The i3 offers optional crash mitigation brakes, which use forward mounted sensors to warn the driver of a possible collision ahead. If the driver doesn’t react and the system determines a collision is imminent, it automatically applies the brakes at full-force in order to reduce the force of the crash or avoid it altogether. The Leaf doesn't offer collision warning or crash mitigation brakes.
The BMW i3 has Daytime Running Lights to help keep it more visible under all conditions. Canadian government studies show that driving with lights during the day reduces accidents by 11% by making vehicles more conspicuous. The Leaf doesn’t offer Daytime Running Lights.
The i3 has standard BMW Assist, which uses a global positioning satellite (GPS) receiver and a cellular system to remotely unlock your doors if you lock your keys in, help track down your vehicle if it’s stolen or send emergency personnel to the scene if any airbags deploy. The Leaf doesn’t offer a GPS response system, only a navigation computer with no live response for emergencies, so if you’re involved in an accident and you’re incapacitated help may not come as quickly.
Both the i3 and the Leaf have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, traction control and electronic stability systems to prevent skidding.
The i3 comes with a full 4 year/50,000 mile basic warranty, which covers the entire car and includes 24 hour roadside assistance. The Leaf’s 3 year/36,000 mile basic warranty expires 1 year and 14,000 miles sooner.
The i3’s corrosion warranty is 7 years longer than the Leaf’s (12 vs. 5 years).
BMW pays for scheduled maintenance on the i3 for 4 years and 50,000 miles. BMW will pay for oil changes, tire rotation, lubrication and any other scheduled maintenance. Nissan doesn’t pay scheduled maintenance for the Leaf.
J.D. Power and Associates’ 2013 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that BMW vehicles are better in initial quality than Nissan vehicles. J.D. Power ranks BMW 18th in initial quality. With 28 more problems per 100 vehicles, Nissan is ranked 30th.
J.D. Power and Associates’ 2013 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that BMW vehicles are more reliable than Nissan vehicles. J.D. Power ranks BMW 16th in reliability. With 4 more problems per 100 vehicles, Nissan is ranked 19th.
The i3’s electric motor produces 63 more horsepower (170 vs. 107) than the Leaf’s electric motor.
On the EPA test cycle the i3 gets better fuel mileage on its electric motor alone than the Leaf (138 city/111 hwy vs. 126 city/101 hwy MPGe).
The i3’s standard front and rear disc brakes are vented to help dissipate heat for shorter stops with less fading. The rear discs on the Leaf are solid, not vented.
For better ride, handling and brake cooling the i3 has standard 19-inch wheels. Smaller 16-inch wheels are standard on the Leaf S/SV. The i3’s optional 20-inch wheels are larger than the 17-inch wheels on the Leaf SL.
For superior ride and handling, the BMW i3 has fully independent front and rear suspensions. An independent suspension allows the wheels to follow the road at the best angle for gripping the pavement, without compromising ride comfort. The Leaf has a rear torsion beam axle, with a semi-independent rear suspension.
For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the i3 is 1.2 inches wider in the front and 1.6 inches wider in the rear than on the Leaf.
For better maneuverability, the i3’s turning circle is 1.9 feet tighter than the Leaf’s (32.3 feet vs. 34.2 feet).
The BMW i3 may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs about 450 to 600 pounds less than the Nissan Leaf.
The i3 is 1 foot, 5.6 inches shorter than the Leaf, making the i3 easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces. The i3 is 1 foot, 5.6 inches shorter than the Leaf.
To help each driver find a more comfortable driving position, the i3 has a telescoping steering wheel. Much better than just a tilt steering wheel or adjustable seat, this allows a short driver to sit further from the steering wheel while maintaining contact with the pedals. The Leaf doesn’t offer a telescoping steering wheel.
The i3’s front power windows open or close fully with one touch of the switches, making it more convenient at drive-up windows and toll booths, or when talking with someone outside the car. The Leaf’s passenger windows don’t open or close automatically.
The i3’s rain-sensitive wipers adjust their speed and turn on and off automatically based on the amount of rainfall on the windshield. This allows the driver to concentrate on driving without constantly adjusting the wipers. The Leaf’s manually variable intermittent wipers have to be constantly adjusted.
The i3 has a standard automatic headlight on/off feature. When the ignition is on, the headlights automatically turn on at dusk and off after dawn. The Leaf only offers an automatic headlight on/off feature as an extra cost option.
To help drivers see further while navigating curves, the i3 has standard adaptive headlights to illuminate around corners automatically by reading vehicle speed and steering wheel angle. The Leaf doesn’t offer cornering lights.
The i3 has standard automatic dimming rear and side view mirrors which automatically darken quickly when headlights shine on them, keeping following vehicles from blinding or distracting the driver. The Leaf offers an automatic rear view mirror, but its side mirrors don’t dim.
A built-in pollen filter removes pollen, exhaust fumes and other pollutants from the i3’s passenger compartment. This helps prevent lung and/or sinus irritation, which can trigger allergies or asthma. The Leaf doesn’t offer a filtration system.
To keep a safe, consistent following distance, the i3 offers an optional adaptive cruise control, which alters the speed of the vehicle without driver intervention. This allows the driver to use cruise control more safely without constantly having to disengage it when approaching slower traffic. The Leaf doesn’t offer an adaptive cruise control.