Comparison: Tesla Model 3 vs BMW i3s – Video


An unlikely comparison, perhaps.

Our friend Chuck Vossler over at BMWBLOG made a compelling video comparing the BMW i3s to a Tesla Model 3 Long Range.

Chuck is an experienced EV driver, having owned a 2014 BMW i3 REx, which he replaced with a 2018 BMW i3s in January of this year. He also owns a Tesla Model S, which he’ll soon be replacing with a white Tesla Model 3 Performance.

Having owned both, Chuck knows the BMW i3 and Tesla vehicles very well, so his comparison video comes from experience, not just quick test drives as most other reviews stem from.

We think he put together a comparison video worth watching here, and even declared a winner. But since this is a BMWBLOG video, and BMW has the home field advantage, could he have possibly picked the i3s over the Model 3?

You’ll have to watch the video to find out.

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60 Comments on "Comparison: Tesla Model 3 vs BMW i3s – Video"

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This is like comparing a GOLF CART 0r a little Kid’s Toy car to e real car . Silly , Silly , Silly , Silliest ! ……rotf …lmao….

@iamta said: “This is like comparing a GOLF CART 0r a little Kid’s Toy car to e real car…”

That’s harsh… BMW i3s a toy car?

Harsh, dude.

But so true.

While I wouldn’t call the i3 a toy car, it is basically a city car. A really really expensive one.

It’s like a spendy Bolt.

The pure BEV version is a city car, but the European version REX is much more than a city car, especially the 94. For the European market it is much more than just a city car.

For the North American market the REX just needs to be coded, and for the East Coast or West Coast it is more than a city car. Maybe not for the entire country, but for the largest population areas up and down the left and right coast it works.

Sorry too Harsh ….Got carried away …

Thanks for reeling it back in!! Much appreciated!

Meh…that’s overly harsh. The i3 is a bit of a weirdmobile but it has played a good role in the expansion of the EV market.

Definitely. No question it was out there and visible nationwide, as only a handful of plug in vehicles were the greater part in this decade.

BMW has a problem, a true BMW enthusiast says Model 3 is better. As a Tesla owner, I could quibble that he was favoring BMW in several shots (e.g. The Tesla rear trunk shot did not even show the trunk below the trunk), but It comes down to BMW said there must be compromises, Tesla makes a no compromises car, suddenly BMW compromises become weaknesses.

My bet is BMW sales are down 20% next year.

Most think that there are or should be compromises with EV’s…But., As Elon Musk said in the Very Beginning , there will be No Compromises with EV’s , in fact EV’s will do everything better ICE cars , & It’s true ! .. I Agree Totally , “Compromise Is Weakness”.

IMO, the current mindset of legacy automakers is to adapt an existing ICE design to either BEV or plug in hybrid. To accomplish this feat equates to a long list of compromises. Seems the only clean sheet of paper comes on a roll and is in the restrooms.

In fairness to BMW their i3 was a clean sheet BEV. Like Popeye, it is what it is, and it will not be able to compete with BEVs like Tesla Model 3 and a “bevy” of vaporware in the works.

Compromise is not weakness. This country was born out of compromise

Do “My way or the highway” isn’t American?

More my car is better than your car mentality above, why can’t you accept these are two different cars for different customer bases. The i3 is basically designed for the European environment and has proven to be a successful format. I would hate to see one car for all as some Tesla lovers seem to suggest. One car cannot satisfy all and there is no such animal as a no compromise car!

BMW *sedan* sales will be way down. BMW will still do well in the SUV/CUV market….for now. But the Model Y is on the way. BMW…and all the ICE automakers frankly, better get their EV plans firmed up quickly. The Model 3 truly has been a game changer…at least for the sports sedan market.

The Model 3 has not (and may not) affect the lower price broader market though. :-/

The Model 3 is a “no compromises car”?


Less compromised than other EVs, maybe. But nowhere near “no compromises”.

The trunk is a compromise because a hatch like the S would have caused the hinge to intrude on rear-passenger head room. This is straight from Elon himself.

The brakes are compromised for EV use case resulting in them being completely trashed after a few laps on a track where other vehicles like a 10-year-old 3-series put up much better lap times without such issues.

The interior was a compromise to save money.

Again, it may be less compromised than other vehicles, but it’s nowhere near a “no compromises car.”

It feels like the BMW i3s is bringing a knife to a gun fight to me. For some the fact that it is a smaller car will be a big draw but otherwise it seems hopelessly outgunned, at least if they really try and sell it at MSRP.

We had two 2014 i3s and now an S and a 3. In many ways the i3 is more versatile than the Model 3. The interior doesn’t feel smaller and the higher seating position actually has better visibility especially while looking through the rear view mirror. The i3 also has better cargo hauling ability than the Model 3 due to the larger opening hatch and higher floor. We don’t have to bend down as much to load things in the i3.

Back in 2014 when we got our i3, the S didn’t even have autopilot hardware and the software wasn’t even activated until a year later. I’m glad I leased our i3s though since EVs are innovating at a very fast rate. The economics and compromises that i3 had to make are very different now than 7 years ago when they were developing the car.

Thanks for sharing your experience with the i3. I’ve wondered what the general consensus was on them. They seem like they could be a very compelling first EV, when bought used. Depreciation hasn’t been kind to them, but that makes it all the better deal for the next buyer. I was looking around this morning, and it seems like there’s a few REX ones out there around the $15k USD mark. Still higher than a used Volt, but given the difference in starting price, that shouldn’t be surprising. Even with the smaller battery pack, the REX version could still be quite a fun little car.

My i3 Rex bought at reduced price with only 2900 miles on it has replaced a two year Volt ownership. The i3 has proven to be a lot [more] than a “fun little car”. The i3 is “more” maneuverable with tighter turn circle, “more” agile on winding roads and in congested city traffic plus has easier ingress and egress, easier loading plus the height allows “more” visibility past other vehicles. These attributes alone are something a lower traditional design cannot match making the i3 a “more” user friendly device than a Tesla. I like the Tesla model 3 for what it is but the basic passenger configuration of sitting low within the wheelbase limits its appeal and is at odds with todays ergonomic trend of making the whole package user friendly. The touch screen, which I also like for its electronic integration of all functions eliminating various mechanical controls, turns out to be totally impractical in some driving scenarios so this is yet another compromise. The i3 centrally place mouse dial is a better idea for selecting and implementing screen functions while navigating difficult roads, Not all users are travelling a billiard smooth interstate system with no other cars for… Read more »

Let’s fair now…the BMW i3 came out in 2013. You are comparing a 5 year old first generation EV to the new Model 3.

Yes, the i3 is obsolete now. But it still has merits.

I think the i3 could still carve off a nice little niche for itself as a 2nd car / city car at the right price. Smaller more space efficient cars have their attraction. It becomes problematic when the i3/i3S goes head to head with the model 3 on price.

— Open Letter—

Dear BMW Senior Executives,

Close your eyes and imagine Tesla Model 3P having a BMW badge on it with perhaps interior slightly more traditional BMWish (add a few knobs & dials)… also with access to a fast charge network for those occasional long distance trips.

That’s what BMW needs in production *today* to retain its young professional customer base.

If you are having a hard time imagining that because you have not yourself spent time driving a Tesla Model 3 then shame on you… get yourself in one… not just a short test drive but take a long family trip in one then do same with i3s… ask yourself which car better served the BMW “driving experience”.

If you have not figured it out yet please be informed that Tesla has *completely* disrupted the perception of young professional BMW status bling… that now belongs to Tesla… Best of luck earning that back.

It serves BMW no benefit for allowing itself to be in denial of the gravity of its current situation… the could-have & would-have that certainly have started to gather need to be taken forward as an action plan with great sense of urgency.

Yep. I’ve long been a fan of BMW and have owned 3 in my life (2 were i3) and this is pretty much how I feel too. Tesla has almost completely replaced BMW when I think about high-tech, fun to drive cars.

And I really do like my i3. It’s just too full of major compromises that Tesla doesn’t share.

That will be next gen 3series

From your mouth to God’s ears…

Or perhaps to BMW management’s ears.

Time for the legacy OEMs to stop playing games with $80,000 tall station wagon boutique cars with seating for five sold in yearly batches akin to Rolexs.

You want vestigial knobs and dials? Maybe they should install a vestigial grill and tail pipe as well.

@Michael said: “You want vestigial knobs and dials?”

Nope… I prefer the Tesla Model 3 minimalist approach but I recognize its a radical design approach… big break from tradition. BMW likely needs to keep some knobs and dials as a comfort security blanket.

Really was an outstanding video. Worth the watch. Thanks for posting Tom.

I thought they were going to phase that thing out, the i3, and make a real ev, but maybe that was just what I considered they needed to do, post haste, six months ago.

One thing to keep in mind the Model 3 LR Performance (widely available in 2018) is also four years newer design than the i3 (available 2014) – however this doesn’t really excuse BMW on why they won’t have a viable contender until 2021 with the i4/vision/i-next – I was thinking they would at least have a somewhat on par (to the model 3) serial hybrid 3 series by now….

On that note – I don’t think anyone is buying/leasing a new i3 without atleast 17-23K in incentives (10K manufactuer’s incentive + local/state incentives + 7,500 tax credit) – so really comparing 56K Model 3 (including 7500 incentive on the Performance package so you can get it before the tax credit runs out) against a 30-32K i3….still getting a better value (if you have the funds and can wait 2 months) with the model 3 – dual motor and more than double the range…the only con being having a steel frame vs aluminum and carbon fiber that doesn’t rust (big selling point to me – in a coastal area that rusts out steel relatively quickly) ….and I suppose the overall form factor of sedan vs hatchback….

Also living in a humid, salty coastal area, I won’t buy another steel chassis vehicle like the Model 3. The Model 3 is way too heavy and long for me. I much prefer a compact hatchback with higher seating and better visibility. I also don’t want to buy a front wheel drive vehicle and don’t need four wheel drive living where the temperature never approaches freezing.

So despite having purchased nothing but EV’s since 2012, I never considered the Model 3. If Tesla ever makes the $25k vehicle that Musk has mentioned which might imply a compact hatchback, I would be more interested although it would almost certainly have a steel chassis.

If there is no other compact rear wheel drive hatchback EV with an aluminum or CFRP chassis available during the final i3 model year, I will consider buying the final i3 version to replace our 2014 i3 BEV. My ideal EV would be an i3 with Tesla software and tech.

The new Leaf would have been a better comparison with the I3.

But, not it’s suspension and ergonomics.

@P Roppo said: “The new Leaf would have been a better comparison with the I3.”

Perhaps but BMW is loosing BMW customer base to Tesls Model 3 not to Nissan Leaf.

often one does not know what one is missing missing out on until opportunity to experience the alternative option… as demonstrated in the above article video.

Problem for BMW is that Tesla Model 3 offers opportunity for BMW customers to compare what BMW is offering vs Tesla… not only for BMW i3 but also BMW ICE series.

Many BMW customers are realizing that Tesla Model 3 represents that car they wish BMW had to offer so they are now having to make a choice of keeping loyal to BMW or jumping over to Tesla… many are jumping.

BMW is a great brand with a solid history of making excellent cars that earned BMW a solid loyal customer base… but loyalty is rarely absolute.

Well said!!

I would love to see the i3 REX drivetrain with the 2019 120Ah battery in the Active-E shell. I don’t care if they make it out of carbon or steel/aluminum mix. REX under the hood, and the battery in the floor, RWD or AWD.

I don’t think that would pencil out well.

The architecture underneath that car was designed for a transmission and driveshaft tunnel, a gas tank and front mounted ICE.

Jamming that much battery pack inside would mean no back seat! Where would the REX go? The i3 was proprietary- designed clean sheet to house power electronics and battery pack. The CFRP, ALUMINUM and plastic body panels work together in lightweighting which requires a smaller battery pack – saving cost + creating interior space.

BMW is drastically discounting i3 as it is. A 1,2 or 3 series-sized EV with room for 5 comfortably will require a plate, or skateboard assembly for battery cells, as all others have gravitated to. A major boo boo for Mercedes is still resisting a skateboard pack coupled to a rear motor and power unit. They said they designed EQ with motor in front so they can build it alongside gas models. Probably similar logic GM had in designing the Bolt.

These compromises result in niche vehicles purchased by few. Tesla has no such worries. They started with an empty factory floor and a clean sheet of paper.

I have a 14 i3 BEV and it’s my first EV. Picked it up cash for 15k with 24k miles. It’s the Tera loaded model. I can say it’s changed my outlook on cars. I will definitely keep the i3 as I think it will be a collector kinda like the Z8. I’m now getting a used X and that is going to be awesome. The i3 is a great car, range is short but I don’t need a bunch. At the end of the day the i3 is too expensive to buy new unless they bring forth 250+ miles.

As a BMW i3 owner, and former Tesla Model X owner their is one other big thing to consider between the Model 3, and i3. Tesla does not have enough service centers available. In my state there are only 4 Tesla service centers, compared to 32 BMW dealerships, all with service centers. People either have to drive ridiculous distances, or call for Tesla’s mobile ranger service, but because of the great distances the mobile ranger service is usually hard to reserve. For me servicing my Model X meant a 55 mile highway drive right into a major city. It was inconvenient, and you start ignoring little issues until you absolutely have to go. Servicing my i3 versus my Model X, my Model X went in for service issues 7 times in one year, my i3 (BEV), just 5 times in four years………

Point taken ….but how many BMWs are currently on your roads compared to Tesla? You can’t expect Tesla to match the service center numbers for x10 or more less cars. They keep adding as they go.

TESLA ALL DAY LONG !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My friend just got an i3. The nav to a charger or any place is not nice. One you pick for example the last place you charged. It will head there but not show the address or name of the place. Same with any location you enter. Finding places to charge was also not nice.

When we did a DC Fast charge it slowed way down from about 40 kW to only 5-or 10 kW after 80%. On a trip that would be frustrating. Needless to say I have a model 3 and it’s much much much better in many ways. American made too.

Learn to how use your NAV. Simply do a split screen and select arrow direction, it will show you the destination address & time to arrival. It will show you next direction and give you close up details when you get closer.

As for searching for a charger, again, go to POI, search in CAR POI, select charging stations. You can even select the level (1-2 or 3) and see if they are available if the service provider provides charging station status.

DCFC charging will be reduce past 70%-80%, but I typically recharge to 85% in less then 25 minutes.