2014 BMW i3 vs. Its Competition

2014 BMW i3 (German-market version), Amsterdam, Oct 2013
John Voelcker John Voelcker Senior Editor

Figuring out the competitors for the 2014 BMW i3 may be the toughest challenge face by buyers--and by BMW's own marketers.

The all-electric city car costs more than $40,000 and yet is shorter than any other five-door luxury car sold in the U.S.

Many buyers view it as similar to the Chevy Volt, when the i3 is fitted with its optional range-extending engine, but the Volt is far less radical in design, materials, or conception.

The highly lauded Tesla Model S may be the best electric car in the world, but it's a large luxury sedan with seats for five and ranges of more than 200 miles--not to mention a price roughly twice that of the electric BMW.

The Nissan Leaf is the best-selling electric car in the world, but it has nothing like the interior grace and clever details of the i3, nor is it remotely luxurious.

In some ways, the i3's closest functional competitor may be the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive, the battery-powered two-seat city car.

But the Smart is now aged, crude, and spartan against the wider, quicker, and far more pleasant i3.

Finally, there's the Lexus CT 200h, the smallest luxury hatchback sold today.

It uses gasoline, unlike all the others, but it delivers a genuine 40 miles per gallon and a healthy dose of luxury features--at a price somewhat lower than the plug-in BMW i3.

2014 BMW i3 (German-market version), Amsterdam, Oct 20132014 BMW i3Browse Used Listings2014 Chevrolet Volt2014 Chevrolet VoltBrowse Used Listings2014 Lexus CT 200h2014 Lexus CT 200hBrowse Used Listings2014 Nissan Leaf2014 Nissan LeafBrowse Used Listings2014 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive2014 smart fortwoBrowse Used Listings2014 Tesla Model S2014 Tesla Model SBrowse Used Listings
Quick Specs
7.4
The 2014 BMW i3 is a truly radical attempt to reinvent the car--and the BMW--for the crowded cities of a new century.
7.6
The 2014 Chevrolet Volt is one of the best plug-in vehicles on the market, and it costs $5,000 less than it did last year.
7.6
The 2014 Lexus CT 200h is still the only compact luxury hybrid hatchback--and it's a lot more fun to drive than you might imagine.
7.4
The 2014 Nissan Leaf is the world's most popular battery electric car, and the greenest--but it can take time to get used to real-world ranges of 60 to 90 miles.
6.0
The 2014 Smart ForTwo is now an old design, but it remains the easiest car to park in cities, and it's at its best in urban traffic; the electric model, new last year, is the nicest of the bunch, and now remarkably cheap.
8.6
Now in its third year, the 2014 Tesla Model S has no direct competitor. It remains the undisputed top choice in the growing world of plug-in electric cars, and there's a good case to be made that it's the most advanced car of any kind on the planet.
MSRP From     
$41,350$34,185$32,050$28,980$13,270$69,900
Gas Mileage     
35 MPG City / 40 MPG Hwy43 MPG City / 40 MPG Hwy34 MPG City / 38 MPG Hwy
Engine     
ElectricGas/Electric I4Gas/Electric I-4ElectricPremium Unleaded I-3Electric
EPA Class     
Subcompact CarsCompact CarsCompact CarsMid-Size CarsTwo-SeatersLarge Cars
Style Name     
4-Door HB5-Door HB5-Door Sedan Hybrid4-Door HB S2-Door Coupe Pure4-Door Sedan 60 kWh Battery
Drivetrain     
Rear Wheel DriveFront wheel driveFront Wheel DriveFront Wheel DriveRear Wheel DriveRear Wheel Drive
Passenger Capacity     
445525
Passenger Doors     
N/A4N/AN/AN/AN/A
Body Style     
HatchbackHatchbackHatchbackHatchbackCoupeSedan
Transmission     
AutomaticAutomaticCVT w/ODAutomaticAuto-Shift Manual w/ODAutomatic