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Published on April 30th, 2016 | by Cynthia Shahan


BMW Is A Thoughtful Automaker — Comparing BMW i3 With Nissan LEAF For A Second Time

April 30th, 2016 by  

“BMW is a thoughtful automaker,” Eric, my BMW i3 test driving companion, muses. Exceeding at thoughtfulness, I must agree, as I drive the BMW i3 one more time. This time, after months of driving a Nissan LEAF day after day, I test drive the BMW i3 fresh (not a bit car sick from test driving too many EVs in one day) and with plenty of EV driving experience.

The BMW i3 was an impressive experience on my first test drive. It was the most unusual new experience in driving to date for me.

Driving the BMW i3 was an exceptional experience the second time round — even after months of electric car driving with the Nissan LEAF under my skin. In adjectives, I think the first that come to mind for BMW i3 are unique, exciting, compelling. The first for Nissan LEAF is smooth, and oh, so quiet.


One of my sons and a BMW i3. Photo by Marika Shahan

To compare the Nissan LEAF with the BMW i3, I am still in love with the LEAF. However, the BMW i3 intrigues me as well, or more. It is a pleasant drive with more animated energy. BMW i3 drive has some high points. (Mentioned by an earlier EV Obsession post comparing the i3 and the Tesla Model S.) It …

  • is the greenest car on the market
  • is the most efficient car on the market
  • is a subcompact car
  • has stronger regenerative braking

The finesse of the LEAF and the BMW i3 compare well. I found the LEAF smoother initially — in the first test drives months back. The reason may be I was in the back seat of the BMW i3 in the first round of test drives … and the drivers were exploring the torque. The BMW is so lightweight and so quick that it did not seem as grounded from the backseat (as the LEAF). I felt a bit too air bound at times. Months back, the LEAF seemed smoother — perhaps because the drivers were not as speedy in the LEAF. As I drove the i3 the 2nd time, the airborne feeling was delicious and smoother by comparison.


Why should the BMW i3 not be lightly and feel air bound? One of the BMW i3’s notable strengths is the light quality of the “green” materials.

Those of us who enjoy the i3 often like the recycled look of the dash. The interior seems fresher due to this — as the car is the “greenest” car on the market (by more than one account). As a side note related to this, I hope one day the EVs we drive, and the computers and phones we use, will also be labeled FairTrade. When I buy “green,” I hope that means FairTrade labor as well.

The regenerative braking in the BMW i3 is seamless as a tool. Once the foot is off the acceleration, the braking takes place. The driver has no need to even put the foot on the brake. The BMW i3 brakes automatically if not accelerating. The drive is smooth and only requires confidence and a little bit of practice — the finesse arrived with a little more experience of that lightweight, amazing EV this time round, partly because I am accustomed more to the electric drive in general.

The gas backup with the BMW i3 REx makes almost all travel possible — long distances without worry of running out of range, as in the LEAF. What I love about the LEAF, though, is that there is no gas ever. However, distance traveling is not easily done. If traveling longer distances, the LEAF is time consuming, as relatively slow recharging is necessary intermittently. And unlike Norway, we do not have plentiful fast chargers in the US — yet.

Space is a bit less in the i3 than in the LEAF — it clearly has a smaller interior. The cab of the Nissan LEAF, the back seat, and the luggage area all seem to have more give than the BMW i3.

I cringe with cars that have smaller windows, and are low to the ground. The views in both the LEAF and the BMW i3 are equally good, some of the best I’ve experience in a car. Perhaps the BMW i3 is a bit better. Still, the LEAF is excellent. Full, large, spacious windows in the BMW i3 complement the stylistic modern EV. I need to test drive a Tesla again. It was the windows of the LEAF and BMW i3 that struck me as superior to the Model S the day I drove all three EVs.

After the recent test drive in the BMW i3, Eric and I went for a whirl in the BMW i8. It was great fun. A sporty EV lower to the ground and with radical doors, and luxurious, comfortable passenger seats that were securely smooth as we went zooming from 0 to high speeds in a flash. An EV for racing as well — no doubt.

BMW i8 Blue 17

Would I drive a BMW i3 and remain satisfied after the wonderful experiences I’ve had with Nissan LEAF. Absolutely.

The original test drive (not this recent one):

Related Stories:

BMW i8 Review (Exclusive)

BMW i3 Owner Review 

Tesla Model S vs BMW i3 — Chapter 3



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About the Author

Cynthia Shahan started writing after previously doing research and publishing work on natural birth practices. (Several unrelated publications) She is a licensed health care provider. She studied and practiced both Waldorf education, and Montessori education, mother of four unconditionally loving spirits, teachers, and environmentally conscious beings born with spiritual insights and ethics beyond this world. (She was able to advance more in this way led by her children.)

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