Automotive

EV face-off: Tesla Model 3 vs. Chevrolet Bolt

EV face-off: Tesla Model 3 vs....
We compare the Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3
We compare the Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3
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The Bolt is unquestionably the more practical car
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The Bolt is unquestionably the more practical car
The Chevrolet Bolt has a 10.3-inch central touchscreen 
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The Chevrolet Bolt has a 10.3-inch central touchscreen 
The interior of the Bolt is far more conventional than that of the Model 3 
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The interior of the Bolt is far more conventional than that of the Model 3 
A trio of Chevrolet Bolts in the wild 
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A trio of Chevrolet Bolts in the wild 
The Chevrolet Bolt has a 200 mile range 
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The Chevrolet Bolt has a 200 mile range 
The Chevrolet Bolt at launch in Detroit 
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The Chevrolet Bolt at launch in Detroit 
The Bolt costs $37,500 in base trim 
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The Bolt costs $37,500 in base trim 
The grille-free nose of the Model 3 will turn some people off
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The grille-free nose of the Model 3 will turn some people off
The Model 3 is finally here, and it costs $35,000 
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The Model 3 is finally here, and it costs $35,000 
The Model 3 has a range of 220 mi in base trim 
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The Model 3 has a range of 220 mi in base trim 
The sloping roofline of the Tesla Model 3 makes it a less practical family car than the Bolt 
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The sloping roofline of the Tesla Model 3 makes it a less practical family car than the Bolt 
The interior of the Model 3 is pared back in the extreme 
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The interior of the Model 3 is pared back in the extreme 
Tesla has continued its focus on light, airy cabins with the Model 3's glass roof 
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Tesla has continued its focus on light, airy cabins with the Model 3's glass roof 
The air vents on the Model 3 are hidden
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The air vents on the Model 3 are hidden
The Model 3 has a huge backlog of orders 
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The Model 3 has a huge backlog of orders 
The Model 3 at its handoff party
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The Model 3 at its handoff party
The Model 3 delivers on Elon Musk's vision with a $35,000 starting price 
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The Model 3 delivers on Elon Musk's vision with a $35,000 starting price 
Autopilot is a Tesla strength 
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Autopilot is a Tesla strength 
The BMW 3 Series is similarly priced to a Model 3 
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The BMW 3 Series is similarly priced to a Model 3 
We compare the Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3
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We compare the Chevy Bolt and Tesla Model 3
View gallery - 20 images

The Tesla Model 3 launched with much fanfare during the week, but it isn't the only entry-level electric vehicle on the market. The Chevy Bolt, on the other hand, hasn't really elicited much excitement from the world – but it packs almost as much range and a price to match the Tesla. How do the two electric Americans compare?

Range

The grille-free nose of the Model 3 will turn some people off
The grille-free nose of the Model 3 will turn some people off

The biggest question about any EV is still how far it can go on a fully charged battery. The Bolt has a 60-kWh pack made up of 288 lithium-ion cells under the floor, good for 238 miles (383 km) on the EPA drive cycle. The car takes around half an hour to gain 90 mi (145 km) of range plugged into a DC fast charger.

Over at Tesla, the base Model 3 will cover 220 mi (354 km) in base trim, or 310 mi (499 km) with the US$9,000 Extended Range option selected. We'd love to share the battery capacity with you, but Tesla hasn't released details, instead preferring a simple results-based approach with the Model 3. We'll let you know how much the batteries hold when we do.

In base trim, the Tesla takes less than two hours to fully charge on a Supercharger, while range replenishes at around 30 mi (42 km) per hour when hooked up to a 240V home plug.

Performance

The Model 3 has a huge backlog of orders 
The Model 3 has a huge backlog of orders 

Neither car here will keep up with the quickest, Ludicrous Mode-equipped electric cars on the road, but Tesla has a clear edge in the acceleration stakes. The base Model 3 will hit 60 mph (97 km/h) in 5.6 seconds, while the Extended Range model drops that time to a hot hatch-scaring 5.1 seconds.

Chevrolet has called its EV the Bolt, but it isn't lightning quick. Although 6.5 seconds to 60 mph (97 km/h) isn't particularly slow, we'd suggest Chevy owners avoid the stoplight drags if a Model 3 pulls up alongside.

Practicality

The Bolt is unquestionably the more practical car
The Bolt is unquestionably the more practical car

The slightly boxier shape of the Chevrolet Bolt lends it a significant advantage over the Model 3 when it comes to space. Even though it doesn't have a Tesla-style front trunk (no, we're not calling it a frunk), the little Bolt has 16.9 cu.ft (479 l) of cargo space compared to the 14 cu.ft (396 l) on offer in the front and rear trunks of the Model 3.

The higher roofline in the Bolt should also lend it more rear headroom than the Tesla, which has a sloping glass roof like its bigger Model S and X brothers.

Semi-autonomous smarts

Autopilot is a Tesla strength 
Autopilot is a Tesla strength 

Tesla has made semi-autonomous driving a major focus over the past few years, so it shouldn't be surprising to hear the Model 3 is a much smarter beast than the Bolt – with the right options boxes ticked, that is.

Both cars come with auto-emergency braking and forward-collision warnings, but there's no option for semi-autonomous cruise control in the Bolt. Meanwhile, owners who pay an extra $5,000 when ordering their Model 3 will get Enhanced Autopilot, which is capable of taking care of steering, throttle and braking on the highway.

Connectivity

The interior of the Bolt is far more conventional than that of the Model 3 
The interior of the Bolt is far more conventional than that of the Model 3 

Both cars take very different approaches to in-cabin connectivity. Chevrolet has fitted the Bolt with a central 10.3-in touchscreen running MyLink software. It's compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and owners are able to remotely check their vehicle charge or activate the climate control using an app. Some people will be reassured by the fact it all looks relatively conventional, too.

Conventional isn't a word you could use to describe the Model 3. Forget familiar knobs and dials, everything on the Tesla is controlled through a 15-inch central touchscreen. Tesla builds its own software, so don't expect it to have Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, but owners will always have the latest software thanks to free over-the-air updates. The Tesla app can also be used to unlock the car, although the Chevy offers the same functionality.

Price

The Model 3 at its handoff party
The Model 3 at its handoff party

When Elon Musk announced the Model 3 back in 2014, he promised a $35,000 EV. Tesla has delivered, provided you don't tick any options boxes. Premium paint – any color other than black – costs an extra $1,000 and Advanced Autopilot is worth another $5,000. The Extended Range package will set you back another $9,000. Leather seats are part of a $5,000 pack, too.

Chevrolet sells the Bolt for $37,500 in base trim, or $41,780 in fancier Premier spec. Although it has a higher initial sticker price, there are far fewer expensive options on the Bolt. Fancy paint costs $395, while the full driver assistance suite and more luxurious interior packages add a combined $1,040. DC fast charging capability is an additional $750.

In other words, a fully optioned Bolt is going to be significantly cheaper than a heavily specced Model 3.

Other options

The BMW 3 Series is similarly priced to a Model 3 
The BMW 3 Series is similarly priced to a Model 3 

All this talk about specifications and options got us wondering what you could buy for roughly the same money as a Model 3 with the long-range battery. You can build a BMW 330i in Melbourne Red Metallic, with heated leather seats and a Driving Assistance Plus Package for $46,500 – less than a Model 3 with the long range battery and luxury interior options checked. It'll hit 60 mph in 5.5 seconds and has a range of, well, however far you can drive without getting tired. Gas stations are everywhere, remember?

If you're want a gas-powered luxury car for entry-level Model 3 money, Mercedes will sell you a CLA 250 in Jupiter Red (riding on 18-inch wheels, no less) with a full leather interior, keyless entry and the Driver Assistance Package for $39,145. A comparably specced Model 3 with heated leather seats is worth $40,000.

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18 comments
Hugh Kirk
For me there is no contest, it's the Tesla.
Tommo
No-brainer....Tesla all the way.
Bug S Bunny
I'm not sure I would call either of these cars "entry level" as the article states. Entry level would be the Nissan Leaf, Mitsu iMiEV, or Fiat 500e. As for the choice between these two, the Bolt is a no-brainer based on immediate availability, interior, price, dealer locations, and arrogance of Tesla owners/fans.
danielpf
A huge difference is missing, the Tesla Supercharger network allowing truly long distance trips.
Paddy2020
I have driven a Bolt. ---- loved it! Huge amounts of room, awesome acceleration and no noise. Quite an impressive vehicle. Good job GM ! That having been said I would not buy one. Electric vehicles, Bolt and Tesla 3 included, are too expensive. Wait until these Bolts go off-lease and you will be able to pick them up for half the cost or less.
DaveWesely
Not sure why Chevy gets all this attention when they won't even sell their car to the vast majority of Americans (only Pacific coast and NY)
Don Duncan
When I evaluate a BEV I want to know the two fundamentals first: 1. Drag. 2. Curb weight. These were not even mentioned. If the fundamentals are not first & foremost in design, then efficiency is sacrificed. Obviously customers are not demanding efficiency/value or some manufacturer would provide it. (Unless govt. is blocking that.) Or are BEVs just made for the wealthy who want to posture as eco friendly?
James Sullivan
Tesla with out a doubt. GM had the opportunity to change the way we drive and think about cars our environment but instead of being a leader they chose to destroy their EV program and crush all of those perfectly good EV cars. For that business decision alone I will never buy any GM products.
Joshua Tulberg
Chevy Spark EV and Nissan Leaf are still the best bang-for-buck EV's out there for anyone willing to admit a 100 mile range is plenty.
kevin98
This article doesn't even state the range of the Chevy Volt... How exactly is this even a comparison at that point? You're just talking about two electric cars.