Comparison Test: Tesla Model 3, 2018 Nissan LEAF, And Chevy Bolt
Leave it to Motor Trend to be the first to release a much-anticipated Tesla Model 3, 2018 Nissan LEAF, Chevrolet Bolt comparison piece.
Of course, Motor Trend is likely the only outfit to have yet had access to these three cars all in one place at one time. This is because Tesla and Nissan supplied MT with the cars for the recent Car of the Year competition. Not to mention the fact that the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt was MT’s COTY winner last year.
First of all, MT makes a point of letting us know that they’ve been reviewing EVs since the days of the GM EV1. To add to their already reputable team of experts, they’ve done some recruiting for help with this matchup. MT shares:
“To help with evaluating our exclusive gathering, we brought in some veteran co-conspirators of all things electric.
Patrick Hong has a 23-career testing cars (including that same GM EV1) and carries degrees in both mechanical and aerospace engineering. A
lec Brooks is a seminal figure in the history of the modern electric car, having led the development of the GM Impact, predecessor of the EV1, and run the development of the of the tzero electric sports car, which was the inspiration for Tesla’s Roadster.”
MT admits that comparing the Model 3 to the Bolt and LEAF isn’t really fair. You have to really determine if features and luxury are worth the added cost. Hong says:
“Comparing this Model 3 to the Bolt and Leaf isn’t fair—like comparing a BMW 3 Series with a Camry or Accord.”
Let’s take a brief look at notable takeaways from MT’s comparison testing, along with editor and expert picks.
Let’s get the most obvious out of the way first. The Chevrolet Bolt and Nissan LEAF are no contest for the Tesla Model 3’s acceleration and driving dynamics. However, due to its sportier suspension, the Model 3 doesn’t offer the quiet, coddling ride quality that the LEAF provides. The Bolt falls somewhere in between.
The test drivers said that the Model 3 rear seats were the hardest to access, offered the least amount of space, and felt “sunken in.” The Bolt received the most cred for its rear-seat space and accessibility. Added to this, it offers superb headroom, which isn’t found in the Model 3 because of the sweeping roofline. Speaking of roofs, there were complaints that the Tesla’s panoramic roof lets in too much heat and sunlight (we’ve heard that one before).
Regenerative braking is quite different among the models, and MT does a nice job of spelling it all out for us. In summary, the Bolt and LEAF do a nice job with one-pedal driving. With the Model 3, you’ll find it more necessary to use the brakes more often.
In terms of efficiency (mpg-e), the Model 3 is ahead of the others, but we knew that already.
Finally, there’s some information about Autopilot vs. ProPilot assist. The LEAF’s ProPilot tech, while simple, does what it’s supposed to, and does it confidently. The Model 3’s Autopilot faulters and is still in the update stage. Its performance proved inconsistent, and it’s obviously not ready just yet. However, the system, in terms of hardware, is much more involved than Nissan’s tech and has the potential to be more advanced.
And the winner is …
Brooks and Hong both preferred the Bolt with all things considered (likely assuming the fact that Model 3 pricing is just too out of reach for the average car buyer). Brooks believes that once the longer range LEAF (~60 kWh battery pack/225 miles) comes along, it will give the Bolt more competition. Though he did call the LEAF’s display about 10 years behind.
Hong called the LEAF’s interior outdated, but well-finished. He admitted that the LEAF is a fantastic deal if you don’t drive a lot of miles, but range was the primary issue for him as well.
In the end, MT’s Kim Reynolds concludes that the Tesla Model 3 wins this battle. He explains:
“In broad-brush, the Bolt and Leaf are great cars but leaned-back EVs … The Model 3 leans into the future with a reckless glee you cannot avoid noticing. Its infotainment and autonomous systems are still a work in progress, but new software features are being beamed in seemingly every night … 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.”
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Source: Motor Trend