So I just picked up a 2019 Bolt Premier in Red to replace my leased 2017 BMW i3 REX. I drove about 70 miles home with the car, took the family for a spin, and then drove to the airport and left the car and wanted to share some initial impressions on this car vs. the i3.
First off, I've rather enjoyed the I3. It was my first foray into EVs so the REX was an "insurance policy" of sorts and the aggressive lease rates made it pretty easy to try for a couple of years.
My biggest complaint with the i3 (and I obviously knew this going in) was the suicide doors. We're a family of five so it was fine for shuttling the kids but we couldn't get the whole family in the car, and the doors also make for awkward entry and exit in a typical parking lot when someone is next to you. You need to do a bit of a dance to get one adult and 2 kids out of the car. This is obviously solved with the Bolt.
Some more specific comments on specific aspects of the vehicles.
The i3 wasn't bad for 80% of my driving, and ballpark I'd guess that 95% of my miles were on electric. The range was a bit awkward for my longer drives, where I'd be going to a location 80-200 miles from the house. I could do a good portion of these trips 100% electric using DCFC except for areas like Greensboro, NC where charging was difficult, in terms of availability of DCFC and destination chargers. In these cases I'd burn a gallon or two of gas along the way.
The 200+ miles of the Bolt seems like a sweet spot for the vast majority of my driving. I haven't investigated all the nuances of charge curves and whatnot, but my system with the i3 was generally to stop for about 45 minutes and eat or take a nice coffee/email break, which should work sufficiently for the Bolt and all my trips within ~300 miles of Charlotte, NC.
I3 is definitely "funky" and the carbon fiber construction is interesting. The Bolt isn't going to win any awards but is a bit more "normal." I thought I'd use the "frunk" in the I3 more, but other than keeping the very rarely used 120V charger in there I don't think I ever opened it other than to show someone.
Conventional doors are a bit win for the Bolt. I'll miss the simple "just grab the handle" keyless entry versus the button press required on the Bolt.
Trunk seems a bit bigger on the Bolt, and a bit more useful with the seats folded.
I like the way the Bolt drives. It seems planted, fun, and way less twitchy than the I3. You feel every bump with the I3 and it's twitchy on the highway. I got used to it, but unless your neck muscles are teased your head will literally bounce fore and aft over every minor road imperfection.
Better turning radius on the I3 (it's probably the most maneuverable car I've owned).
One pedal driving (loved it in the i3) is very similar. I haven't used the paddle on the wheel too much yet, but seems like a nice addition.
What's been interesting thus far is that on paper, the Bolt accelerates faster than the I3, but it "feels" a bit slower. Initial thought is that there's definitely more accelerator pedal travel in the Bolt so that will take some getting used to, and I believe the car just feels more stable and planted than the I3, making the acceleration feel slower.
Both are a bit austere/futuristic. I don't have a clear winner. I found the Bolt seats to be just fine. I3 were nothing to write home about and my butt spends countless hours in airplanes and rental cars so maybe I just have low expectations but I was pleasantly surprised by the Bolt. Certainly not Volvo caliber but I was fine after my 70 mile ride.
Bolt has better Rear seat room (obviously) and I like the USB ports back there for the kids.
I prefer the turn signal and wiper control of the I3, and the I3 also had the best automatic wipers of any car I've owned and that will be missed. That said, the GM controls have way better feel than a lot of other brands (I'm looking at you Ford, Toyota, etc.).
I don't like the shifter (hopefully I'll get used to it). The I3 design initially seemed really goofy, but is actually really smart. When parking it's awesome to move your hand 2" off the wheel, flick your wrist, and be able to change from R to D and vice versa. When starting, the power button and gear shift are so close you can almost operate them in a single movement. Moving your hand down, hitting a button, and making a large and unintuitive movement with your hand is sub-optimal, but again hopefully I'll get used to it. I especially don't like that I have to "double-dip" on each drive to activate regen mode.
The CarPlay in the bolt is great. Faster than any rental I've used it in, great resolution, and Siri is actually helpful in the car. The car's internal screens about energy use are also superior to the Bolt. I do like the I3's dial/button interface as once you learn it, you don't even need to look at the screen versus mashing buttons, but the Bolt has better functionality. I can finally listen to podcasts and Spotify with minimal drama! Frankly I'd take CarPlay over the Tesla system for podcasts and audio any day.
I also love the dash display on the Bolt. Someone really did some nice design work on that. Only thing I miss so far from the I3 is the SOC display. I'd love to see exterior temp and SOC somewhere on the dash.
I will likely miss adaptive cruise. Not sure why the Bolt seems to have all the key elements (with DCII it knows how many seconds behind the car you're following you are which seems like all you need) but I can't imagine they'll go all Tesla on us and add this after the fact. Too bad.
I'll also miss the range display that would draw your estimated range on a map, similar to the Chevy app. Despite having nav I'd generally use Waze on critical trips, so I don't see the lack of internal nav as much of a problem. The integrated charging station info on the BMW was fairly lackluster and I'd usually resort to Plugshare, so not something I'll miss either.
BMW app has a nicer design. Chevy app seems clunky although all the info is there, so may just be a matter of usability that I'll eventually adjust to.
I'm obviously biased as I'm still in the new car love affair stage, but it feels like I'm not giving up much to solve the range issue, door/5-person capacity problem, and also gaining a better infotainment/audio/mapping capability. Most of my gripes are things I'll easily adapt to and it's nice to gain things like blind spot warning that make up for the goofy shifter.
The thing I'll miss most is probably adaptive cruise. It wasn't perfect, but was great for longer highway trips and traffic. I'll gladly trade double the range, however.