For enhanced safety, the front seat shoulder belts of the Nissan Leaf are height-adjustable to accommodate a wide variety of driver and passenger heights. A better fit can prevent injuries and the increased comfort also encourages passengers to buckle up. The BMW i3 doesn’t offer height-adjustable seat belts.
The Leaf has standard Active Head Restraints, which use a specially designed headrest to protect the driver and front passenger from whiplash. During a rear-end collision, the Active Head Restraints system moves the headrests forward to prevent neck and spine injuries. The i3 doesn’t offer a whiplash protection system.
The Leaf SV/SL offers an optional Around View® Monitor 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.
Both the Leaf 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 and electronic stability systems to prevent skidding.
Nissan’s powertrain warranty covers the Leaf 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 over 3 times as many Nissan dealers as there are BMW dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the Leaf’s warranty.
A reliable vehicle saves its owner time, money and trouble. Nobody wants to be stranded or have to be without their vehicle while it’s being repaired. Consumer Reports predicts that the Leaf’s reliability will be 41% better than the i3.
The Leaf’s maximum EPA estimated driving range is 107 miles on a full charge, 32% further than the i3 60Ah’s 81-mile range.
The Leaf’s maximum EPA estimated driving range is 107 miles on a full charge. The i3 REx can only travel about 97 miles before it has to start its internal combustion engine.
For better traction, the Leaf has larger standard tires than the i3 (205/55R16 vs. 155/70R19). The Leaf SV/SL’s tires are larger than the largest tires available on the i3 (215/50R17 vs. 155/60R20).
The Leaf S’ standard tires provide better handling because they have a lower 55 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the i3’s standard 70 series tires. The Leaf SV/SL’s tires have a lower 50 series profile than the i3’s optional 60 series front and 55 series rear tires.
The Leaf 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.
The Leaf has standard front and rear stabilizer bars, which help keep the Leaf flat and controlled during cornering. The i3’s suspension doesn’t offer stabilizer bars.
For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the Leaf’s wheelbase is 5.1 inches longer than on the i3 (106.3 inches vs. 101.2 inches).
The Leaf SL handles at .80 G’s, while the i3 pulls only .78 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.
Because it has more passenger and cargo room, the Leaf is rated a Mid-size car by the EPA, while the i3 is rated a Subcompact.
The Leaf has standard seating for 5 passengers; the i3 can only carry 4.
The Leaf has 8.8 cubic feet more passenger volume than the i3 (92.4 vs. 83.6).
The Leaf has 1.6 inches more front headroom, 1.6 inches more front legroom, .7 inches more front shoulder room, .1 inches more rear headroom, 1.4 inches more rear legroom and 3.3 inches more rear shoulder room than the i3.
The Leaf has a much larger cargo area with its rear seat up than the i3 with its rear seat up (23.6 vs. 15.1 cubic feet).
The Leaf SV/SL 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 Leaf’s standard power windows have a locking feature to keep children 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 Leaf 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.
To shield the driver and front passenger’s vision over a larger portion of the windshield and side windows, the Leaf has standard extendable sun visors. The i3 doesn’t offer extendable visors.
Both the Leaf and the i3 have standard heated front seats. The Leaf SL 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 Leaf SV/SL’s standard 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.
Insurance will cost less for the Leaf owner. The Complete Car Cost Guide estimates that insurance for the Leaf will cost $1505 to $3050 less than the i3 over a five-year period.
According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Leaf is less expensive to operate than the i3 because typical repairs cost less on the Leaf than the i3, including $141 less for a water pump, $3 less for front brake pads and $8 less for front struts.
IntelliChoice estimates that five-year ownership costs (depreciation, financing, insurance, fuel, fees, repairs and maintenance) for the Nissan Leaf will be $4174 to $5899 less than for the BMW i3.
The Nissan Leaf outsold the BMW i3 by 45% during the 2016 model year.