Motor Trend compares Bolt, LEAF and Model 3 head-to-head

This is a milestone review – the first head-to-head comparison of three EVs that “really could be your affordable, every-day, one-and-only car” – and Motor Trend assigned it to a star team of electro-journalists. Reviewers Kim Reynolds, Patrick Hong and Alec Brooks have been working with EVs since the days of the EV1 and the tzero.

The Tesla Model 3, the second-gen Nissan LEAF and the Chevrolet Bolt EV offer ranges between 150 and 310 miles (a longer-range LEAF is promised for model year 2019) and base prices from $36,000 to $37,495. The three car guys examined every aspect of the three contending EVs, from interior space to handling to infotainment to autonomy features.

The boys were impressed by the Tesla’s sweeping glass roof, but noted that it can make things a little hot when the car is in the sun. The Bolt got the thumbs-up for rear passenger space. They noted that Model 3’s lower, sloping profile compromises headroom a bit, but greatly improves aerodynamics, giving it the lowest coefficient of drag (0.23) of the three cars, and consequently the greatest efficiency: Model 3’s combined MPGe beats the Bolt by 6 percent, and laps the LEAF by 13 percent.

All three EVs feature “one-pedal driving,” which some drivers love and some do not. These reviewers are firmly in the “love it” camp, and they found major differences in the one-pedal response of the three models. They praised the LEAF’s seamless integration of regen and friction brakes, and the Bolt’s steering-wheel paddle that allows the regen effect to be fine-tuned. All three EVs allow the strength of the regen to be adjusted to a certain extent. Brooks didn’t care too much for the Tesla’s one-pedal response: “It’s not strong enough to slow the car for normal corners – you have to constantly move your foot to the brake pedal. From my experience, I know firsthand that strong regen and rear-wheel drive don’t always play well together.” However, the Model 3 was the overall favorite when it comes to regen in general.

When it comes to performance, the verdict was unsurprising. For quickness, “the Model 3 buries the other two.” We’re talking 4.8 seconds to hit 60 mph, versus the Bolt’s 6.3 and the LEAF’s 7.5. For handling, it was also “a blowout.” “I thought the Model 3’s handling felt terrific, and its rear-wheel drive was noticeable by its lack of steering drama on hard acceleration,” said Brooks. “The LEAF understeered heavily on the track, and its chassis felt dated,” said Hong.

However, the MT dudes note that handling and ride comfort are not the same thing. “Although there are striking differences, each car’s ride is actually good if it fits your taste and expectations,” they write. “The LEAF is great if you like downtown LA pothole compliance; the Model 3 is perfect if your commute is paved like the Nürburgring. Swap audiences and preferences, and both will feel terrible.”

So which car won the shootout? Brooks and Hong both picked the Bolt. However, Reynolds had to go with the Tesla. “The Bolt and LEAF are great cars but leaned-back EVs,” he writes. “They seem pushed onto the stage, hesitant in their groundbreaking roles. The Model 3 leans into the future with a reckless glee you cannot avoid noticing. You may need to talk yourself into a Bolt or a LEAF; you need to talk yourself out of paying the premium for this Model 3.”

 

Source: Motor Trend