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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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