I drove the Tesla Model 3 and one of its biggest rivals, the Chevy Bolt - and the winner was clear

Tesla Model 3

Mark Matousek/Business Insider

The Tesla Model 3 Long Range I rented from the car-sharing app, Turo.

The Tesla Model 3 sedan and Chevrolet Bolt EV hatchback are two of the best-selling electric vehicles in the US. (It's a small market, but the Model 3 is the top seller by far.) And since the Bolt debuted at the end of 2016, they've been pitted against each other.

General Motors surprised observers by releasing a mass-market EV before Tesla, and the Bolt's positive reviews indicated that it was much more than a public-relations stunt. The Model 3's debut was marred by production difficulties, but it also received significant praise and generated massive sales for an electric vehicle.Advertisement

I tested the Bolt for a weekend last year and drove the Model 3 in September of this year. I was impressed by both, but the Model 3 was the clear winner.

Here's how they stacked up.

Are you a current or former Tesla employee? Do you have an opinion about what it's like to work there? Contact this reporter at mmatousek@businessinsider.com. You can ask for more secure methods of communication, like Signal or ProtonMail, by email or Twitter direct-message.
Advertisement

Get the latest Tesla stock price here.

{{}}

The Chevrolet Bolt EV I tested cost $43,905.

The Chevrolet Bolt EV I tested cost $43,905.

I rented the long-range, all-wheel-drive Model 3 I drove from the car-sharing app Turo, so I didn't know its exact price. But based on the features that were included, the vehicle would likely cost around $50,000 brand new.

I rented the long-range, all-wheel-drive Model 3 I drove from the car-sharing app Turo, so I didn't know its exact price. But based on the features that were included, the vehicle would likely cost around $50,000 brand new.
Advertisement

Both cars are quick and have good handling, but the Model 3 has a significant edge in terms of driving dynamics.

Both cars are quick and have good handling, but the Model 3 has a significant edge in terms of driving dynamics.

The long-range, all-wheel-drive Model 3 is the second-"slowest" vehicle trim Tesla sells, but the acceleration was quicker than I'd experienced in any other vehicle.

The long-range, all-wheel-drive Model 3 is the second-"slowest" vehicle trim Tesla sells, but the acceleration was quicker than I'd experienced in any other vehicle.

And the Model 3's steering was exceptionally precise, so much so that I almost didn't feel the sensation of centrifugal force (the feeling that I'm being pushed to the left if I'm turning right, for example) when turning.

Advertisement

I preferred the Bolt's regenerative braking.

I preferred the Bolt's regenerative braking.

Regenerative braking slows the speed of an electric vehicle when you take your foot off the accelerator and uses energy that would be lost in a gas-powered car to recharge its battery.

The Bolt's most aggressive regenerative-braking setting can bring the vehicle to a complete stop, at times eliminating the need to use the brake pedal.

The Bolt's most aggressive regenerative-braking setting can bring the vehicle to a complete stop, at times eliminating the need to use the brake pedal.

Read more: Former Tesla employees reveal what it's like to work with Elon Musk

Advertisement

Regenerative braking can bring the Model 3 close to fully-stopped, but you still need to use the brake pedal.

Regenerative braking can bring the Model 3 close to fully-stopped, but you still need to use the brake pedal.

Built-in navigation gave the Model 3's infotainment system an edge over the Bolt's.

Built-in navigation gave the Model 3's infotainment system an edge over the Bolt's.
Advertisement

Tesla's Autopilot driver-assistance system, which allows the vehicle to control steering, acceleration, and braking in some circumstances, wasn't perfect, but it did have one feature I wish the Bolt had.

Tesla's Autopilot driver-assistance system, which allows the vehicle to control steering, acceleration, and braking in some circumstances, wasn't perfect, but it did have one feature I wish the Bolt had.

Adaptive cruise control, which controls the car's speed and keeps it at a set distance behind the vehicle in front of it, didn't work flawlessly in light traffic on the highway, but when traffic slowed to a crawl, its value became clear. Not having to constantly brake and accelerate the Model 3 myself removed much of the stress I would normally have felt in that situation.

The Model 3 I drove had an all-black interior, which looked better than the two-tone interior in the Bolt I tested.

The Model 3 I drove had an all-black interior, which looked better than the two-tone interior in the Bolt I tested.

See also: Apply here to attend IGNITION: Transportation, an event focused on the future of transportation, in San Francisco on October 22

Advertisement

And the Model 3's seats were more comfortable.

And the Model 3's seats were more comfortable.

Each vehicle's dashboard had an advantage over the other.

Each vehicle's dashboard had an advantage over the other.

From a design perspective, I preferred the clean, spartan look of the Model 3's dashboard, which eliminates most buttons, knobs, and a traditional instrument cluster in favor of a 15-inch touchscreen.

Advertisement

But by placing a digital instrument cluster behind the steering wheel, the Bolt makes it easier to monitor its speed and battery life.

But by placing a digital instrument cluster behind the steering wheel, the Bolt makes it easier to monitor its speed and battery life.

The Model 3 has a big edge in exterior design.

The Model 3 has a big edge in exterior design.
Advertisement

The vehicle's sleek proportions and contour lines make it look better than most luxury sedans.

The vehicle's sleek proportions and contour lines make it look better than most luxury sedans.

The Model 3's biggest advantage comes in the ease of finding and using charging stations.

The Model 3's biggest advantage comes in the ease of finding and using charging stations.
Advertisement

Tesla's Supercharger stations were easy to find using the Model 3's navigation system.

Tesla's Supercharger stations were easy to find using the Model 3's navigation system.

I could immediately determine how many spots were open at a station before driving to it.

I could immediately determine how many spots were open at a station before driving to it.
Advertisement

The station I chose was tucked into the corner of a strip mall parking lot, but the distinctive appearance of Tesla's charging stalls made them easy to spot.

The station I chose was tucked into the corner of a strip mall parking lot, but the distinctive appearance of Tesla's charging stalls made them easy to spot.

With the Bolt, finding a charging station was very difficult.

With the Bolt, finding a charging station was very difficult.
Advertisement

Four of the five charging stations I navigated to weren't visible from the street. I wasn't able to find the first two. The third, pictured above, was down for maintenance, and the fourth was occupied.

Four of the five charging stations I navigated to weren't visible from the street. I wasn't able to find the first two. The third, pictured above, was down for maintenance, and the fourth was occupied.

It took about two hours to find a charging station that worked and had an opening.

It took about two hours to find a charging station that worked and had an opening.
Advertisement

While the Model 3 is better in most respects, the Bolt is better-suited for city driving.

While the Model 3 is better in most respects, the Bolt is better-suited for city driving.

Its more-aggressive regenerative braking makes it easier to navigate heavy traffic on city streets.

Its more-aggressive regenerative braking makes it easier to navigate heavy traffic on city streets.
Advertisement

And its smaller size makes it easier to park.

And its smaller size makes it easier to park.

Much of the Model 3's appeal comes from the driving experience, which can't be fully appreciated unless you can take it on the highway or on open, winding roads.

Much of the Model 3's appeal comes from the driving experience, which can't be fully appreciated unless you can take it on the highway or on open, winding roads.
Advertisement