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

Mark Matousek/Business InsiderThe 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 have 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.

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 [email protected]. You can ask for more secure methods of communication, like Signal or ProtonMail, by email or Twitter direct-message.


The Chevrolet Bolt EV I tested cost $US43,905.

Mark Matousek / Business InsiderChevrolet Bolt EV.

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 $US50,000 brand new.

Mark Matousek/Business InsiderTesla Model 3.

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

Mark Matousek/Business InsiderTesla Model 3.

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.

Mark Matousek/Business InsiderTesla Model 3.

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.


I preferred the Bolt’s regenerative braking.

Mark Matousek / Business InsiderChevrolet Bolt EV.

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.

Mark Matousek / Business InsiderChevrolet Bolt EV.


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


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

Mark Matousek/Business InsiderTesla Model 3.

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

Mark Matousek/Business InsiderTesla Model 3.

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.

Mark Matousek/Business InsiderTesla Model 3.

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.

Mark Matousek / Business InsiderChevrolet Bolt EV.


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


And the Model 3’s seats were more comfortable.

Mark Matousek/Business InsiderTesla Model 3.

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

Mark Matousek/Business InsiderTesla Model 3.

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 favour of a 15-inch touchscreen.


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

Mark Matousek / Business InsiderChevrolet Bolt EV.

The Model 3 has a big edge in exterior design.

Hollis Johnson/Business InsiderTesla Model 3.

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

Hollis Johnson/Business InsiderTesla Model 3.

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

Mark Matousek/Business InsiderA Tesla Supercharger station.

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

Mark Matousek/Business InsiderTesla Model 3.

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

Mark Matousek/Business InsiderTesla Model 3.

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.

Mark Matousek/Business InsiderA Tesla Supercharger station.

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

Mark Matousek / Business InsiderA ChargePoint charging station.

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.

Mark Matousek / Business InsiderAn U-Go charging station.

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

Mark Matousek / Business InsiderA ChargePoint charging station.

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

Mark Matousek / Business InsiderChevrolet Bolt EV.

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

Mark Matousek / Business InsiderChevrolet Bolt EV.

And its smaller size makes it easier to park.

Mark Matousek / Business InsiderChevrolet Bolt EV.

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.

Mark Matousek/Business InsiderTesla Model 3.

But overall, while both are compelling options for electric-vehicle shoppers, the Model 3 has a clear edge.

Mark Matousek/Business InsiderTesla Model 3.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.