Leaf vs. Bolt—Quick and Dirty Review

The 2017 Chevy Bolt---not the same as a Nissan Leaf.

The 2017 Chevy Bolt—not the same as a Nissan Leaf.

Ok, so I finally drove a Bolt. And… it’s not the same as a Leaf. I know, this is not sounding like rocket science here. But, bear with me—time for the very very short review.

My quick impressions from a 30-minute drive…

— The Bolt is a smaller car, that feels lighter than the Leaf. BUT… I just looked up the curb weights, and the Leaf averages about 3,350 lbs, and the Bolt is actually a bit heavier, at 3,500 lbs. So let’s unpack this a bit. First, the Bolt is smaller. You can’t really see any of the hood, even when you lean forward a bit. The passenger is closer to the driver than in the Leaf, by what seemed like several inches, and the side windows angle in more at the top. The end result is a cabin that feels quite a bit tighter than the Leaf’s. The area behind the rear seat (the “trunk space”) is smaller, too. But… there’s no hump in the middle of the rear floor, so the rear seating area seemed plenty spacious. Then, it has more power than the Leaf, by a noticeable amount. On one start, I accidentally broke both front tires loose, which made me wonder 1) if it has traction control, and 2) how much faster it would be if it was rear-wheel drive like a Tesla. Its acceleration on a highway on-ramp was impressive, and it seemed to dart right up to 70 mph. So… I think it’s this power that makes it feel lighter than the Leaf, even though it isn’t.

But… (there might be lots of buts in this post…) it seemed quieter than the Leaf, sort of. There was no discernible whine from the inverter or electric motor, even when regenerating power, which was nice. But, road noise seemed a bit higher, like Chevy put in the bare minimum sound dampening, to save weight.

So, the end result of all of this—the Bolt really felt smaller, sportier, and more connected to the road, in terms of sound and vibration, than the Leaf. But… this actually made me miss the Leaf. By comparison, the Leaf seems more akin to a BMW 7-series— smooth, roomy, and with a luxury-car sound level and ride quality. All in all, a testament to the Leaf and its engineering.

Now, this might be a slightly biased review—I really love the Leafs, and have mentioned this on numerous occasions. And I wish Chevy all the best with the Bolt—it’s a pretty amazing car, with really amazing range; real owners have been reporting ranges well above the 238 EPA-rated mileage, some well over 300 miles.

As to the more mundane details—lots of reviewers have made slightly disparaging comments about the seats in the Bolt, but I found them to be comfortable. They aren’t very wide, but I’m not a wide person. The headrests do tilt quite a bit far forward, and that angle doesn’t adjust, but I didn’t find them bothersome—they didn’t touch my head during normal driving. The interior did seem a bit “plasticy”, like others have noted, but it did not seem out of character with the overall sporty sort of feel. Again, it’s different from the Leaf.

We didn’t have time to run through all the screens in the display, or to test out all the bells and whistles. The screen didn’t seem to have a map function, though (I just searched the internet on this one, and I think I’m correct—no map). I really like the Leaf’s GPS and mapping screens, and I think I would miss not having them.

The Bolt has regen that is quite strong, though it didn’t seem quite as smooth as the Leaf’s, in terms of fading in and out. But, to be fair, it could just take some getting used to in terms of feathering the accelerator pedal.  I had heard about the “regen paddles” on the steering, wheel, but didn’t quite know which lever was what, and didn’t try them out.

So, to wrap up the very quick and dirty review—the Bolt is an impressive car. It seemed tight and rattle-free and well-put-together. Would I buy one? Hmmm. I sure would like the range, but it would also sure be nice to use Tesla’s superchargers (see my last post). The Bolt is also a bit more expensive than the Leaf. So what I really found myself wondering was how the NEW (2018) Leaf will compare—those that have driven it have said that it is an improvement on the current Leaf in almost every way. And seeing as how I really like the current Leaf… it might come down to how badly I want that extra 80 or 90 miles of range that the Bolt would provide. As I said in that last post—come next May, when the current leases expire, I’m going to have quite a choice to make. And the Bolt is still in the running.

Top image credit: Clean Technica