The Definitive Comparison Between BMW i3 and Tesla Model 3

As battery technology improves, EV makers are introducing more range into their EVs. And the Tesla Model 3 and BMW 3 are no exceptions to the rule.

Both EVs offer advanced capabilities, tech, and better range. So there are good reasons to believe that either is good for you. Let’s take a look at how they stack up against each other.

A Quick Look at the BMW i3

  • The BMW i3 is regarded as one of the best small premium EVs. It features a standout design, both exterior and interior.
  • It appears cleverly made by experienced engineers. With that said, the i3 feels a bit more jittery at driving.
  • But these aspects can be overlooked because the i3 does everything else so well. It is built around a carbon monocoque. This was not cheap for BMW at the time.
  • Its early versions came with a battery pack of 33.2 kWh. BMW has since upgraded this to 42.2 kWh.
  • This may not be massive by any standard, but it does increase the range. On a full charge, the i3 should be able to cover 180 miles.
  • The 170bhp i3 is incredibly fast and can achieve 62 mph in 7.3 seconds. The faster i3S with a horsepower of 184bhp can do this in 6.9 seconds.
  • The i3S also underwent a more aesthetic overhaul. It comes with a black roof swatch, and upgraded bumpers.
  • Other upgrades include 20-inch wheels, and 40mm wider track. It also comes advanced features.
  • The biggest of these is Dynamic Traction Control (DTC). According to BMW, DTC allows for ‘controlled drifts’ and enhances ‘agility.
  • Thanks to strong performance, nimble handling, and responsive steering, it feels engaging and sporty. The all-season tires aren’t the grippiest, but they get the job done.
  • The i3 provides an impressive driving experience compared to most non-luxury EVs. Its interior design feels modern, upscale, and chic.
Comparison Between BMW i3 and Tesla Model 3

A Quick Look at the Tesla Model 3

  • Tesla really doesn’t need an introduction and has always been in the news. The Model 3 is a high-tech EV with a long-range and outstanding performance.
  • It features lightning-quick acceleration, flashy aesthetics, and powerful motors. The rear-wheel-drive model sprints to 60mph in just 5.1 seconds.
  • The Model 3 strategically places the battery under its floor. This allows the car to lower its center of gravity.
  • Thanks to these design choices, the EV offers superior performance. The steering feels well adjusted and accurate.
  • Motorists can choose from three levels of steering effort. The ride is firm and doesn’t make any noise. You do hear the tires squealing in the cabin as they ride over the pavement.
  • The base model has a range of a whopping 272 miles. This is at least 100 miles over that of the i3.
  • The Long Range version has an estimated 315 miles of range. And if you go even higher, the Performance version boasts 358 miles.
  • Now that we have given a brief overview of the two EVs let’s compare them.
Comparison BMW i3 and Tesla Model 3


  • The i3 delivers superior acceleration and instant torque. However, it does not have much in the way of horsepower.
  • This means it can push less weight. You’ll have a harder time hauling trailers and RVs. The wheelbase at 101.2” feels extremely responsive when you turn the car.
  • The i3 makes driving feel fun and easy. Combined with the acceleration, the i3 is a charm to drive.
  • The Model 3 also comes with near-instantaneous acceleration. Your mind will have a hard time adjusting to the massive acceleration.
  • It remains remarkably agile at such high speeds. It’s easy to see why so many motorists have placed an order for a Model 3.
  • This isn’t to say that the Model 3 is perfect. The ride does feel very choppy and stiff. Some motorists claim that the rear seat is too low and uncomfortable.
  • However, much of the data shows that Model 3 drivers are extremely happy. In fact, Model 3 drivers are some of the most satisfied car owners ever.
  • This round is a tie between the i3 and the Model 3.

Also read: Are Electric Car Batteries Bad for the Environment?

Highway Driving

  • As mentioned earlier, the i3 does have a smaller battery pack. This means it is more likely to run out of charge on long drives.
  • The Model 3, on the other hand, offers a whopping 272 miles per charge. All this range makes you feel at ease as you drive on the highways.
  • The i3 shows its limits when it reaches higher speeds on the highway. Ride comfort for the i3 feels a little off.
  • The coefficient of drag on the i3 is inferior to the Model 3. The i3 has a coefficient of drag of 0.32.
Coefficient of DragElectric Vehicle
0.32Tesla Model 3
0.23BMW i3
  • This is a big difference that you will notice at high speeds. It’s when the wind resistance will start to slow the i3 down.
  • The Model 3, on the other hand, cuts through the wind. It offers a superior coefficient of drag that makes the ride comfortable at high speeds.
  • Low coefficient of drag isn’t just good for ride quality. It also improves the performance of the wheel in terms of energy efficiency.
  • Low wind resistance makes electric cars in California more efficient.
  • You are more likely to reach top speeds on the Model 3 than the i3. The Model 3 will retain more of its battery than the i3 at similar speeds.
  • This round goes to the Model 3.


  • The i3 has a range of 120 miles to 180 miles. The extra range depends on the battery pack used.
  • As mentioned earlier, BMW upgraded the battery pack of the i3. This ensures that the i3 is more competitive with other EVs in its range.
  • The Model 3 takes an entirely different approach. Tesla’s aggressive approach to securing the supply chain of lithium seems to be paying off.
  • The base version of the Model 3 can go up to 272 miles. More expensive versions can go even higher. For perspective, the Performance version can go up to 358 miles.
  • This represents a world of difference between the Model 3 and the i3. This section won’t be complete without mentioning charging.
  • Charging time for the Model 3 are as follows:
Charging Method (20% to 80%)Charging StationsTimeRange in miles
50kWPublic Location40 to 60 minutes96 miles to 113 miles
150kWPublic Locations20 minutes288 miles to 339 miles
  • You can use a Tesla Supercharger to add 200 miles in 15 minutes.
  • Charging times for the BMW i3 are as follows:
50 kW22 kW7 kW3 kW
0% to 80%0% to 100%0% to 100%0% to 100%
35 minutes3 hours5 hours11 hours
  • All BMW i3 EVs come with an 1 kW on-board charger for AC charging. They also come with a Rapid 50 kW DC charging option.
  • Both options are ideal for motorists. Using a domestic wall socket, it can take 20 hours to charge the i3 fully. The Model 3 can fully charge using a wall connector in 8 hours.
  • The Model 3 has access to an extensive network of Superchargers, unlike the BMW i3. And no, the i3 cannot charge at Tesla Superchargers.
  • Tesla’s biggest strength in the EV market is its superior infrastructure of chargers. There is no other car maker that comes close to Tesla’s Supercharger network.
  • This may soon change as Tesla allows non-Teslas to use their superchargers.
  • At the time of writing, however, this is currently not possible. The Model 3 has a massive range and superior charging capabilities.
  • This round easily goes to the Model 3.


  • The i3 has inferior aerodynamics compared to the Model 3. The ride starts to feel a little rough at 70 mph and above. Driving against high speed can feel incredibly difficult.
  • The Model 3 is highly efficient with superior aerodynamics. This makes the Model 3 one of the most roadworthy cars in the world.
  • Managing drag is a key factor in reducing the EV’s energy consumption. This allows Tesla to travel more on a single battery charge.
  • This also reduces the environmental energy impact of the EV and energy costs for charging.
  • The aerodynamics of the Model 3 can be improved even further. You can commission an expert to develop aftermarket parts.
  • This can reduce the drag coefficient further and save you money. It is worth mentioning that the Model 3 comes with an add-on front spoiler.
  • This can further lower the coefficient of drag. However, it is unclear exactly how much energy savings you get from aftermarket products.
  • For now, this section is only concerned with factory-installed parts. This round also goes to the Model 3 due to its superior aerodynamic model.
Comparison BMW i3 Tesla Model 3

Active Cruise Control

  • The i3 has one rearview mirror camera for active cruise control. It does a fairly decent job. You can activate ACC by pressing assisted drive button on the steering wheel.
  • ACC works best at about 20mph to 30mphj. The i3S covers acceleration over 30 mph.
  • However, there is no driver assist or lane departure warning. The i3 does not come with a blind spot warning camera.
  • The Model 3 is equipped with adaptive cruise control. This means that the car can detect its surroundings. The Model 3 can accelerate and decelerate to maintain safer distances.
  • You can engage cruise control by pressing on the right stalk while in drive.
  • This round is a tie between the Model 3 and BMW i3.

Click here: How Long Can an Electric Car Idle With AC On?


  • The i3 has support for up to four people in its roomy cabin. It features heated front seats and cloth upholstery.
  • Motorists can upgrade to genuine leather upholstery for a more premium experience. The seats feel comfortable enough for passengers. The legroom in the rear seating may feel a bit lagging.
  • The Model 3 provides 15 cubic feet of space. The majority of the space is found in the rear trunk. Up to five people can sit inside the Model 3.
  • The Model 3 provides more cargo space than most cars in its class. Tesla announced that the interior is made using 100% leather-free upholstery.
  • Based on seating and cargo spacing, this round goes to the Tesla Model 3.


This is one area where Tesla blows the competition out of the water. Motorists can engage Autopilot by moving the gear level twice downwards quickly.

The Autopilot system on the Model 3 consists of the following:

  • Emergency braking
  • Blind-spot monitoring
  • Lane-keeping assistance
  • Adaptive cruise control

The EV can stay in its lane on the motorway. It can also adjust its speed to match the car in front. This ensures that the car can avoid a collision.

Autopilot uses up to eight cameras, radar, and 12 ultrasonic sensors. This makes the car hyper-aware of its surroundings.

As for the BMW i3, it simply doesn’t have any feature that even comes close. It is equipped with just a single camera. That isn’t enough to enable autopilot.

The round goes to the Model 3 with no competition from the i3.

Build Quality

BMW has been in the market longer than Tesla. They have experience on their side. It is no surprise that the i3 has superior build quality than the Model 3.

It is lightweight and makes good use of the battery pack.

Tesla’s Model 3 has had quite a few issues with the build quality. It has been likened to a 90’s Kia with gaps in the panel.

The Model 3 has also been reported to have quality control issues. Other complaints include:

  • Poorly fitted trims
  • Poor paintwork
  • Mechanical failure of parts
  • Bugs and glitches

With that said, the build quality of Tesla Model 3s has improved. This round goes to the BMW i3.

You may be getting a slower car with the i3, but at least it’s reliable.

Comparison between BMW i3 Tesla Model 3

Wrapping Up

So there you have it, a comparison between the Model 3 and BMW i3. Both electric cars in California have their pros and cons.

Prices for both cars are very similar at around $40,000-$50,000. If you want more range, go with the Model 3. But if you value build quality over everything else, choose the i3.

Let us know which electric car you believe is superior.

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