Every time a new EV is released, it’s immediately compared to a Tesla. In 99% of these comparisons, Tesla is the immediate winner and everyone goes home for the day. We’re here to say that the tides have changed a little bit — there’s finally another electric car that’s seriously worth considering. Introducing, the 2021 Chevy Bolt.
We’re going to talk about the Bolt, compare it to the Model 3, and decide if it’s worth considering. Spoiler alert: Tesla doesn’t overwhelmingly win this matchup as it does with other EVs. Let’s get started.
Have You Heard the News? EVs Are Taking Over
Whether you like it or not, the gas car is dying. There is overwhelming evidence that points to EVs being the only cars that will be produced within the decade.
What does that mean for us? Well, we need to start shopping for our new favorite EV. Since 2012, Tesla was just a synonym for “electric car” because that was the only viable option on the market.
As we’re approaching the 9th anniversary of the Model S (launched June 22, 2012), there are some major developments. Today, you have dozens of cars to choose from if you want a high-quality EV.
Even so, they all get compared to a Tesla. Until recently, the comparison was pretty apples to oranges — Tesla always blew the compared car out of the water and that was that. That is until the Bolt started lifting its own weight.
Introducing the Chevy Bolt
Since you probably know about Tesla already, let’s take a second to introduce the Chevy Bolt. This is a five-seater compact SUV manufactured by a massive US carmaker.
It was fully rolled out in the US by May 2017 with the first vehicles being manufactured as early as October 2016. Back then, it was just a little guppy that wasn’t worth talking about. It could be compared to a 2017 Nissan Leaf (yuck).
The Bolt had a steady amount of sales every year since its inception but recently there’s been more interest in the EV market so the 2020 & 2021 models are getting more hype lately. The Chevy team gave it a complete makeover and changed the guts of the car. The result? A vehicle worth talking about.
Actually, it’s more than just that. The Bolt became a car that could be reasonably compared to the Tesla Model 3. In our opinion, it’s the first car that can go toe-to-toe with the EV titans at Tesla.
The Ultimate Comparison: 2021 Tesla 3 vs 2021 Chevy Bolt
In this section, we’ll be making direct comparisons between the two cars. Unless otherwise specified, we’ll be comparing the base trims for each model. You might be surprised to hear some of Bolt’s stats.
The first, and probably the biggest difference, is the price of these two cars. It’s almost an unfair matchup, but it has to be done.
The 2021 Chevy Bolt has an MSRP of $36,500. The top trim is called Premium, and it goes for $41,700.
The 2021 Tesla 3’s MSRP is $38,690. The 3’s Performance trim costs $57,190.
That’s a difference of around $12,000. Twelve thousand. That’s a sizeable increase in cost. That’s the same difference between a Honda Civic and an Audi A3. However, the Tesla 3 and Chevy Bolt are a lot more comparable than the Honda Civic and Audi A3.
Consumer Reports Rating
Consumer Reports is perhaps the best resource if you want unbiased, factual ratings. In this case, the results are kind of surprising. The Tesla and Chevy both come in with exactly the same overall score — 78/100.
This score is the big papa when it comes to rating vehicles on the market. They take cars on test rides around their center in Connecticut before making a final verdict.
It’s uncommon for cars in completely different price brackets to compare so closely. In this case, it’s verifiable data that says the Tesla 3 and Chevy Bolt are closer than you might expect.
Another big part of owning a car is how reliable it is. This is yet another metric that Consumer Reports looks for and lists.
In this case, it’s bad news for Tesla. Their 3 has a reliability of 3/5. The Bolt has a 5/5. Since the cars are so new to the market, they don’t have data about the true reliability, just these predicted values that their experts came up with.
Historically, their predicted values have been pretty spot-on, so there’s no reason to believe that this matchup is any different.
The reasons why Tesla’s score is so low? It’s a problem with the body integrity, software, and build quality. Musk agrees with a lot of the criticisms and points to the aggressive build timeline he committed to.
That’s not to say the Model 3 is bad. Far from it, in our opinion.
When people hear “electric vehicle”, their first question is how many miles it can go on a single charge. For the longest time, Tesla was so much further than anyone else. Many cars could barely squeak out 100 miles before needing to charge, meanwhile Tesla could get closer to 300.
The standard Tesla 3 averages about 263 miles. The Chevy Bolt gets really close with their standard trim level — a staggering 259 miles.
With the Model 3’s Long Range package, the driver can get up to 353 miles which is more impressive. Still, the Bolt’s figure is nothing to shake a stick at.
US Sales Ranking
If you’ve watched Shark Tank, you know that a product is only as convincing as its sales. If you look at the US EV market, the Tesla and Chevy are both really impressive.
The top three most-sold EV cars in America in 2020?
- #1 is the Tesla Model 3
- #2 is the Tesla Model Y
- #3 is the Chevy Bolt
That goes to show that the Bolt is definitely worth it. The market has spoken.
Comparing the Speed
EVs are great for going fast and accelerating like crazy. For our fellow speed freaks out there, let’s talk about some numbers:
- Chevy Bolt: 93mph
- Tesla Model 3: 141mph
- Chevy Bolt: 6.5 seconds
- Tesla Model 3: 5.6 seconds
MPGe is a new buzzword that tells you how far an EV will go on the equivalent of a gallon of gas. The base Model 3 has an MPGe of 134 and the Bolt has 118 MPGe. Both are impressive values and the difference between them isn’t huge, relatively.
Since it’s so cheap to fully charge either of these cars, MPGe isn’t a deciding factor.
The Bolt and Model 3 have the same number of seats, but they don’t have the same amount of space. Since the Chevy Bolt is a compact SUV, passengers in the back can enjoy a lot more leg and headroom.
A lot of people say that the Tesla 3’s rear seats feel pretty tight. If this is a big deal to you, then the Bolt has good news.
Why Is the Bolt So Cheap?
There’s something else we didn’t mention yet — the added federal rebates. Chevy has plenty of this money left which means you can get a $7,500 rebate after buying one of their cars. Tesla’s pool has dried up in that sense.
Another reason why the 2021 model is so cheap now is that Chevy is getting ready for its 2022 release. They’ve apparently reworked a lot of components, so they’re incentivizing sales on the ’21.
We urge you to look at your local dealer’s showroom online and see what their posted price for the Bolt is. In the Greater Los Angeles area, we’re seeing prices way under 30 grand. Tack the rebate on top of that and you’re talking about owning this car for the low $20s.
The Bolt is made to be an inexpensive, entry-level, consumer-grade car. There aren’t a ton of frills that are brag-worthy. The interior is simple, and everything is minimalist. Chevy decided to cut costs wherever it can while still putting together an incredibly viable EV.
Tesla could never approach these figures because that’s simply not what its brand is. It’s like Porsche releasing a $20,000 commuter car — it’s not going to happen. Tesla is a luxury brand that makes an expensive, beautiful, feature-filled, and fun-to-drive car.
Has Tesla Lost Their Crown?
With all this information, you might be wondering what’s in store for Tesla. Did Chevy just take their crown? By all accounts, no.
Chevy isn’t really looking to compete with Tesla. Tesla owns the luxury lane, and Chevy is just taking over the entry-level space. Both companies can coexist without stealing business from one another.
The simple fact is this: If you want to splurge for a high-tech, luxury EV, Tesla is the only option. If you want to get your feet wet and own an electric car without taking out a second mortgage, Chevy is the best choice.
Still, we’re just talking about one of Tesla’s four (currently available) vehicles. Try comparing a Bolt to a Model X and you’ll get laughed at. Simply put, Tesla isn’t going anywhere. In our minds, they still have the EV crown thanks to the groundwork they did and the exceptional innovations they continue to roll out.
The Final Verdict: Tesla 3 or Chevy Bolt
Of course, this final decision is going to be based on our opinions. The way we see it, the Bolt and Model 3 can live in the same world happily. They both serve different parts of the market.
Since Tesla’s Model 3 is a luxury vehicle, it has a ton of added bells and whistles. On top of that, it has a higher top speed and a faster 0-60 time. If you opt for their Performance or Long Range sub-models, you’ll enjoy an even faster car that goes further.
The only question is: is it worth the extra 12+ grand? The market says, “yes”, but it’s up to you.
The Chevy Bolt is the first real rival to Tesla. The base model has a comparable range, incredible sales in the US, better reliability, the same overall rating, and a dirt-cheap MSRP. We think it’s fair to say that the Bolt is the better choice for the everyday American.
If you’re looking for an EV that checks every box, you’ll find it inside this Chevy. You can even go for their top-of-the-line Premium trim and save money over the base Model 3.
If you’re anything like us, you’re beaming with happiness. There’s an EV that’s worth talking about and it can hold a candle to Tesla’s 9-year reign.
The Chevy Bolt is worth taking a closer look at, and we urge you to consider getting one. For more car tips, news, and troubleshooting guides, explore the rest of our blog. Make sure you have the tools and accessories you need to keep your car moving.