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Side By Side Comparison of the BMW i3 and Nissan Leaf

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Quite a lot of people are contemplating going green with their choice of cars these days, although the reality is that less than 1% of the people are actually driving around with an electric car. But then you get vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf and the BMW i3 offered in dealerships, and more people may get on the bandwagon.

Comparing a BMW with a Nissan doesn’t seem all that fair, but then again we can try. Both the BMW i3 and the Nissan Leaf are all-electric cars, you see, but the BMW is much more expensive and prestigious. The entry-level Nissan Leaf comes in at $29,000 to start, with the top trim going for $35,000. With the i3, you start with a little under $42,000.

nissan-leafBut when you factor in the government grants (such as the £5,000 Plug-in Car grant in the UK), the price of the i3 is only just a little bit more than the top of the line Nissan Leaf.

So let’s put them side by side and see which one makes more sense.

The Looks

Both look like what they are—small cars. The look of the Nissan Leaf seems plainer, though, but that has the benefit of offending fewer people. The styling of the BMW seems more designed to get attention, but that doesn’t meant the attention is always positive. For some folks, it may take a while to appreciate the look of the BMW.

Of course, the badge makes quite a bit of difference. People are simply going to “ooh” and “aah” when they see the BMW badge, while people may not be all that impressed with the Nissan logo. Also, the 2014 Nissan Leaf is the most popular battery-electric car in the world, and that means the BMW look is more uncommon in the streets. The look of the i3 may even make it seem like the Leaf is a bit outdated in its aesthetics.

Battery Charging

Now we come to the electric aspects you don’t see in regular cars. With these cars, charging is a crucial concern. However, both can be charged to 80% of its capacity by plugging it to an ordinary household socket overnight for 7 to 8 hours.

With an off-road parking space, a powerful wall-mounted charger will make more sense. Now with the Nissan you use the British gas unit for free. But you’ll have to pay at least $500 extra for the iWallbox for the BMW.

Both also claim approximately the same range, with 120 miles for the BMW i3 and 124 miles with the Nissan Leaf.

Space

This is another important factor to consider, since with these small cars space is at a premium. There’s a bit more space inside the Nissan Leaf, but that’s enough for Nissan to claim that the Leaf offers enough space for 5 riders, while BMW is more sensible in claiming that the i3 seats 4 people. But the people at the back are going to be miserable.

The i3 also offers easier access to the back with the pillar-less door opening, although the wide door sill can offer some complications. The BMW also offers large windows and light materials that make the i3 interior seem airier and brighter.

Trunk space dimensions also differ. With the seats up, the Nissan wins here with 355 liters of trunk space against the i3’s 260 liters. However, when the back seats are down the BMW i3 is superior with its 1,100 liters compared to just 705 for the Leaf.

Performance

As expected, the BMW wins here, as it reaches 60 mph from standstill in just 7.1 seconds, with 93 mph as its top speed. In contrast, you’ll need 10.3 seconds (a long 3 seconds of difference) to get to 60 mph in a Leaf, with 89 mph as its top speed. The BMW credits its 168bhp electric motor and low weight for this superiority.

Some people aren’t all that impressed with the handling of the rear-wheel drive BMW, although in low speeds the handling is quite nippy. But there are those who notice a body roll to the BMW, which is rather uncharacteristic.

However, with the front-wheel drive Nissan Leaf you’re not just getting a rather plodding car. The steering and the handling are somewhat numb in comparison. But most people do like the quiet and comfortable ride nonetheless.

Conclusion

It’s all about your budget. That’s probably the determining factor that will help you choose between the BMW i3 and the Nissan Leaf. The Leaf is much more affordable, and its no-frills design is in tune with the green movement. You’ll need a bigger budget for the i3.

On the other hand, if you can afford it then the i3 is worth consideration. It’s not just about the prestige of owning a BMW, but also getting some nice features in return for your money.

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