2016 BMW i3 REx vs. 2017 Toyota Prius Prime
John Goreham's picture

2016 BMW i3 REx vs. 2017 Toyota Prius Prime – Which Suits Your Lifestyle?

We compare two electric vehicles that can continue on when their batteries are empty. Which would be best for you?

In the latest of our win-win comparisons, we pit the BMW i3REx (Range Extended) EV vs. the all-new 2017 Toyota Prius Prime Plug-in hybrid vehicle. Both have some amazing capabilities. Our recent i3 test vehicle was equipped the not just a range extender, but also its Tera World package. For the purposes of this story, we will use the most up-to-date prices and fuel economy facts and figures, so that the i3 has the best chance in its comparison of the new Prius Prime, which goes on sale in November.

BMW i3 vs. Toyota Prius Prime – Configuration
The four-passenger BMW i3 is a compact vehicle with two conventional front doors and “suicide” style rear doors. That means one must exit the front first to open those rear doors. Further limiting that space is the fact that the rear windows don’t go down. In back, space is tight, but up front, the i3 is very roomy and airy. The i3 has a small storage area up front where it charge cable can be stowed, but not much more. The i3 has a small cargo area, but given its mission, the cargo area is useful.
The four-passenger Prius Prime has a very similar design to the classic Prius, and its hatch-back cargo area will be familiar to those who have owned or seen a Prius. The Prius Prime has conventional rear doors.

BMW i3 vs. Prius Prime – EV Facts and Figures
The Prius Prime comes to market the most efficient vehicle in America with a 133 MPGe rating. The 2017 BMW i3 REx has a 111 MPGe rating. Both are fantastic by any measure of efficiency. The Prius Prime’s approximate miles of EV range can handle most commutes. Able to operate in EV mode up to 84 MPH, the Prime is a true EV during its battery range. After its battery is depleted, the Prius Prime operates as a 54 MPG combined hybrid vehicle. Total range is 640 miles without stopping for fuel or energy.

The BMW i3 is an EV with a battery range of 97 miles. Note that we are using the new, larger battery specs in this story. Our tester was the prior model year with just 76 miles range. Unlike the Prius Prime, the BMW i3 REx is not normally driven by owners while using the gasoline generator to power its battery pack. The idea when the i3 was designed was that this supplemental range was for unusual circumstances. Owners report reduced performance in some situations when using the range extender. Still, total range is 180 miles if the i3 is used to its full range potential. One important note regarding the BMW i3 REx is that it is not very fuel efficient in range extended mode. It only earns a 35 MPG rating when it is using its gasoline generator.

Infotainment – Prius Prime vs. BMW i3
Most buyers of these vehicles will opt for the optional infotainment systems. That means in the BMW a large screen oriented left to right on the dash with the familiar BMW MMI controller. Like many German luxury models a back-up camera is still optional, and it costs $1,000 to get it. Hard to believe. Nav is also optional, and it costs another $2,350.

The Prius Prime’s base model, called Plus, has a 7.2-inch screen and navigation and a back-up camera come standard on all Prius Prime model trims. Stepping up to the Premium or Advance trim adds a huge 11-inch center tablet for infotainment.

Toyota Prius Prime vs. BMW i3 REx Prices
The Toyota Prius Prime starts at $27,965, and the top trim costs $33,965. There are no options at extra cost. It is eligible for a $4,500 federal tax deduction, and in California, it has a $1,500 state rebate. The BMW i3 REx starts at $47,450. With a back-up camera and nav, out Tera World trim had a price of $51,795. Add in all the options and the price can top $54K. The BMW i3 REX is eligible for a $7,500 tax deduction and a $2,500 rebate in California. The Prius Prime comes with two years of included maintenance and the BMW i3 four years of included maintenance.

Toyota Prius Prime vs. BMW i3 REx – Safety
So far, IIHS has not tested either of these vehicles. However, the Prius hybrid has been, and it earned the Top Safety Pick Plus rating. In Euro NCAP testing the BMW i3 earned four stars, the previous generation Prius earned five stars. The Prius Prime comes standard with forward collision prevention and emergency auto-braking.

Conclusion
Price is a huge factor in this comparison. If we add in all the possible incentives and compare equally-equipped top trims of these vehicles, the BMW i3 REx has a cost of about $44,000. The Prius Prime has a cost of about $28,000. They are very similar in almost all ways we can think to compare them. We will afford the BMW i3 an edge in driving fun, though it is slight. Clearly, a customer who wants to drive almost entirely on a battery would prefer the BMW i3 REx, but both use some gasoline, and the Prius Prime is more energy efficient. This one seems like a winner is apparent, but we will let readers make the decision for themselves between these two very interesting green cars.


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Comments

When faced with a new, 2016 Prius and an end-of-lease BMW i3-REx, loaded for the same price, we went for the i3 and never looked back. The shape is similar to the Kia Soul or an oversized Scion xB. So far, 2-to-1 folks like it with the exception of raised pickup drivers (pot calling kettle ...) We've put 8,000 miles on it in four months with 2,000 miles highway. Of the 6,000 electric miles, about 1/3 have been at free chargers. Still haven't found any free gasoline. I am paying $.25 electricity at home for every 10 miles and have yet to run even close to out of charge. The Prius Prime sounds nice when it eventually gets here. But not nice enough to replace our i3. Bob Wilson
Great comparison Bob. Thanks for taking time to comment.