Chevy Bolt EV tested by Tesla Model S owner: his assessment

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, road test, California coastline, Sep 2016

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, road test, California coastline, Sep 2016

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Fleeing my home in New York’s Hudson Valley for California during February and March has a number of charms.  Currently at the top of the list: reading about Winter Storm Stella while watching the surfers at Rincon Beach.

For electric-car nuts like me, however, there’s another California perk that’s not far behind: the wide availability of the Chevy Bolt.

Back home, I’d been hankering for a Bolt test drive for months. As a long-time Tesla Model S owner,  I was eager to see how it compared to the gold standard of electric cars.

DON'T MISS: Chevrolet Bolt EV: Green Car Reports' Best Car To Buy 2017

 But several calls to nearby Chevy dealers had come up empty. No Bolts until April at the earliest, I was told. Sorry.

Once arrived in California, however, a quick call to Bunnin Chevrolet in Santa Barbara hit paydirt: “Sure, come on over any time. We’ve got a bunch of them.”

And so they did. Seven or eight Bolts were lined up right in front of the main entrance when I arrived. These guys, unlike most car dealers back East, apparently did not consider electric cars to be unsaleable orphans relegated to the back corner of the lot.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, road test, California coastline, Sep 2016

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, road test, California coastline, Sep 2016

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It turns out that Bunnin’s sales manager drives a Volt that he powers with solar panels on his roof.

 And the salesman who accompanied me on my test drive also owns a Volt. “I used to be a total motorhead,” he tells me. ”But now it just kills me to burn gas.”

 Car salesmen who love electric cars? Wow. This really is La La Land.

READ THIS: 2017 Chevy Bolt EV electric car: new owner's first impressions

Easy In

First thing I noticed about the Bolt was how easy it is to get into.

My major beef about the Model S is the too-small front door. For tall guys like me, who put the seat all the way back, getting in requires an awkward move around the B-pillar, which to my thinking is about 3-4 inches too far forward.

The Bolt, by contrast, has a nice wide driver’s door. And the higher ride height makes it even easier to climb in. 

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

Enlarge Photo

Smaller car, bigger door. Chevy’s doing something right.

The Bolt’s touch screen is no match for Tesla’s dazzler, of course. But it’s not bad.

The Bolt’s screen can display a lot of information the Tesla can’t. Energy usage, for example, can be broken down among driving, climate control,  audio system, and battery conditioning. Individual tire pressures can be displayed. Tesla has some catch-up to do here.

CHECK OUT: Why I canceled my Chevy Bolt EV electric-car order: a reader explains

There’s no Nav system in the Bolt, but it’s easy to simply hook up your smart phone and navigate on it through the car’s screen and speakers. Still, I missed that gorgeous 17-inch map display I’ve become accustomed to in the Model S.

The Bolt has one clever gimmick that the Tesla lacks: a rear-view camera that projects through the rear-view mirror.

Unlike the Tesla, the Bolt has one of those  antiquated oddities, the  On /Off button. Amazingly, no other manufacturer has adopted Tesla’s brilliantly simple idea that the car turns itself on when there’s a butt in the driver’s seat and a foot on the brake pedal. And turns itself off when the butt is removed.

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