Higher gas prices, memories of auto-crossing the Bolt prompt us to take a walk on the eco-friendly side.
On Instagram I describe myself only half-sarcastically as a “self-professed internal combustion holdout.” So, it comes as a surprise to my friends that lately I have been raving about the Chevy Bolt EV.
Before you revoke my gearhead card, two quick explanations. First, my daily is a mildly modified Toyota Tundra that gets about 12mpg when you factor in my lead foot. Gas prices are currently upwards of $4.20/gallon. The daily commute is taking away some serious parts money.
Secondly, last year I was invited by my friends at Chevrolet’s PR agency to autocross-yes-autocross the Bolt EV at Santa Anita. Instant torque, surprisingly good handling, and a tight course made for so much fun that I’m still talking about it.
With the aforementioned factors in mind, I reached out to Chevy to see how if I could review a Bolt under normal circumstances sans chicanes and chicanery in general. They were kind enough to oblige. The verdict, in a nutshell: I like it.
Performance: Surprisingly Fun and Incredible Range
It may seem odd to start an EV review with performance, but if you jump behind the wheel of the Bolt it will make sense. EV’s are notorious for the torque on demand and the Bolt is no exception. Since I’m a relative newbie in the EV space, I can’t say the Bolt is better or worse than the BMW i3 or Tesla3 in the fun factor category. I can only say brings moments of fun to the daily soul-crushing experience that is the SoCal commute.
At the autocross event, Bolt EV vehicle performance engineer Mike Burns shared that his team had three overarching goals with the Bolt EV – to make it handle well, to put down power, and allow for a sporty drive.
In daily life, the Bolt delivered across the board. The uphill on-ramp to the 210 freeway was transformed into the Kessel Run, even with 3,580 pounds to haul around (plus yours truly and my 100 pounds of gear). Passing was generally a breeze and I will admit I may have had to drop the proverbial hammer on the driver of a Tesla Model S who didn’t seem to think an electrified high-top should be able to jump ahead of him with such ease.
But you don’t click on an EV review to hear me regale you with stories of handling and acceleration. No, you want to know about regenerative braking and range, range, range. The Bolt features a slick Regen on Demand (RoD) feature whereby you can pull back on a paddle behind the steering wheel, which immediately slows the car while simultaneously charging the battery. It’s a very cool feature that generates 65-70 kW and extends the range on a given charge.
Speaking of range, the Bolt’s 238 miles of range puts it near the top of any EV-range comparison chart. That’s a respectable achievement when you consider the Bolt has been with us for more than two years and it can be had for a starting price in the $36k range.
Per the EPA, the Bolt gets a combined 119 city/highway MPGe. What that translates to is an annual cost of about $550 which is again very competitive against other EVs (and don’t get me started on my truck. That’s my monthly fuel bill!)
Comfort and Convenience: State of the Art
We’ve established the EV is fun to drive and will save you a ton of cash compared to your gas vehicle. But no matter what, we will be stuck for in traffic. What’s it like to be seated in the Bolt when you’re going five miles per hour and staring down 50 more minutes of gridlock?
Our tester was the Premier trim which comes with tons of tech to keep you entertained and comfortable on your drive in. The heated seats with contrast stitching are quite comfortable. Passengers have plenty of room and with the rear seats folded down, the Bolt’s cargo hold is downright cavernous. I paired the Bolt with the 1957 Chevy 210 wagon for my monthly Carcadia show and the Bolt probably could have stored all the cones, doughnuts, and swag by itself.
Chevy Past and Present display at Carcadia
The Bolt features Chevrolet’s infotainment system which features a large 10.2” color touchscreen, Bluetooth audio streaming, and its own 4GLTE hotspot. It also features Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which I do not have in any of my cars. I always miss CarPlay when its gone.
The interface between phone and car has moved at the top of many shopper’s lists and in the Bolt it’s seamless. The optional Bose Premium 7-speaker System was plenty powerful and crisply delivered all of my favorite tunes from 80’s new wave to hip-hop and everything in between.
The Premier trim also adds a rearview camera mirror, 360-degree surround vision camera, and two USB charging ports for the rear passengers. In the cell phone department, you get wireless device charging, which I still think is some kind of magic.
Safety: Keeping the Shiny Side Up and the Battery Packs Down
Rounding out the Bolt are a full complement of safety and security tools to keep the shiny side up, including lane change alert, rear park assist,rear cross traffic alert and many other standard features. This tester was equipped with the aptly-named Driver Confidence II Package which added forward collision alert as well as lane keep assist.
If there is room for improvement, it may be on the exterior. As more and more competitors enter the EV market including many from luxury marquees, Chevy would do well to continue to iterate the Bolt’s look. The days of EVs looking funky and unique are not over, but with the segment heating up and more mainstream buyers considering the switch that is something that would make going EV a more palatable decision for some.
With that being said, if gas prices continue to creep up to the $5.00+ mark I would definitely consider jumping onto the EV bandwagon and the Bolt would be at the top of my consideration set given its range, capabilities, and value for the money.
For more information, visit Chevrolet.com.
2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV Premier
Standard Vehicle Price: $40,905
Price As Tested: $43,905
Fuel Economy: 128 MPGe city / 110 MPGe highway, 119 MPGe combined
Annual fuel cost: $550
Propulsion: Electric Drive Unit
Charging: 120-volt, DC Fast Charging ($750 option)
Regeneration: Regeneration on Demand
Brakes: 4 wheel antilock disc brakes
Safety: Rearview auto dimming camera, Surround Vision, Rear park assist, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Pedestrian Safety Signal
Optional Driver Confidence II Package ($495): Intellibeam automatic headlights, Following Distance Indicator, Forward Collision Alert, Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning
Entertainment: Chevrolet Infotainment System with 10.2″ color touchscreen, Bluetooth Audio Streaming, Android Auto, Apple Carplay
Optional Infotainment Package ($485): Bose Premium 7-Speaker System, USB charge-only ports, Rear Cajun Red Tintcoat