I drove the Tesla Model 3 and one of its biggest rivals, the Chevy Bolt - and the winner was clear
Mark Matousek/Business Insider
- I tested the Chevrolet Bolt EV for a weekend last year and drove the Tesla Model 3 in September of this year.
- I was impressed by both, but the Model 3 was the clear winner.
- The Model 3's driving dynamics and exterior design, combined with Tesla's Supercharger charging network, gave it an edge over the Bolt.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. You can ask for more secure methods of communication, like Signal or ProtonMail, by email or Twitter direct-message.
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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.
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.
I preferred the Bolt's regenerative braking.
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.
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.
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.
The Model 3 I drove had an all-black interior, which looked better than the two-tone interior in the Bolt I tested.
And the Model 3's seats were more comfortable.
Each vehicle's dashboard had an advantage over the other.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
But overall, while both are compelling options for electric-vehicle shoppers, the Model 3 has a clear edge.
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