The Chevrolet Bolt EV got a strong head start against the Tesla Model 3 in the marketplace and now it has an early nod from Consumer Reports magazine which named the Bolt its "Top Pick" among small hybrids and electric cars.
The Bolt beat out other cars in its category such as the BMW i3, Ford Focus EV and the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid. It also beat the Toyota Prius which had been named Top Pick in this category in the past.
"The Bolt offers consumers further proof that mainstream electric cars can deliver strong driving performance," the magazine said in an announcement.
Tesla has struggled to begin volume production of the Model 3, though, and, for now, is only building fairly expensive, highly equipped versions of that car. Consumer Reports also hasn't yet finished testing the the new version of the Nissan Leaf, which is even less expensive than the Bolt but has a shorter driving range.
Consumer Reports named Top Picks in 10 different vehicle categories. To earn a Top Pick, a vehicle must get the best score in its class in Consumer Reports' tests and also have at least average reliability based on the magazine's surveys.
Toyota had four category-winning models, the most of any manufacturer. Those were the Corolla compact car, Camry mid-sized car, Highlander mid-sized SUV and the Sienna minivan. Toyota's reliability and the brand's inclusion of safety technology, such as automatic emergency braking and collision warning systems, helped it secure so many Top Picks, according to the magazine.
Chevrolet was the only other brand with more than one car earning Top Pick status from the magazine. Besides the Bolt EV, the Chevolet Impala was named the magazine's Top Pick among large cars. It provides "a driving experience akin to a luxury car," the magazine said.
The magazine also named the Subaru Forester its Top Pick among compact SUVs, the Ford F-150 among full-sized trucks, and the BMW X3 among luxury compact SUVs. The Audi A4 was named the magazine's Top Pick among compact luxury cars.
The Tesla Model S remains the highest-scoring car of all in Consumer Reports tests with a score of 100. It wasn't named a Top Pick simply because its category wasn't among those the magazine used this year, Consumer Reports spokesman Douglas Love said.
Consumer Reports regularly changes some of the categories in which it names Top Pick vehicles. The categories depend on which new cars the magazine has tested that year and on consumer interests, he said.
In the auto industry, Consumer Reports is widely considered the most influential publication among car shoppers. The magazine purchases all the cars it tests from retail car dealers and tests them on public roads as well as on its test track in Connecticut.