Test Drive Comparison – Chevrolet Bolt Versus BMW i3


Our friend over at BMWBLOG Chuck Vossler happens to own a BMW i3 BEV and just recently test drove a Chevrolet Bolt. This puts him in the unique position of having time behind the wheel of these two electric cars, so he decided to do a comparison write-up of the two EVs.

BMW i3

Before diving into Vossler’s conclusion, we’ll offer up two links to his previous works for some background:

BMWBLOG Test Drives Chevrolet Bolt

BMW i3 BEV – One Year Review (w/video)

Vossler’s extensive Bolt versus i3 write-up (see here) covers all of the major aspects of the two cars. He concludes:

“With the Bolt, though Chevrolet shows you really can have a 200 mile+ range EV and not have to spend a ton to get it. Time and tide wait for no man, and in the EV realm, price and range are king. So in the comparison, the Bolt takes the crown.

“The Bolt has more twice the range and costs less, accelerates faster while carrying more. If you have a BMW i3, I wouldn’t sell it to buy a Bolt. However, if you are in the market for a new EV, I’d definitely take a long look at the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt.”

So, Bolt it is then…


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51 Comments on "Test Drive Comparison – Chevrolet Bolt Versus BMW i3"

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The i3 was not a very serious contender to begin with. Weird design, can’t open the rear doors without permission from the front, ridiculous range, skinny wheels very unlike any BMW really shows (someone high up at) BMW just wanted it to fail so they could carry on with business as usual. At best it was meant as a case study for their carbon fibre adventure. Just look at how little progress they have made since on the EV front. And that is IMHO only.

I’d put on the table:
-Rear Wheel Drive
-Vented Disk brakes
-Yes, those high materials means it doesn’t need a bigger electric motor.
-Fully independent suspension.
( As someone who’s driven cars with cheap suspensions, the Bolt looks like an econo suspension, and I’m not going to drive another 7 years with a bad suspension design. )

But, yes on paper, the BMW Battery Only looks worse than the Bolt.
But, the BMW REX looks a lot better, as I don’t have to care about charger infrastructure, I just charge at home, and buy gas 1% of the time.

And yet the North American version of the Rex, with its fixed at some low SOC start up, like the 7% or so, could be improved by simply offering an option, even if for $, to insert a special key, to allow at least some user choices as to at what SOC the Rex starts up!

It might even be preferable to leave home and hit the highway in EV mode, start the Rex for the freeway drive, and go back to EV mode when you exit!

Both the Toyota Plugin Prius (1st), and the Volt (2nd), offered an EV/Hybrid selection choice, for these kinds of reasons! Plus, until Freeway intercity Fast Charging with CCS is found about every 40 miles or less, with a set of 4-8 units per stop, having more startup control of the Rex would give a simpler, and reduced stress Road Trip experience, with the i3 Rex!

The recent Green Car Reports story of the (driving too fast) Bolt EV road trip, shows even the Bolt EV could enjoy more access to Muliple CCS charging stop options, for long road trips, too!


I don’t think the i3 REx solves any problems, as then you’re comparing to the (equally superior) Volt.

Yeah but if you primarily want to drive on electric, the i3 Rex can do double what a Volt can. People with the Rex regularly get 120miles+ AER.

You’re comparing Apples to Banannas..The Bolt is clean NO GAS NO EMISSIONS. “Full Electric” A BETTER CAR! The i3 is a fraction of the Car that the Bolt is, for so much more Money ..Common sense will Pick The Bolt Hands down! All Day Long!

You would, according to your own “common sense.” I was pretty serious about getting a Bolt till I checked it out in real life at 2 car shows, and our EV club demo day in Oak Park. Now I am convinced my next car will be the i3 S, or possibly the new LEAF over the Bolt.
And it’s idiotic to say why get a Rex and use gas if dont have to. Well last time I checked there is no plug in Hybrid/EREV that even comes close to the AER of the i3.And if you have to go further than the AER of the BEV i3? Well I guess if you go over 120 miles a day but less than 230, the Bolt might be better than an i3 BEV. But if you have to go on a 500 mile trip, I will bet the irex would give you less range anxiety and make some trips that are impossible in a Bolt due to not all to reliable DCQC network.

Taking my 300 mile trip in a BOLT ev still involves chalenges some people may prefer not to make – but then an I3 REX does also – having to stop often, or else carrying around a smelly gasoline can all the time, something which is usually frowned upon by safety types.

But bimmers will say at least you wont get stuck in an I3 Rex. But then the VOLT, with its 53 mile all electric range (some people I know get 70) is the vehicle for them. Its a classy looking vehicle with good perfomance at a doable price. Plus, the engine is extremely efficient, especially in these cold weather months, whereas the I3 REX must be definition use GOBS of gasoline just to make the cabin comfortable – all the 70% or more of its waste heat is TOTALLY WASTED… How ‘green’ is that?

You are talking about a narrow range of “primarily.” Specifically, more than 50 miles/day but less than 90, and also more than 200 miles (outside of DC charging network) at sub-75MPH speeds on flat ground.

Yes I agree..totally..I have two BEV i3 in PHX metro area..I can only say everything about the i3s, for us, is great..comfort, performance, design, and range…And, for those reasons, I would certainly pay the extra 2-3 grand, and get the i3 REX over a Bolt.

The spec table at the bottom of blog post shows 22 kWh i3 weight to be 2886 lb, but I’ve seen 2799 lb, even 2635 lb (wiki). If it is indeed 2886 lb, that’s heavier than 2015+ SparkEV without carbon fiber at 2866 lb and similar range. What is the weight?

The 0-60 time also seems off; 7.2 for 33 kWh version? Where’s Warren?

The i3’s weight hasn’t been clear to me since 2014 when the BEV was listed at 2,634 lb on BMW USA’s Website. When DCFC became standard in 2015, the weight might have increased a bit, but that doesn’t add up to 2,886 lb. Maybe the definition of curb weight has changed since 2014. I believe DIN weight includes a 75 kg. driver, so maybe a typical driver’s weight is now included in curb weight.

If he is truly testing the 22kWh i3 BEV, then he is just quoting manufacturer claims. As we know, BMW is traditionally very conservative with their HP, and 0-60mph times, etc. Car and Driver got 6.5 seconds 0-60 on their 22kWh BEV i3, http://www.caranddriver.com/comparisons/2014-bmw-i3-vs-2014-mercedes-benz-b-class-electric-drive-final-scoring-performance-data-and-complete-specs-page-4 which coincidentally is identical to what I tested on my Vbox (same equipment many magazines use) I think these numbers are just as quick or quicker as any as I have seen on the Bolt in the 0-50 mph times. After 50mph where the i3 tapers off, I am sure the Bolt’s HP and Torque give it the advantage. However as far as test numbers on the Bolt, Car and Driver got an identical 6.5 seconds in the 0-60 run. http://www.caranddriver.com/reviews/2017-chevrolet-bolt-ev-test-review My 2017 33kWh i3 runs 0-60 in the 6.5-6.6 second range, where I could get 6.4-6.5 seconds in my previous 22kWh i3. Also, people were saying how disappointed there were with the EPA range ratings on the 33kWh i3. You have to remember, these ratings are MANUFACTURER SUBMITTED, and BMW decided to go ultra-conservative with them. My friend’s wife went from Somis to Valencia, 82.2 miles in her 2017 irex, she still showed 60 miles… Read more »

Warren, thank for that informative and detailed comment! It was longer and more valuable than some short EV stories I have seen!

Are you in the running for a Tesla Model 3? If so, I am looking forward to hear your thoughts on that versus the 2017 i3!

Well thank you. I am actually looking forward to what the i3 S will offer. Trying to see if I can extend my FFE lease to get a little closer to the release date. Forgot to emphasize the amazing turning radius in an i3 is invaluable to me, every single day. I know a model 3 won’t be able to match that nimbleness especially in small parking lot situations. I am the type of person that would definitely pay more and prefer that 3.2 second 460HP 2 seater Renault Zoe Esport concept than a 5 seat model 3. I can bet it would be so much fun to drive. Some jounalists say the Model S P100D is quick, but not all that “fun” to drive. So for me a light, agile pocket rocket is preferred, but that’s just my preference.

Why r u so biased towards BMW ? do u work for BMW ? any business ties ?

No I dont work for BMW. I just haven’t jumped on the Tesla or Bolt bandwagon yet. And I actually prefer the build quality and innovation that the Germans or even Nissan offers. Just give it time and you will see what I mean. And I speak from the perspective of driving and testing nothing but pure EV’s to their limit for years. I am a former experiened drag racer for tuning equipment development purposes,so sporty performance is paramount to me. I am also one of the major technical spokespersons when it comes to dealing with local government of many of my nearby cities. So yes, I live, breathe, and research electric cars and like to speak the facts that so many just aren’t aware of. I even do much of my last mile commuting on an electric skateboard.I also had extensive electronic experience hands on and in college. Most of what I say are confirmed by other journalists anyways. It just so many people are blind and think the i3 is a plastic piece of junk rather than the highly advanced (confirmed by an expert auto reverse engineering firm), so it’s hard for me not to correct people’s misconception.… Read more »

Hmm , so in Warren’s Planet BMW get No1 in “Innovation and build quality and innovation that the Germans or even Nissan offers ”

Lol. Unfortunately Nither of the 2 get good ratings on earth on build quality and BMW does not get on innovation. tesla does. Pls check real facts . and stop being so biased. little bit is ok , but you crossing the line

No really I am not. Do you really feel my bias is stronger than the constant bashing of the same i3 haters that constantly tout their opinions without actual facts? I am immersed in EV cars and events quite regularly. I tested the P85 when it first came out on my YouTube channel. I tested my friends P90D Model S (Ludicrous software), and another’s P90D Model X, on the same day. He now traded in the Model S for a brand new P100D S. I will be driving and testing that. There is nothing biased here. Only defending the hard biases about how then Bolt blows away everything, and trying to offer the point of view of possibly why the i3 which most people would now disregard, actually has some redeeming qualities which might endear it more to someone who really learns the qualities of both cars. There is no line that is crossed, only facts. I substantiate my statements with factual tests, experiences, and references. Why do you feel that is so biased? Need I reiterate what “others” have also said about the i3 vs the Bolt: More sophisticated suspension design More agile in turning radius and cit driving… Read more »
Thanks for your input Warran! Putting out real hard fact isn’t being bias. But here, it’s the usual bashing. Facts don’t matter. The only measures some accept is the 0-60 mph and range. And yet no one stops asking themselves do you need this range? And past this range what are your options? Where are you going so fast that 0.5sec or 1sec difference is a game changer? The i3 is quick, quicker then most. I have the 2014 I3 REX and for my everyday use, the range is sufficient. I’m 100% electric 100% in the city. When I go beyond the city, the i3 is quick to charge on DCFC and I have the REX to go beyond the DCFC Network. The Bolt is a great car for different reasons. But tomorrow, if I had to pick a new car, I would probably go for the i3 REX again. For the price difference (in Canada), a fully loaded Bolt is about 10K less then a fully loaded i3 REX. Better interior, Better tech, the REX would be decision factor for me. And 2018 could bring the i3 closer to the Bolt if range is the only deciding factor. But… Read more »
Yup, I like to provide facts, and links, to substantiate why I have my opinion. And yes, as superior the Volt is to the i3 in gas range, the i3 is that much more superior to the Volt in AER range. So people need to pick their priorities. For me, being able to go twice as far as a Volt is more important, because 50 is just a little too short, and I don’t need to make 300 mile+ trips often enough to justify the irex for myself. Honestly, on a long trip, I would probably just rent a car to keep from racking up to many miles on my own car. And without DCQC, a Volt might take 2 hrs to gain 25 miles of charge compared to the 10 minutes it would take me to do the same task in the i3. So not only is the AER range that much better, but the charging is worlds ahead and makes the shorter range of the i3 vs Volt more tolerable. But if you must drive hundreds of miles all the time, then the Volt is the better choice. For me, the i3 suits me just fine. I’m totally… Read more »

I was in the market for an i3 for a long time primarily because the i3 had Adaptive Cruise Control and CCS charging capabilities. I never was able to find an i3 at a price I was willing to pay. Since the Bolt came out with long range advantages for Texas EV driving, I’ve lost interest in the i3.

It’s hard to beat the range of the Bolt but with similar performance and at half the cost of the i3, I find the 2017 Ford Focus Electric far more attractive. If I only had a choice between the i3 and the 2017 FFE I would go with the FFE; again. Sales of the i3 are really going to be hurting when the 2017 FFE and Ioniq BEV finally make to market.

A friend just got an FFE. That car has a really nice interior. It is bizarre to look at the i3 which BMW claims has a nice interior but really is low-rent and the FFE side by side.

There are a bunch of aspects of the FFE I’d like to have but in the end the roughness of the conversion just makes it a loser for me. It wastes a lot of space simply because it wasn’t designed to be an EV. Floor space in the back, trunk space, even under the hood there is lot of wasted area that simply would be eliminated in a clean-sheet EV design. It’s hard to stomach the poor legroom in the back when so much space is wasted. And the handling is negatively affected by the extra weight in the rear.

Now obviously it’s been years since that car came out. It would be great if Ford too another, more earnest crack at an electric Focus.

You’re right of course, Ford and GM should have came out with dedicated EV designs like Nissan did back in 2012. But you get used to and actually get comfortable with the limitations of the FFE over time. At least Ford and GM didn’t lock themselves into deadend designs the way that BMW, Nissan and Hyundai did with the i3, Leaf and Ioniq and hopefully not having huge investments in EV technology in the early years will allow Ford and GM more flexibility in providing better long range electric vehicles in the upcoming years.

Ford and GM have gone thru CEO’s like potato chips, and each new CEO kills off what the previous CEO has done for environmental leadership.

Remember that Ford Escape Hybrid? Version 2.0 to be coming out? Yes, Never Appeared.

US Management is just not capable of long term management and innovation.

M3-Reserved; Bolt/Niro - TBD

My hope is Chevy add tech refinements in year 2. With their push for autonomous driving on the Bolt platform with Lyft,

I’m very hopeful that they will offer a AP like tech package. It was mentioned in the past that Bolt is OTA capable.

So, competition is good. It’s BMW’s turn.

Price? Did he check out GM’s lease offers?
The BMW i3 is Still King on Price.

Average $/mo of the factory offers on the base i3 and base Bolt are different by about $9/mo on a 3-year, 10K mi/yr lease. i3 offer is at $388/mo, while Bolt is at $397. Hardly enough in my mind to crown one or the other “King” of anything.

That being said, advertised dealer lease offers that I’ve seen this week are much lower for the Bolt ($344, 8 dealers) vs the i3 ($381, 2 dealers). Bolt lease offers have been trending downward since its intro, while the i3 lease offer seems to have stagnated since the beginning of the year.

So from a leasing perspective, I’d say the Bolt rules over the i3, at least for folks that think the two occupy the same trade space.

Considering just a $1000 more car price can be $25 more per month, I would say the Bolt lease payment is way too high.

Are you assuming the price of an i3 is worth every penny of its higher MSRP over the Bolt? Maybe so, to some folks.

In any case, I agree that the Bolt factory lease deal could be lower. Using the Leasehackr calculator, it looks like the Bolt lease would be well over $100/mo less if GM passed on the full $7500 fed incentive to the customer, as BMW does with their i3 lease deal.

I wonder if either of these advanced automobiles has the capability of setting the car’s clock time ahead (or backwards in the fall) automatically. Also desirable would be a clock that corrects itself automatically. My phone and Garmin do it. In the age of connectivity, you would think all modern cars would perform this simple task. But can either of these cars? I wonder.

The Bolt has the option of setting its clock with the cellular network (At&T, I think). So it should update if you have that option and you have the cell connection. This might also mean that the time display could shift as you change time zones. But I dunno.

I have seen the BMW i3 up close (I have posted a picture at the gm-volt.com forum pages). It is extremly ugly and small! I took my picture from my 1995 Buick Regal (its side mirror appears in the photo), both cars were at the same lane distance from the traffic light, and the i3’s tail just matches the Regal’s rear window!! I don’t care about RWD (all my cars since 1984 are FWD) and my Regal can out accelerate many BMW’s including the i3, but I am not a fan of sport driving, so the Bolt EV will be a much better EV than the i3.

Yup, probably why you have the 1995 Regal, and I had the 1987 Buick Regal Grand National (63-1 turbo, Kenne Bell Intercooler, Turbonetics Delta Gate, Tomco Injectors, additional fuel pump, Hooker Cermetallic headers, etc) But that was back in the day when I didn’t mind driving a 10mpg car. Like I said, different people have different tastes. Most people with their i3 love them and people like you hate it. Very polarizing. It obviously intentionally done by BMW.

I think the i3 is the coolest car on the market right now. For the form factor it has, i think designers have done an amazing job. It offers a LOT of space in the inside. I bet for the two people in the front seats it feels much much more spacious than your buick regal. It turns in small circles and is short from the outside, which makes it easy to handle in town. Its interior is of high quality and looks awesome (tera package). Its just a near perfect urban commuter. I have not just seen it up close, i have driven it about 20 times.

WHy does BMW drive so bad. It jumps so much on speed breaker , an keeps jumping left right on freeways. it is among the worst ride quality….

Perhap’s bad alignment? But remember,it is also a lightweight/short wheelbase car, not an ultra stable long luxury sedan. What it gives up on the fwy it more than makes up with nibleness around town. Mine drives great on the fwy, even at 90mph. I have heard from some that the 2017 with the heavier battery feels a little more stable.

My Honda fit , similar in size and smaller wheels drives much better. So your arguments does not hold water. Perhaps the car is not engineer well.

In the article, the author says at the end:

“This comparison keeps to the pure EV versions of the i3.”

Uh huh. Then use the BEV’s 0-to-60 time of 6.6 seconds, instead of the 7.2 seconds quoted!

I am so tired of seeing the i3 REx’s 0-to-60 time quoted as “the” i3 time. THERE ARE TWO DIFFERENT i3 MODELS. Personally I prefer the faster one 🙂 And in this case he says he’s comparing against the BEV, so please, use the BEV numbers!

Can someone relay that over to BMWBLOG?

Well to be fair, the writer probably didn’t instrument test the i3, and therefore used manufacturer numbers in which we all know BMW is ultra conservative. Also the i3 doesn’t have the instantanous off the line snap or throttle response that my 2011 LEAF had (The FFE being the worst). If it did, the 0-60 times would be low 6’s and possibly dip into the 5’s. This is part of the reason the i3 doesn’t even chirp its tires, and doesn’t even spin full throttle in the rain. I tested a 2017 GLC300 4matic. High 5s power braking, turbo boosted AWD launch. But in a normal non boosted launch,the i3 would beat it 10-60mph every time.

Warren, I believe you. Your i3 does 0-60 in 1 seconds. Congrats and please let other live by facts.

Please review my numbers again, as they also match the numbers achieved by Car and Driver. 1 second does not equal 6.5. Either you read it wrong, or the facts just hurt too much?

I think both cars are great but if you lease a i3 BMW gives you free charging. If you are close to an EVGO charging stations this is a great deal with the DC fast charging. I also have a Spark EV and that car rocks too but no free charging with Chevy. So BMW will win in the end for me. Still would love to have a longer range chevy for the wife.

Great point I forgot to mention! Poor girl on her 800 mile Bolt trip spent as much $$ on hours of electric car charging as a 25mpg ICE car. So a Prius would have been half the cost and a quicker trip. $20-$40 less for a Bolt?? I make that difference in free quick charging savings within a week.

This argument would only make sense if you do 800 mile trips often. Also how long would the i3 battery last if you’re doing 80MPH?

I often do 80-90mph, and am usually passing most everyone on the freeway when going into Los Angeles. So for my case, the i3 range is perfectly fine even at fast epressway speeds. Going to be hard to do a range test with inconsistent traffic around here, but I will try to extrapolate and give you an answer soon as I can!

when warren drives i3 , the law of Physics change. Warren is a ingenious

The faster warren dives like 100MPH , the i3 outruns gas cars too in distance.

When he flies the i3 , it makes round trips of Jupiter too

Living in Australia the point is mute. GM is not making a right hand drive version of the Bolt, so it will not be coming here, Tesla’s are outrageously expensive so it looks like the BMW i3 will be our choice for a good electric city car with the REX engine to take us on longer trips, if necessary.

I also live in Australia. i3 is premium luxury brand and costs a lot of money. Personally I don’t like pop up screens on the dash, so the i3 just doesn’t look nice to me, same for many Mazda that now have the screen popped up from the dash, looks tacked on.

I looked at i3, but it was just too expensive. Less than ideal, but I ended up getting a 2nd hand Leaf.

If Tesla M3 is really $35k, then hopefully that translates to $50k here and it will be just affordable. The base Tesla M3 can’t be any worse than the Leaf. In any case, Leaf 2.0 should also be available and no doubt a few others in a couple years.

So long as the EV does what you need and you are happy with it, really that is all that matters.