The Car Connection Chevrolet Bolt EV Overview
The Chevrolet Bolt EV compact electric hatchback was new for 2017 and was the first affordable, high-range electric car in the U.S.
Although it isn't the first electric car, nor is it the one with the longest range. It's not the least expensive, nor is it the most spacious. The Bolt EV's "first" is that it's the first to blend seamlessly into the roadways as "just another car" that's powered by an electric motor.
With the Bolt EV, Chevy has a competitor for the Tesla Model 3, Volkswagen e-Golf, and Nissan Leaf.
MORE: Read our 2018 Chevrolet Bolt EV review
All Bolt EVs are assembled in Michigan, although many of the car's powertrain and display components come from GM's development partner LG Chem in South Korea.
While it is built in the same Orion, Michigan assembly plant as the next-generation Chevy Sonic subcompact, the Bolt EV rides on its own dedicated platform, with a wide, flat lithium-ion battery pack under the cabin floor and an electric motor powering the front wheels.
But it's the 238-mile EPA-rated range that's really the Bolt EV's calling card. That's a capability otherwise available solely in cars with a Tesla badge, at prices of $70,000 and up. It's delivered by a 60-kilowatt-hour battery pack that powers a 150-kilowatt (200-horsepower) motor driving the front wheels. The Bolt's overall weight is about 3,580 pounds, according to the manufacturer. Official charging times haven't yet been announced.
Walking up to the Bolt EV, it appears a bit smaller than the Leaf on the road—perhaps due to its short overhangs—but the car is wide for its length and actually larger in person than it appears from a distance. The nose has a Volt-like "grille" blanking panel, flanked by light units that wrap around and sweep most of the way back to the base of the windshield posts. A larger opening below provides an air intake.
A body-side crease sweeps up toward the rear, with the bottom of the window line climbing even higher at its back end. The rear has a relatively vertical hatch opening onto a spacious load bay with 16.9 cubic feet of cargo volume.
The Bolt EV's cabin is light and airy, and the remarkably thin front seats give an extra inch of rear leg room compared to regular seats. Four adults can ride comfortably, though the "five-passenger" description is pushing it.
Passenger volume is 94.4 cubic feet, against 92.4 cubic feet for a Nissan Leaf—and only 94 cubic feet for the much larger Tesla Model S. The Bolt's interior is "two segments larger" than the car's exterior size would suggest, said development engineers.
The lack of an engine let Bolt EV designers move the windshield base down and forward, letting them rake the large glass at almost the same angle as its short hood. Frontal vision from the driver's seat is exceptional, which will make the Bolt easy to park.
The seats are comfortable, and all occupants sit upright, and higher than they do in the more rakish Volt. The slim dash and console and the car's flat floor make the front footwells especially wide, and outward visibility is excellent.
The dashboard has both a central 10.2-inch touchscreen built into the top of the console and a fully digital 8.0-inch instrument cluster behind the steering wheel. The Bolt EV also uses General Motors' new digital rearview mirror; its rear-facing camera gives a wide 80-degree image in the crisp digital display that replaces the mirror glass, against 22 degrees for a conventional mirror.
There's no spare tire, but neither is there an inflator kit; the electric Bolt will be the first car on the market to use the latest development of Michelin's self-sealing tire technology. A portable 120-volt charging cord is housed under the load bay, Chevy expects most Bolt EV users to recharge its large battery pack at 240-Volt Level 2 charging stations.
The Bolt accelerates confidently even with four adults in the car. GM quotes acceleration from 0 to 60 mph at less than seven seconds, and we found we could chirp the inside front tire under full power out of a turn. It corners relatively flat on its 17-inch alloy wheels, and the steering had a nice positive self-centering action. We didn't hear any motor or electronics whine, and the brake feel was consistent enough that the transitions between regenerative and friction braking was imperceptible.
The standard Drive mode behaves just like a car with a conventional automatic transmission (minus the shifting), complete with idle creep. A paddle behind the left side of the steering wheel lets the driver increase the regenerative braking rate. Low mode, which many drivers will come to prefer, provides so-called "one-pedal driving," including the ability to slow right down to a full stop without touching the brake pedal. It's a smoother, calmer, more relaxing way to drive.
The base price of the Bolt EV is $37,500 before incentives, with higher trim levels and options pushing it above $40,000. The car qualifies for a $7,500 federal income-tax credit, as well as a $2,500 purchase rebate in California and other states with similar incentives.
Changes for the 2018 model year were minimal: The heated steering wheel now switches on automatically when the car determines cabin temperature warrants it. Otherwise, the Bolt EV's second model year is essentially identical to its first.