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 Model S 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 Model S have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, daytime running lights, rear parking sensors, available crash mitigating brakes and rearview cameras.
The i3’s corrosion warranty is 8 years and unlimited miles longer than the Model S’ (12/unlimited vs. 4/50,000).
BMW pays for scheduled maintenance on the i3 for 4 years and 50,000 miles. BMW will pay for oil changes, lubrication and any other required maintenance. Tesla doesn’t pay scheduled maintenance for the Model S.
There are almost 44 times as many BMW dealers as there are Tesla dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the i3’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 i3’s reliability will be 7% better than the Model S.
On the EPA test cycle the i3 with its standard engine gets better fuel mileage than the Model S 85 (137 city/111 hwy vs. 88 city/90 hwy). The i3 with its standard engine gets better fuel mileage than the Model S 70D (137 city/111 hwy vs. 101 city/102 hwy).
In an emergency stopping situation, many drivers don’t press the brakes with enough force to stop the vehicle in the shortest distance. The i3 has a standard Brake Assistant to detect emergency braking situations (by how hard and how quickly the brake pedal is pressed) and then automatically apply maximum braking immediately in order to help prevent a collision. The Model S doesn’t offer a brake assist feature.
The i3 stops much shorter than the Model S:
60 to 0 MPH
For better maneuverability, the i3’s turning circle is 4.7 feet tighter than the Model S’ (32.3 feet vs. 37 feet).
The BMW i3 may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs about 2000 to 2050 pounds less than the Tesla Model S.
The i3 is 3 feet, 2.6 inches shorter than the Model S, making the i3 easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.
The i3 is 7.4 inches narrower than the Model S, making the i3 easier to handle and maneuver in traffic.
The i3 has .8 inches more front headroom and 1.9 inches more rear headroom than the Model S.
To improve rear visibility by keeping the rear window clear, the i3 has a standard rear wiper. The Model S doesn’t offer a rear wiper.
The Model S’ optional cornering lamps activate a lamp on the front corner when the turn signal is activated. The i3’s standard adaptive cornering lights turn the actual headlight unit up to several degrees, depending on steering wheel angle and vehicle speed. This lights a significant distance into corners at any speed.
Insurance will cost less for the i3 owner. The Complete Car Cost Guide estimates that insurance for the i3 will cost $3570 to $7640 less than the Model S over a five-year period.
The i3 will cost the buyer less in the long run because of its superior resale value. The Intellichoice estimates that the i3 will retain 46.75% to 47.37% of its original price after five years, while the Model S only retains 40.31% to 43.17%.
Both the BMW i3 and Tesla Model S won four awards in Kiplinger’s 2015 car issue.
The i3 is ranked first in its class and received the 2015 “Total Quality Award.” The Model S is not ranked.