Tesla fan too but that is out of my league the model S but its funny when something is unattainable you tend to look at the alternative more favourably...oh the model S is too big, etc etc ha ha.

I will be honest and say that I am more excited about the I3 than the model S as the I3 is within reach of a lot of people but the model S isnt sadly, the I3 makes the perfect stop gap next gen car for people waiting for Tesla to make its gen 3 car.

Competition in the market place can only be a good thing, I hope VW make a good fist of it too, we need choice to drive the prices down and the specifications and features up.

I am going to run 2 of my buddies up to try the I3 on sunday, one of them has an M1 coupe so is used to sub 5 second 0-60 times, it will be interesting to see his take on the acceleration and the overall feel of the car, he has just dropped 40K on his M1 so could have bought the I3 outright, maybe he will trade it in ;-)
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However, when you walk away from the i3 and see the competition from other BMW models - that are available off the shelf - its simply doesn't cut it. i3 is hip and trendy - and BMW will sell all they can produce - but its a 'gadget' and its 'bling'! You couldn't choose the i3 by any objective assessment.
I was pretty heavily involved in MINI (from the outside, and a little on the inside) when that came around. It was exactly the same, there was almost NO subjective reason to buy a MINI (save residuals in the early days), but BMW sold it. They'll do the same with the i3, and the rest of the "i" / electric vehicle range.

It would be a stretch for a young family to use one if they had small children (like me) but it could be made to work if you really wanted it to.
People always said that about our family of three/four, but it works. Think small, don't fill your car with pointless baby/child junk (better off, don't buy it in the first place) and you'd be amazed how easy it can be. :)
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