BMW i3 vs Chevrolet Bolt EV vs Renault ZOE Compared

5 months ago by Mark Kane 21

World Auto Evolution released an interesting statistics-only comparison of three electric cars, the Renault ZOE, BMW i3 and Chevrolet Bolt EV – each pitted against the other.

2017 Renault ZOE 40 EV vs. 2017 BMW i3 (94 Ah) comparison

2017 Renault ZOE 40 EV vs. 2017 BMW i3 (94 Ah) comparison

The first comparison is for the European market specifially: the Renault ZOE vs BMW i3.  Both models were deemed winners (ZOE for the mass market, i3 for the premium market).

The Renault ZOE turns to be much cheaper, with a larger trunk and longer range (41 kWh version), while the i3 is found to be a more premium offering, with better finishes, and better performance.

The second duel is the Chevrolet Bolt EV against BMW i3.

This time the Chevrolet Bolt EV was called the winner, because of not only having a lot more range (with up to 238 miles) but because it has more power, and slightly more usable capacity.

On the plus side for the BMW i3, the plug-in still beats the Bolt EV in ‘premium’ aspects, and quality of materials in use.

The last comparison is for a couple all-electric cars that basically will never meet – the Chevrolet Bolt EV and Renault ZOE.  Although the comparison is still valid, as in the Europe the Bolt EV will be sold as the Opel Ampera-e in the second half of the year, while in North America Renault doesn’t sell cars at all.

On the specific Bolt EV to Opel Ampera-e comparison, World Auto Evolution noted much more power, battery capacity and longer range for the Bolt EV than the ZOE. However, the ZOE is considered as being much cheaper.

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21 responses to "BMW i3 vs Chevrolet Bolt EV vs Renault ZOE Compared"

  1. SparkEV says:

    Jan sales figure for i3 would be “interesting”. Without a huge discount on i3, BMW badge is the only thing going for it. Yeah, sure, luxury blah blah, but that brings little value compared to what Bold offers.

    As for Zoe, that’s better compared to SparkEV. Zoe has more range, but far less power, less efficient, and charging is slow. It’s too bad there’s no more SparkEV.

    1. protomech says:

      It’ll be months until the Bolt EV is available outside a couple of states.

      I do think it’s likely to reset expectations for all EVs with less than 200 miles however, once it is broadly available.

      1. SparkEV says:

        CA sells most EV, so that will be indicative. Also, Bolt will come out in other states “soon”, so those who have the money may be holding off instead of getting i3 now. As mentioned below, lease pricing might entice some to take the plunge to i3 now, but we’ll see. If I have that kind of money to spend on i3 vs Bolt, I’ll spend a bit more / wait few months for Bolt.

  2. mx says:

    Fully independent suspension, rear wheel drive, better materials. And the BMW i3 lease is cheaper.
    Still the winner.

    1. Warren says:

      The BMW is absolutely more premium. I initially considered the Bolt before acquiring my 2017 i3 BEV. After being in the BMW, I felts the Bolt had way too many cheap hard plastic surfaces for my taste. I’m glad the comparison listed the RWD platform as also being more premium, which it absolutely is. ALL the top premium luxury and sports cars are AWD/RWD. FWD will never offer the precision driving experience of a sophisticated multilink suspension RWD i3. I actually like the firmer ride of the i3. Although in 10/10ths driving the skinny tires will handicap ultimate grip, in normal driving, the i3 reacts with uncanny quickness and precision that you appreciate every day. I would be willing to bet he i3 has the tighter turning radius also, which is a something I appreciate every time I make a U-turn on city streets, or in a parking lot.
      I always thought on the exterior at least, the i3 looked very tall and skinny. So I was surprised to see that the Bolt is even thinner and taller than the i3.
      As far as range, I am already on track for 20000 miles per year, just fine, without a bigger battery or range extender. 100 real world miles is just fine for most folks per day. And if you need to quick charge, you can pick up another 22kWh in just 30 minutes.

      This is right on par with the Bolt, giving you another 80 miles or so in a single quick charge 30 minute session, with very little taper. The i3 even went right through the 72-91% SOC range, giving another 6.4kWh or 24 miles or range. This is a much more useful charging profile than my previous i3, and makes my 75% capacity 2011 Leaf seem like a turtle in charging rate.

      It appears that 0-50mph, the i3 is right on par with the Bolt without any of the FWD hysterics. The Bolt shows its power advantage above that speed, and the i3 pulls away at top speed.

      And as has been proven before, I can probably walk out of a BMW dealership right now with cheaper lease payments than the Bolt. Throw in free 3yr maintenance and free 2yrs DCQC, and you tell me which car is the better “deal”. And although the Bolt has the bigger battery, it also looks similar to a Chevy Cruz hatchback. With the i3,at least you get a uniquely constructed technology showcase, using advanced CFRP, which was a ground up revolutionary design. Not to mention the fervent attention to sustainability during every facet of the i3 construction process. Besides range, the i3 fares well against the Bolt considering it has been around for close to 4 years already. I would rather wait for the updated i3 sport model coming out to replace my Focus EV later this year, than choosing a Bolt right now.

      These guys spend millions taking apart cars and analyzing them. They have a huge impressive list of engineering credentials working for them, so if you don’t take my word for it, take theirs:

      1. Loboc says:

        Bolt is also a clean sheet design. Any similarity to Cruze hatch is language not design.

      2. DonC says:

        Pretty much everyone who knows cars disagrees with you. Here is what Motor Trend had to say:

        “Simply put, it’s twice the car for half the price of a BMW i3,” guest judge Chris Theodore said. “A better car, better package, much better handling, with twice the range.”

        So more space, better handling, better performance, and a lower price. Assuming you’re not overly influenced by a badge, doesn’t seem to be much of a contest.

        1. Chris says:

          The I3 is a better handling car and more premium. I could equally cite to Car and Driver and other trade mags which give the i3 a stellar review.

        2. Stimpy says:

          Everyone that knows cars, eh? Munro & Associates tears down cars every day for research purposes and said this about the i3:

          “This is, without a question of a doubt, the most advanced vehicle on the planet. It’s as revolutionary as the Model T was when it came out. We’re not just selling this [report] to car companies. Airplane companies, high-speed rail companies, even people making furniture are interested in this car because it’s that revolutionary.”

        3. Stimpy says:

          No FWD has ever felt as good to drive as a RWD car. You always have some degree of torque steer.

          Also “half the price” is going by MSRP. No one buys (or leases) an i3 for MSRP. Realistically you can buy an i3 TODAY for less than a Bolt.

      3. tom says:

        I had an i3 for 2 years now and was about to move to the Bolt because I thought it was less expensive and had more cargo space. Yesterday I test drove one and now I’m cancelling my already built and almost delivered Bolt and order another i3. Here is why:

        1) The i3 is built with a holistic concept in mind. Build with wind energy, zero landfill, water based paint, recycled materials and the recycling of the car at the end of its life is already mapped out.
        2) Range was never a problem for me with the i3 because of the REX so I don’t care too much about the Bolts larger range. Can’t beat the REX
        3) The cargo space may be larger on paper (by numbers) but they must count the foot space of the rear passenger seats. I parked them side by side with open hatches and back seats folded. The i3 IS bigger with seats down. It has a flat surface where the bolt’s space is fragmented. Put anything heavy on the bouncy back rest of the folded back seats and the cushioning will suffer over time and your stuff will bounce around. The i3 is a hard flat surface. It may be smaller but sure don’t feel like it.
        4) The seats are too narrow for a 238 miles ride and I don’t even have a fat ass.
        5) Last but not least the lease for my new fully loaded i3 is $495/month and the Bolt (fully loaded) is $560. Both zero down, no security. That is in part because the Chevy bank does not apply the full $7,500 Federal tax incentive against the down payment. They keep $5,000 which they claim they applied to the residual of formerly 44%. Really? The Bolt loses 66% value in the first 3 years. This is unethical and sneaky. I’m now buying a car that costs $12,000 more than the Bolt and pay $65 less per month and I drive a BMW. With no service fees for 3 years (I don’t know if Chevy services the car for free too but I’m sure they don’t give me a free loaner for the time the car is in the shop. My BMW dealer does and picks me up at home if need be.) But the best part is that the Chevy Bank now applied MY $5k to prop up the residual which means that I will actually have to pay $5k MORE if I want to buy the car after the lease. So I pay for it twice.

        Don’t get me wrong. The Bolt is a nice car but not nicer than the i3. Materials are cheaper, the front wheel drive is not anywhere as nimble as the i3, no navigation system and Waze through Apple Play sucks. Not Chevy’s fault but still leaves me without a decent nav system. (Though I would prefer Waze over any built in nav system including the BMW). And I love the idea of an electric car for the masses. But Chevy doesn’t. It was Obama’s idea and for Chevy it’s just a quote car. They accidentally built a good car.

    2. SparkEV says:

      If it’s like SparkEV vs Zoe in that Bolt is only more range while lacking in everything else, perhaps i3 has some attraction. But when Bolt is more powerful, double the range, possibly more efficient, and cheaper, i3 just doesn’t make much sense for small gain in suspension (big whoop with those skinny tires) and “material”. Attractive lease pricing on i3 might make it worthwhile for some, but if you have the money for i3 lease, might as well chip in a bit more for Bolt or wait few months for Bolt competitor. Tesla 3 will be late, so maybe i3 with even bigger battery?

      But then, I never thought Dump would get elected, so what do I know? My comment “interesting Jan sales for i3” will still be “interesting”.

    3. Bill says:

      Unless your car will ever drive in snow…

  3. James says:

    And who won the ugliest car contest?

    1. mx says:

      The Dodge Charger?

    2. CVVH says:

      The Leaf.

  4. WARREN says:

    It’s also amazing how most of the EVs in the 20-30kWh battery size range have mediocre 0-60 times, usually in the 9-12 second range. (LEAF, Ioniq, EGolf, 500E, etc). None of them could dip into the 6 second range like the Bolt and i3. Of course with a battery almost 3x the size of a 22kWh i3, it is expected that the Bolt battery can support a higher HP motor. But for a 2014 22kWh i3 to have such strong acceleration was amazing for its time. The most similar car with strong acceleration was the dearly departed Spark EV, although that was a smaller, less roomy car than the i3. Perhaps it has to do with the discharge rate limitations of the smaller battery packs?

    1. SparkEV says:

      SparkEV is actually 18.4 kWh, not even 20 kWh.

      It’s not only acceleration, but also of efficiency. While i3 and SparkEV are (were) top two in MPGe rating, others were lagging. That turns the conventional wisdom that eco cars must be slow. I think it’s just better engineering, though i3 did it with “exotic” and expensive materials while SparkEV did it with off-the-shelf to be almost half the price of i3.

      Part of the reason might be those other carmakers viewed EV as eco-cars that don’t need to be exciting, just like how Prius was so boring. But going forward, I hope they’re learning so that EV won’t mean boring.

      1. Warren says:

        Yes, I think the usable capacity on my 22kWh i3 was around 18.7 kWh, so very similar. The Spark and i3 definitely outperformed their peers in acceleration and efficiency. And in 2015 when the Spark lost some torque and battery capacity, it’s performance actually improved! Shows how clever engineering can produce impressive results rather than the “bigger is better” approach.

        I think if BMW comes out with a sport version of the i3 with wider tires, etc. The benefit of the lighter weight CFRP construction will finally become apparent when it comes to performance aspects.

        Beyond the 100+ mile range (mine often shows 120+ mile range), DCQC makes the car very practical. I mean to pick up 7kWh or 28 miles of charging in a Volt requires 2 hours vs 10 minutes in the i3 or Spark!

  5. X10 says:

    It’s a shame that in this comparison they do not take into account charging times, which basically is your 2nd most important answer to range anxiety. A ZOE is standard equipped with a 3-phase 400V AC charger, which allows you to go up to 22kW or even 43kW on AC charging stations.

    In Germany that means that on the average charging station on the steets, and near shopping malls etc, your ZOE is chargered in about 2 hours, the Bolt / Ampera will take on the same charger more than 6 hours..

    Quite an impact on the usage of your car…

  6. ian foster says:

    The reports just get worse just look at the price comparisons!

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