Chevy Bolt Compared To BMW i3 In IIHS Crash Tests – Video

3 months ago by Eric Loveday 57

One car appears to disintegrate on contact, whereas the other holds up well, but does that mean one is safe and the other is not?

In one of the most unique looks we’ve seen comparing two vehicles undergoing the same crash test, the Chevy Bolt holds itself together quite well, whereas the BMW i3 appears to just fall apart, but from a safety standpoint, does outwards appearance at and just after impact determine safe or unsafe?

Not necessarily…

The video opens with the IIHS small overlap frontal test, the most brutal and difficult to pass crash test from the IIHS. Now, before we dive into the damage done the structures, potential for injuries, etc., let’s first examine how both vehicles fared in IIHS testing. Note both vehicles received a “good” rating in the small overlap frontal test.

Chevrolet Bolt IIHS

BMW i3 IIHS

2017 Chevrolet Bolt IIHS summary of small overlap front test:

Structure

Bolt & i3

The driver space was maintained well, with maximum intrusion of the lower interior of 12 cm at the lower hinge pillar. Upper interior intrusion measured 7-8 cm at the hinge pillar and instrument panel.Injury measures

Measures taken from the dummy indicate a low risk of any significant injuries in a crash of this severity.

Restraints and dummy kinematics

The dummy’s movement was well controlled. The dummy’s head loaded the frontal airbag, which stayed in front of the dummy until rebound. The side curtain airbag deployed and has sufficient forward coverage to protect the head from contact with side structure and outside objects.

2017 BMW i3 IIHS summary of small overlap front test:

Structure

The driver space was maintained well, with maximum intrusion of the lower interior of 6 cm at the lower hinge pillar. Upper interior intrusion measured 3-4 cm at the hinge pillar and instrument panel.

Injury measures

Measures taken from the dummy indicate a low risk of any significant injuries in a crash of this severity.

Restraints and dummy kinematics

The dummy’s movement was well controlled. Because the car was deflected off the barrier and decelerated more gradually than is typical in this test, the dummy’s head moved toward the inflated frontal airbag but never reached it before the head began to rebound. The side curtain airbag deployed and has sufficient forward coverage to protect the head from contact with side structure and outside objects. The side torso airbag also deployed.

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57 responses to "Chevy Bolt Compared To BMW i3 In IIHS Crash Tests – Video"

  1. Spoonman. says:

    I had some time to kill late Saturday with my 4-year-old, so we went and sat in a Bolt Premier at our local dealer, because I’ve been thinking about getting one to replace our C-Max Energi.

    I gotta say…what the hell, GM? The seat discomfort issue is real, and the cabin interior looks like crap.

    I am a small guy – it says 5’6″ on my driver’s license but that’s generous, and my pants waist is 30-32 inches depending on the pants – and after just sitting in the seats for a few minutes, my legs hurt. I might not have noticed so quickly except that my 4yo was sitting on my lap turning the steering wheel, but I can’t imagine not noticing on any sort of long drive. Everything about the interior of my 2012 build-date C-Max is more pleasant. Really astonishing.

    1. bro1999 says:

      I’m sure having a 30-40 pound kid sitting in your lap had absolutely nothing to do with the seat discomfort.

      1. Spoonman. says:

        Of course that didn’t help, but she was sitting between my legs, so she wasn’t really pressing me into the seat as much as she was causing my legs to be further apart – but they weren’t really further apart than I normally sit while driving.

        Anyways if something happened to my C-Max I’d take another look, but since my car is recording about 100 MPGe over the past three months, getting rid of the engine entirely would be nice but isn’t worth making (expensive) compromises for.

      2. EVShopper says:

        Beat me to it.

      3. Stimpy says:

        Did the kid make the dash look like cheap plastic too?

        Remember this is a car with a base price higher than a 3 Series.

        1. ModernMarvelFan says:

          Cheap plastic is in the eye of beholder. I don’t know why one plastic is so cheap while other isn’t.

          So, everyone must be an industry expert on plastic all of the sudden.

          There is a difference between padded plastic and hard plastic. But just saying a particular textured hard plastic is cheaper than others is just something people often says without any evidence.

          With that said, I do agree that Bolt interior plastic isn’t soft padded and some of the textures don’t fit my taste.

          1. Asak says:

            It’s not an issue of soft vs hard plastic. The Bolt’s interior really does look cheap for some reason. It could be the coloring or maybe even the dashboard layout. Something about it is just off and it seems a lot worse than the Chevy Volt’s interior.

            However that isn’t what kept me from buying, it was the uncomfortable seats. I’m really hoping we see the “Buick Bolt” sooner than later and that it fixes the deficiencies in the Chevy Bolt. There’s nothing wrong under the hood, but plenty of room for improvement in the interior.

    2. KnarfPower says:

      Interesting. I just leased a Bolt. I am 6’2″ and love the seats. I elevate the lower portion and recline the back. The telescopic steering wheel lets me slide the seat plenty far back to stretch out. This is different than most vehicles where headroom means I lower the seat usually to its lowest position, flatten the seat enough that I am not sitting on the backs of my legs just behind the knees, then slide the seat back. I like the seats just fine. My wife is only 5’4″ and has no issue adjusting the seats to work for her. You might revisit the dealer and play with the seat settings a bit.

      1. Bob says:

        I think it might be a weight problem. Fat people often don’t like comfortable seats. Their weight or girth make firm flat seats uncomfortable. Imagine if your joints couldn’t rest squarely on the seats due to fat pushing your hips and back into odd angles. I am 6’3 170 and I thought it was perfect. My wife is 4’11 120 and thought it was the best fitting most comfortable car she was ever in.

        1. Neromanceres says:

          I’m not sure. I think it’s simply people that are not used to a “firm” seat that have an issue. I’m 6’1″ tall and well north of 300lbs. And after an hour of sitting in the Bolt EV I was fine and had no issue with the seats.

        2. Asak says:

          I’m 6’4″ 185 and I felt they were the worst seats I’ve ever sat in. However it seems that reports indicate there is significant variation in seat comfort from one Bolt to another.

    3. Lawrence says:

      I had the same reaction about the seats.

      The interior I could overlook given that they were offsetting the cost of the battery.

    4. Bob says:

      In response to your first comments. BS. Complaining about subjective things in such a way is silly. My wife and I borrowed a bolt for several days last time we were in San Diego. I was set to hate it because, come on, GM Korea has never made anything worth anything. But I found the seats to be the most comfortable small car seats I’ve ever been in. The interior was fancy but nice. Definitely up many peoples alley style wise. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Sitting in a showroom for a few minutes doesn’t warrant commenting. Unless it’s an unforgivable… like alpha’s decision to offset steering wheel to the right by a large amount.

      Bolt performs great and is very comfy and practical. Price sucks but that’s what you get for being an early adopter.

    5. EVShopper says:

      I’m a small guy too, and found the seats to be perfectly fine. Also, not sure why people complain about the interior. It’s better than the ten year old Pontiac I traded in. And better than my 5 year old Subie.

    6. PT says:

      I’m similar in size to you, 5’7″, 140lbs. I previously owned a CMax Energi and now own (leased) two Bolts.

      Have not had any seat issues. Of course, YMMV.

    7. Nix says:

      “I had some time to kill late Saturday with my 4-year-old”

      Whew! For a minute there I thought you were going to talk about some crash testing you did over the weekend… LOL!

    8. Darren says:

      I have absolutely no issues with my Bolt Premier seats. I told my wife about the “seat issue”, she couldn’t believe there were actual complaints. My kid drove it, he thought they were comfortable. I’m 5’9″, 155, Sherri is 5’5″, 120 and my son is 6’2″, 165, so we had a broad range of size & weight.

      1. Asak says:

        In my experience the Premier seats are significantly more comfortable than the LT’s. Whether that’s due to the quality being higher in the Premier or whether it’s just car to car variance is hard to say.

    9. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      “I gotta say…what the hell, GM? The seat discomfort issue is real…”

      Even more puzzling to me is that GM has said it won’t be making any changes to the front seats for the 2nd model year. As you say: What the hell, GM?

      I could understand if the car being designed in S. Korea resulted in front seats not accommodating Americans with a larger waistband… but WTF is up with GM not correcting the problem in the second year of production?

      It’s been my operating theory for some time that GM really doesn’t care if the Bolt EV sells or not, and nothing seems to support that hypothesis more strongly than GM’s failure to correct the fault with the front seats. 🙁

      1. Tim Miser says:

        Well according to the feedback here, the seats are not much of an issue.

        1. Asak says:

          The fact that a significant portion of the population find the seats uncomfortable means it’s an issue. That shouldn’t be the case with any car. You really shouldn’t notice the seats one way or the other.

  2. EVShopper says:

    I’m not seeing how you thought one faired better, the crash tests looked pretty similar to me. Except that in the small overlap, the i3 shunted to the side and kept going.

    1. WARREN says:

      What’s not so hard to understand. The BMW had HALF the interior intrusion as the Bolt. The dummies head didn’t even need to contact the airbag. Bottom line, less forces imparted to the driver. Just the way it should be. I can almost guarantee an i3 will hold up better if rear ended.
      Yes, correct on the interior. After sitting in them all, the Bolt is a step down in interior quality than the i3 or new LEAF.

      1. KnarfPower says:

        Well… let’s remember that the Bolt’s interior consists of a very sloped windshield and large dash space. That is not usable space to the occupants.

        The interior seems targeted at the iPhone crowd whatever that means. I don’t hate it and for a people-mover it’s fine. It’s no luxury car grade interior for sure.

      2. mx says:

        It’s understandable the i3 interior beats the Bolt, but, a Honda Civic beats the Bolt. And being a $45,000 car, that should not be the case.

        Bolt: Designed to fail in the market?
        It’s a fair question.

        1. Spoonman. says:

          I don’t think that’s fair at all. They’re making a lot of them, the dealer I went to didn’t try to dissuade me from looking at it and has already sold two, and I get hit with a lot of ads for Bolts after playing with the online configurator.

          Like Ford with the battery humps, though, they have made some weird mistakes (why is the dash sparkly when facing into the sunset?) that mean they’re selling fewer of them than they could be.

        2. Kdawg says:

          How many EV miles does a Honda Civic get?

          1. EVShopper says:

            Good one.

        3. EVShopper says:

          The Bolt starts at ~$37,500 and less than $30k after incentives.

          1. mx says:

            A fully loaded Honda Civic is $25,000. GM could afford to design a nice interior.

        4. Tim Miser says:

          Hey noob, the MSRP of a fully loaded Bolt is $43,905 – 7500 = $36,405 – (your state incentive) = final price if you paid full price and yes it is the highest selling EV being sold nationwide today.

          You say “fail” but then again, you are a noob.

          1. David Cary says:

            Highest selling?

            I suppose you can pick a month when it was number one – like October. But it isn’t for the total of 2017 which seems like a fair measure. It is beat by a 5 year old car that costs twice as much – that has a newer sibling that is clearly internal competition.

            This is a model that finally makes a decent range in an affordable package that we have been waiting for since 2010 (longer for some people). The first year of said new model with no competition at the price point. NONE!

            And yet it is not the number 1 selling EV car in the US for 2017 to date. We could look at the last 12 months and the result would be the same. There is no reasonable time period to look at and say it is the number 1 selling EV – except for 1-2 months (not sure about that except for October and other scattered months).

            So that is a reasonable fail. A total fail – no way. But reasonable to call it a fail given the specs. But we know that GM has no ability to make 200,000 of these anyway.

            So 2018 will bring competition and the Bolt will not be the latest and greatest. So it will face headwinds and may never exceed the 30,000 target.

            Which comes back to the real issue that even GM fans know – ICE SUV’s make orders of magnitude more profit. Responsibility to stock holders is real.

            I really hate the GM vs Tesla vs Nissan griping that has become standard here. Nobody is perfect and nobody deserves the loyalty of the fans. I have a Tesla and a Nissan so that makes me a GM hater. But in the end facts are facts and the Model S still sells more cars in the US than the Bolt – but I am not sure who cares.

            Has anyone heard a complaint about the Model 3 seats? Sure the N is lower but not a peep. Hmmm.

      3. Jason says:

        The BMW i3 absorbed a lot less energy than the bolt because in the test it bounced off the barrier and kept moving forward where as the bolt came to a complete stop. That could explain the differences in interior intrusion. It’s not a good comparison because there’s no guarantee that the i3 would always glance/bounce off.

        1. theflew says:

          Also in the real world the bouncing off could bounce you into a secondary collision.

          1. tech_heavy says:

            In the real world where secondary collisions are possible, I’d rather be in a car with CFRP around me than a crushed tin-can.

            You’re much better protected in the CRFP on any kind of secondary collision. And bouncing worked great for the mars landers too!

      4. ClarksonCote says:

        Ummm, not sure what report you’re reading. The Bolt faired much better on impact tests according to the scoring. It only did worse on ease of use on child latch and the headlight brightness.

    2. bro1999 says:

      The Bolt scored better than the i3 for head restraints, otherwise the 2 cars scored equally for crash worthiness ratings. The areas the i3 outclassed the Bolt were for headlights and LATCH anchor ease of use.

      So looking at crash worthiness scores alone, the Bolt beats out the i3.

      1. Warren says:

        In crashworthiness of the structure, the i3 looks superior in the videos. The seats possibly can use modifying.

        Looking at the outer offset test of the Blue ie, we can see how the BMW deflected the energy very well. Look how the dummy didn’t even need the airbag.

        Now on the other side of the coin, in the more direct frontal collision of the silver i3 (without the significant side deflection),does everyone see that the i3 actually held up better than the Bolt? The Bolt was crushed almost completely to the windshield. Significantly more than the i3. Furthermore, look at the side air curtains in the silver i3. Look at the side impact video. The i3 has less head imprint on the side curtain. And look at the left rear passenger dummy in the Bolt. His head is leaving imprint marks on the roof! And you think the Bolt looks like it offers better protection? Certainly not from a structural standpoint. The i3 seats may need some work, but the CFRP is stronger than the Bolts.

        1. Kdawg says:

          Rather that subjectively looking at videos to decide which is better, you could just use the data/scores from the professionals. For example, you may say “look how well the i3 held up while the Bolt EV was crushed”. But cars aren’t designed to “hold up” in a crash, they are designed to absorb energy and protect the passengers.

        2. theflew says:

          Given both cars would be totaled I don’t know if it matters when you say less structural damage.

      2. Tim Miser says:

        Actually the Bolt also scored a Superior in the front crash avoidance category bettering the i3.

    3. mx says:

      If the author is trying to say the Bolt did just as well as the i3, I’m willing to concede that point, and congratulations to GM for doing it.

  3. Terawatt says:

    The way I read this the i3 was clearly better. It seems odd it didn’t get a higher rating in the small overlap front crash test, but perhaps “good” is the best rating available..?

    As many of you may know, the Bolt (badged as an Ampera-e, but that isn’t relevant here) actually failed to achieve five stars in Euro NCAP.

    Generally speaking, the answer to the posed question,

    “One car appears to disintegrate on contact, whereas the other holds up well, but does that mean one is safe and the other is not?”

    is “probably yes”. Before crash testing became a mandatory thing most cars looked very much more intact, and in fact were much more intact, after a crash than these days. That’s because they weren’t built to have compressible, energy-absorbing crash structures, but only for rigidity and the properties you want in the car when it isn’t in a crash.

    Obviously safety cannot be reduced to simply a question of to what degree a car disintegrates, and there are parts of the car you really want to be very stiff indeed. In F1 cars they speak of the “survival cell” and wants the structures beyond that to absorb as much energy as possible, but the cell itself to be extremely hard and as impossible as possible 🙂 to deform.

    1. Kdawg says:

      Wasn’t that just because of a seatbelt warning light?

      1. ClarksonCote says:

        Yes, that’s the only reason it failed in Europe.

        Don’t know how anyone can claim the i3 faired better. On all tests related to impact, the Bolt has all green and the i3 has some yellow. Pretty easy to discern.

  4. Adrian Russell-Falla says:

    the data clearly shows you’d be much better off being inside an i3 vs a Bolt, if the Fates have destined you to experience a front offset collision.

    notably lower vehicle deceleration rate; markedly less upper and lower intrusion (~half as much) into the interior compartment; complete *absence* of driver forward head impact… both vehicles were of course totaled, as will be any vehicle undergoing this impact severity—how much debris they “shatter” is clearly irrelevant

    1. Kdawg says:

      Looks like the Bolt has better crash prevention though. So the fates may stacked against you more while driving an i3.

    2. theflew says:

      Depends. The i3 bounces off the barrier. In real life that bounce could bounce you into a secondary collision – maybe a car trying to avoid the collision in front of it.

      1. Ben says:

        Think of it. In 99% of cases you would bounce back on your own lane, not on the opposite lane. As well what kills you are the big single impacts.

        1. Asak says:

          If the i3 always deflects then it’s better, but I wonder if that always happens in the real world with a small offset collision in the i3. Unfortunately there’s really no way to answer that. All things being equal I’d slightly favor the i3 in a crash, but it’s so close that this wouldn’t be the deciding factor in buying either car.

    3. Tim Miser says:

      What data are you looking at? The data shows the Bolt scored better.

  5. WARREN says:

    So lets take a look at the side impact video again. So do you think the fact that the Bolts roof begins to fold like a cheap tent is a design to absorb energy?? Kind of interesting how the passengers heads areally hitting that same deformed roof. Look how the BMW roof doesn’t even intrude into passenger space at all. The i3 structure is far superior. Keep fooling yourself into thinking the Bolt with its buckling roof is safer…

    1. ffbj says:

      Yeah, numbers are good, but your own visual experience is not something that should be discounted. Perhaps the carbon fibre life pod, has something to do with that, as that’s what it’s designed for.

  6. Tom Moloughney says:

    Some of you may know my i3 was totaled in a crash a few months ago. The driver of the other vehicle was looking at her phone and ran a red light, driving right into my passenger side door at about 45 mph in the middle of an intersection.

    The force pushed my car into the other side of the street and it finished up doing a 180, so I was facing the opposite direction that I had been traveling and about 35 feet from the initial impact. I walked away without a scratch and very impressed.

    1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      That’s what I call a powerful personal recommendation!

      I’m glad you came out of that without any serious injury.

      1. WARREN says:

        And as I said before, my i3 protected me well, when a Cadillac ran a red light and slammed into me.

        https://insideevs.com/bmw-i3-vs-cadillac-cts-impact-results/

        I would love to see a similar collision in a Bolt.

    2. Tim Miser says:

      Wow that is amazing. Glad you are ok. Was it similar to the side impact we see in the video? What was different? What surprised you or you didn’t expect?

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