2019 Chevrolet Bolt vs. 2019 Tesla Model S

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

In the past twenty years hundreds of infants and young children have died after being left in vehicles, usually by accident. When turning the vehicle off, drivers of the Bolt are reminded to check the back seat if they opened the rear door before starting out. The Model S doesn’t offer a back seat reminder.

The Bolt Premier has a standard Surround Vision to allow the driver to see objects all around the vehicle on a screen. The Model S only offers a rear monitor and front and rear parking sensors that beep or flash a light. That doesn’t help with obstacles to the sides.

To help make backing safer, the Bolt’s optional cross-path warning system uses wide-angle radar in the rear bumper to alert the driver to vehicles approaching from the side, helping the driver avoid collisions. The Model S doesn’t offer a cross-path warning system.

The Bolt has standard OnStar®, which uses a global positioning satellite (GPS) receiver and a cellular system to get turn-by-turn driving directions, remotely unlock your doors if you lock your keys in, help track down your vehicle if it’s stolen or send emergency personnel to the scene if any airbags deploy. The Model S doesn’t offer a GPS response system, only a navigation computer with no live response for emergencies, so if you’re involved in an accident and you’re incapacitated help may not come as quickly.

Both the Bolt and the Model S have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver and front passenger knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, daytime running lights, rearview cameras, available crash mitigating brakes, lane departure warning systems and blind spot warning systems.

For its top level performance in all IIHS frontal, side, rear impact and roof-crush tests, and with its optional front crash prevention system, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the Bolt the rating of “Top Pick” for 2017, a rating granted to only 154 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The Model S has not been tested, yet.

Warranty

The Bolt’s corrosion warranty is 2 years and 50,000 miles longer than the Model S’ (6/100,000 vs. 4/50,000).

Chevrolet pays for the first scheduled maintenance on the Bolt. Chevrolet will pay for the first oil change, lubrication and any other required maintenance in the first year. Tesla doesn’t pay scheduled maintenance for the Model S.

There are over 47 times as many Chevrolet dealers as there are Tesla dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the Bolt’s warranty.

Reliability

A reliable vehicle saves its owner time, money and trouble. Nobody wants to be stranded or have to be without a vehicle while it’s being repaired. Consumer Reports rates the Bolt’s reliability 14 points higher than the Model S.

J.D. Power and Associates rated the Bolt third among small cars in their 2018 Initial Quality Study. The Model S isn’t in the top three in its category.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2018 Auto Issue reports that Chevrolet vehicles are more reliable than Tesla vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Chevrolet 4 places higher in reliability than Tesla.

Brakes and Stopping

In an emergency stopping situation, many drivers don’t press the brakes with enough force to stop the vehicle in the shortest distance. The Bolt has a standard brake assist system to detect emergency braking situations (by how hard and how quickly the brake pedal is pressed) and then automatically apply maximum braking immediately in order to help prevent a collision. The Model S doesn’t offer a brake assist feature.

Tires and Wheels

The Bolt has a standard easy tire fill system. When inflating the tires, the vehicle’s integrated tire pressure sensors keep track of the pressure as the tires fill and tell the driver when the tires are inflated to the proper pressure. The Model S doesn’t offer vehicle monitored tire inflation.

Having a flat tire is dangerous, inconvenient and expensive. The self-sealing tires standard on the Bolt can automatically seal most punctures up to 3/16 of an inch, effectively preventing most flat tires. The Model S doesn’t offer self-sealing tires.

Suspension and Handling

For better maneuverability, the Bolt’s turning circle is 1.6 feet tighter than the Model S’ (35.4 feet vs. 37 feet).

Chassis

The Chevrolet Bolt may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs about 1200 to 1400 pounds less than the Tesla Model S.

The Bolt is 2 feet, 8 inches shorter than the Model S, making the Bolt easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

The Bolt is 7.8 inches narrower than the Model S, making the Bolt easier to handle and maneuver in traffic.

Passenger Space

The Bolt has .9 inches more front headroom, 2.6 inches more rear headroom and 1.1 inches more rear legroom than the Model S.

Ergonomics

To improve rear visibility by keeping the rear window clear, the Bolt has a standard rear wiper. The Model S doesn’t offer a rear wiper.

Consumer Reports rated the Bolt’s headlight performance “Very Good,” a higher rating than the Model S’ headlights, which were rated “Good.”

The Bolt’s standard side window demisters help clear frost or condensation from the side windows in the winter. The Model S doesn’t even offer side window demisters, so the driver may have to wipe the windows from the outside to gain side vision.

To shield the driver and front passenger’s vision over a larger portion of the windshield and side windows, the Bolt has standard extendable sun visors. The Model S doesn’t offer extendable visors.

Economic Advantages

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Bolt is less expensive to operate than the Model S because typical repairs cost much less on the Bolt than the Model S, including $642 less for a water pump, $28 less for front brake pads, $176 less for front struts and $399 less for a power steering pump.

Recommendations

Consumer Reports® chose the Chevrolet Bolt as its “Top Pick,” the highest scoring vehicle in its category, based on reliability, safety and performance. The Tesla Model S isn't recommended.

J.D. Power and Associates rated the Bolt first among small cars in owner reported satisfaction. This includes how well the vehicle performs and satisfies its owner’s expectations. The Model S isn’t in the top three.

The Bolt was chosen as one of Car and Driver’s “Top Ten” in 2017. The Model S hasn’t been picked since 2016.

The Bolt was chosen as one of Automobile Magazine’s “All Stars” in 2017. The Model S has never been an “All Star.”

A group of representative automotive journalists from North America selected the Bolt as the 2017 North American Car of the Year. The Model S has never been chosen.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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