The reviews are in, and the 2017 Chevy Bolt EV has topped all competition to become Motor Trend’s 2017 Car of the Year.  This is GM’s second electrified car to win the award, and the third electrified car and second pure EV overall (2011 Volt, 2013 Tesla Model S). Among other electric cars considered by Motor Trend were the Model S and X, both of which became finalists in their categories. More on them below.

Motor Trend praised the Bolt’s performance, packaging and roominess, ground-up engineering as an EV, efficiency and value at $37,495 or $29,950 after $7500 US Federal Tax rebate.

Of particular interest are the Bolt’s performance numbers, which time the Bolt EV at a 0-60 of 6.3 seconds.  With performance like that, Motor Trend said the Bolt could make “a helluva hot hatch” and that in “fun per mile” it competes against the Mazda3 or Golf, with similar performance and price range as a Golf GTI.  It’s no P100D, but for a small front-wheel-drive EV, the car has a lot of power.

As we’ve covered before, Motor Trend aren’t the only ones with good things to say about the Bolt; it seems to poll well among Tesla owners as well.  In many ways, it seems like a winner, and one which Chevy has done a lot of things right with.  Motor Trend summarized:

Two numbers—238 and 29,995—are why. The first is the number of miles the EPA has certified the Bolt EV will travel on a full charge. The second is the price, in dollars, of the Bolt EV, after allowing for a $7,500 federal tax rebate. By offering that range at that price, the Bolt EV has made just about every other electric vehicle on sale obsolete. “Simply put, it’s twice the car for half the price of a BMW i3,” guest judge Chris Theodore said. “A better car, better package, much better handling, with twice the range.”

Of course, the Model 3, which many perceive as the Bolt’s main competition (though we respectfully disagree – there is more than enough room for more EVs at the table, and the competition is against ICE cars, not only EVs), was not up for consideration this year…since it won’t be on the roads until the second half of 2017.

We have two problems with Motor Trend’s analysis:

  1. There’s the typical Tesla/Elon Musk baiting: “Chevrolet has made affordable long-range electric transportation available to the masses. Elon Musk should be afraid. Very, very afraid.” Come on guys, the Model 3 is almost nothing like the Bolt in appearance, target audience or use cases. Why do we always need to do this?
  2. Then they say this about the Level 3 Charging: “One element in EV operating efficiency is, of course, the time it takes to recharge. Unlike Tesla, GM doesn’t have banks of Superchargers. But using a Level 3 charger, our experience supports GM’s claim that the Bolt EV can be given 90 miles of range in 30 minutes, 160 miles in 60, and a full charge in two hours. That’s not far off Tesla’s Supercharger capability.” It is extremely far off. It is less than half as fast as Tesla’s charging and this is just part of the problem. There are infrastructure problems and compatibility issues that need to be addressed. We went into great detail here on what GM needs to do and why.  We hope Chevy doesn’t wait to address these issues.

But these are small quibbles. The Bolt is a damn fine automobile and just as it did in 2013 with the Tesla Model S, Motor Trend should be applauded for the courage to award it the best car in the model year, even (especially?) if it is electric.

The Model S already won in 2013, but Motor Trend deemed the current Model S different enough to warrant reconsideration, and it joined 7 other cars as finalists.  In particular they were impressed by the 60kWh battery affordability, the ability to upgrade to 75kWh, and updated software and autopilot capability.  Motor Trend called The S “still a technological and dynamic force to be seriously considered” despite having been on the market for 4 years already.

The Model X was also one of 5 finalists for “SUV of the year”, but was beaten out by Mercedes’ GLC-class.  The Tesla garnered praise for just about everything – except the mid-row seats and falcon wing doors.  Given that it was being considered against other SUVs, the “utility” point was a factor for Motor Trend, who disliked the lack of a roof rack (though a trailer hitch rack is available for the car) and the lack of folding middle-row seats.

It’s too bad they were unable to test Tesla’s new 5-seat configuration, which gives the Model X significantly more cargo space than the competition (88 ft³, as compared to the winning Mercedes GLC’s 56.5 ft³).  Nevertheless, Motor Trend ended their review of the Model X stating that “nearly everything else about the way one approaches, interacts with, and drives any Model X seems certain to provide a perpetual source of surprise and delight.”

You can review our look at the prototype Bolt here.

What do you think about Motor Trend’s choice?  Do you expect the Model 3 to repeat the Model S’ success when it joins the competition next year?  Tell us below.