2017 Chevy Bolt

Style

The Chevy Bolt, a tall hatchback, has a mainstream design in line with the brand’s lineup of cars, SUVs, and trucks. General Motors calls the Bolt a crossover, but the label is only loosely applied to this compact car.

Yes, the Bolt sits about a head taller than the typical compact hatchback—partly to make room for the battery pack under the cabin. But you shouldn’t expect the Bolt’s appearance or its road capabilities to match a true sport utility vehicle.

Instead, the Bolt’s strategy for styling and packaging is borrowed from small cars like the Honda Fit. It offers a surprising amount of interior space contained in a compact platform. Designers added some sporty appeal by using slanted body creases, a rising window line, a raked windshield—and an aggressive front and back fascia with chrome highlights and LED lighting. The wheels are pushed to the corners to create a wide stance.

The result is handsome—although there’s only so much excitement you can add to a tall utilitarian compact with aerodynamic tires.

Performance

The Bolt’s 150-kW electric motor outputs 200 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque to the front axle. That power is enough for the Bolt to go from zero to 60 mph in less than seven seconds. It’s a fun and zippy ride, especially when in Sport mode.

Most drivers give Chevy credit for the Bolt’s compliant steering. As with all electric vehicles, the Bolt delivers quick acceleration from a standstill—even more than you will find in the Nissan LEAF, but not as much as the BMW i3 and certainly the Tesla Model 3.

Like other EVs, the Bolt’s excellent torque at low speeds doesn’t translate to strong passing power on the highway. While still perfectly adequate for highway driving, the Bolt shines on city streets where it provides an engaging and very quiet ride.

The Bolt is also fun on curvy roads where it stays planted even at higher speeds. The large, heavy battery pack under the cabin provides a low center of gravity and an excellent front-to-back balance.

The suspension can be challenged by rough road surfaces. Also, when launching from a stop, the capable electric system can overpower the chassis and tires—punctuating bursts of acceleration with tire chirp.

The feel of the road partly depends on which driving mode is selected. Put the gear selector into Low to gain more grab from the brakes—what EV drivers call “one-pedal” driving. In other words, as opposed to quickly shifting your foot from the accelerator to the brake, the car will quickly come to a stop by merely lifting off the go-pedal—but not touching the brake pedal.

The use of L maximizes the amount of braking energy that’s reclaimed for charging the battery. The same purpose can be achieved for brief moments by pulling the small paddle behind the left side of the steering wheel. The use of the paddle turns braking into a game of choosing the optimal moment to begin the abrupt slowdown. Driving in L and maintaining your foot on the accelerator is a more straightforward and controllable process.

In either case, the Bolt’s braking is consistent, a trait not shared by all hybrids and EVs that can have an uneven or tentative brake feel.

Efficiency/Range

The Bolt uses a 66-kWh battery pack—providing an estimated 259 miles on a single charge. That was a big leap over previous electric cars when the Bolt first went on sale at the end of 2016. Today, you can compare the Bolt with the 258-mile Hyundai Kona EV, 243-mile Kia Soul EV, 239-mile Kia Niro EV, and the more affordable 226-mile Nissan LEAF Plus. (Take note: The Korean models are challenged by lack of availability.)

GM engineers said that the low end of the driving range for the Bolt is about 160 or 170 miles on a full charge. That’s how many miles you might expect if you put the pedal to the floor and push the Bolt to its 93-mph top speed for an entire trip. This is not a real-world scenario—and the outside temperature and the use of auxiliary energy-draining functions (like heat) were not provided—but the stat is still impressive.

For every kind of local travel—even long daily commutes and while driving in frigid weather—you will not face range anxiety. That said, extreme cold could reduce the range by 50 or more miles. On the other hand, a prudent driver in a mild climate can achieve a range that approaches 300 miles on a single charge. Regardless, the Bolt’s thoughtful dashboard provides high, low, and estimated remaining range that takes your driving conditions into account.

The Chevy Bolt’s longer range is not only a matter of using a bigger battery. It’s also an engineering decision by GM to use that battery to a higher capacity. Engineers usually prevent the pack's capacity from being fully utilized, because deep cycling of a battery degrades a pack over time. GM engineers told PluginCars.com that nearly 100 percent of the Bolt’s 66-kWh pack is utilized. Previously, the Bolt's battery provided 60 kWh of energy. Improvements in battery chemistry upped the range to its current 259 miles.

Charging

2017 Chevy Bolt

Using a 240-volt charging station, the Bolt’s 7.2-kilowatt onboard charger can add about 25 miles of driving range in one hour at the plug. In practical use, nearly all drivers will usually come home with a sizable amount of energy left in the pack. That means overnight charging (or even a charging session during a long afternoon) will quickly bring the Bolt’s battery to its full capacity.

Using its Quick Charging port on long-distance trips, Bolt drivers can add about 90 miles of range in 30 minutes. That’s due to the Bolt’s Quick Charger, which uses the SAE combo-cord standard, commonly pulling power at 50 kilowatts. (See our guide to quick charging.) Several competing EVs are capable of 100- to 150-kilowatt quick charging, which can add more than twice the number of miles in the same 30 minutes. Tesla electric vehicles can charge at 120 kilowatts at the company's Superchargers.

So the Bolt is slightly lagging behind the competition for charging speeds. How important is this distinction? That depends on how often you plan to take road trips of 300-plus miles in the compact Bolt.

If you plan to go those long distances on a regular basis, then you should buy the optional $750 CCS fast-charging port. If you’re hoping to push the distance of frequent electric road trips even further, say to 500 or 600 miles, then consider a different EV that offers faster charging, such as the Tesla Model 3.

Passenger/Cargo Room

2017 Chevy Bolt

Besides praise for its long range, the compliment most bestowed upon the Bolt is for its generous interior space and open, airy cabin feel. Nearly every reviewer confirms what GM promised: a compact car with the interior space of a mid-size vehicle, albeit with a narrow cabin shape. It’s considered one of the roomiest vehicles in its segment.

Visibility is excellent. The controls are easy to understand. The AC and heat are responsive and quickly hit desired temperatures. Low door sills make for easy ingress and egress.

Four adult passengers will find plenty of space, generous legroom, and a high seating position. (Three grown-ups in the flat rear bench seat are fine for relatively short trips.)

The 102.4-inch wheelbase is about one foot shorter than a LEAF. With 94.4 cubic feet of passenger volume and 16.9 cubes of cargo volume, the Bolt has a bit more passenger volume but less cargo than the LEAF and other competing compact EVs. There’s plenty of cargo capacity for typical grocery shopping although stowing baby strollers and large sports gear is more of a challenge. The more versatile Toyota Prius Prime, a plug-in hybrid, could be a better choice for families. Nonetheless, the Bolt’s back seat folds to yield 56.6 cubic feet of cargo.

2019 Chevy Bolt

Some of the extra room is a result of thinner seats with less padding. That’s a great trick, although it reduces comfort. We recommend taking an extended test drive to assess your level of comfort from the somewhat meager seats.

The interior space is well organized with multiple useful storage compartments, even if the abundant use of hard plastics gives an economy feel. The competing Korean models use higher quality materials, although the Bolt’s surfaces combine well with the floating dash to produce a cool, techno vibe. The downside is how quickly the interior shows wear and tear with loosening trim pieces, scuffed plastic, and dirt stains on its thin carpet.

You can spruce up the interior comfort with the Premiere trim, which replaces the cloth seats with leather, providing heat to both front and rear seats, and adding other tech enhancements.

Regardless of trim, the dashboard provides a digital 8-inch instrument cluster and 10.2-inch color touchscreen to artfully display the cabin’s core functions. Those high-tech features are complemented by a digital rearview mirror, which uses a rear camera to provide an 80-degree view in back. (An optional surround-view camera is also available.) Unfortunately, the touchscreen can be glitchy and slow to respond to commands.

Built-in navigation is not available. Instead, navigation comes via a smartphone using Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which are both standard. You can connect devices via Bluetooth or four USB ports. Wi-Fi hotspots are open for up to seven devices.

2017 Chevy Bolt

Safety

The 2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV was awarded the highest rating on nearly every crash test performed by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. However, the Bolt fell short of earning a "Top Pick" status due to a poor score for the design of its headlights that provide only fair visibility in curves. The Bolt also received only a “marginal” score for difficulty using child-seat latches.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration gave the 2019 Chevrolet Bolt five out of five stars in its Overall Safety Rating. In the frontal crash test, the front driver side got five stars, while the passenger side received four stars. The Bolt did well in side-crash testing as well, although the rear-seat score was four stars compared to the top rating for the front seats. The rollover rating was five out of five stars.

The Bolt comes standard with 10 airbags and a rearview camera. However, adaptive cruise control is not offered in any trim. Available safety features include blind-spot monitoring, lane change alerts, lane departure warnings, rear parking sensors, rear cross-traffic alerts, a rearview mirror that displays a live camera feed, forward-collision warnings with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, and high beam assist, which automatically switch to low beams when it detects an approaching car.

Price

The Bolt has a starting price of $37,500. The federal tax credit for Bolt and all plug-in electric vehicles produced by General Motors is being phased out—because GM reached 200,000 EV sales in March 2019. The tax credit for the Bolt dropped to $1,875 on Oct. 1, 2019. The federal tax credit for the Bolt will be entirely eliminated on April 1, 2020. Many state and local incentives remain in place.

In the current period, the lower price tag for the LEAF—and the continued availability of the full $7,500 tax credit—put Nissan’s electric car at a price advantage.

The entry-level Bolt LT comes with the 10.2-inch touchscreen, support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a Wi-Fi hotspot, a rearview camera, Bluetooth, voice recognition, two USB ports, satellite radio, proximity keyless entry, and an 8-inch driver information display (with speed, distanced traveled, remaining battery charge, and other pertinent information). The $555 Comfort and Convenience package adds heated front seats and a heated steering wheel. The $495 Driver Confidence package provides rear parking sensors, rear cross-traffic alerts, blind-spot monitoring, and lane change alerts.

The Bolt Premier trim starts at almost $42,000, adding leather upholstery, front and rear heated seats, a 360-degree parking camera system, the safety features found in the LT’s Driver Confidence package, and the rearview mirror with an integrated camera feed. The $485 Infotainment package adds a wireless device charging station, Bose audio system, and two USB ports for rear passengers. The $495 Driver Confidence II package includes high beam assists, forward collision warnings, pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, and lane departure warnings.

For $750, Bolt buyers can opt for direct-current fast-charging capability via the Combined Charging System (CCS) port.

Changes for the 2019 Bolt include minor updates to the user experience, new selectable levels for when to stop charging, and a feature that prevents the Bolt from moving when in Low gear and the seatbelts are unbuckled. Also, the touchscreen now has separate buttons for AC and heat. The list of new colors includes Green Mist, Slate Gray, and a bright Dayglow shade of Green dubbed Shock.

The Bolt is available throughout the United States.

Chevrolet Bolt specifications

Availability: Now
Base MSRP: $37500
Est. tax credit: $7500
Technology: Electric Vehicle
Body type: Sedan
Seats: 5
EPA Range: 259 miles pure electric
Battery size: 66 kWh
Charging rate: 7.2 kW

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