It should be obvious from the fancy Editors’ Choice badge up there next to its score, but the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV is my favorite new electric car. This smartly designed compact boasts a spacious cabin, decently flexible storage space and very forward-looking dashboard tech that gives me everything I need from infotainment, and nothing that I don’t. And I haven’t even gotten to the range!
Its EPA-estimated 238 miles of cruising range per charge is currently second only to the— a rival with a starting price that’s more than double that of the Bolt’s approximately $30,000 post-incentive starting price. Relative to the Model S, the Bolt’s not just a good EV, it’s an amazing value.
The Bolt will face stiff competition from the more appropriately matchedsoon, but for now the Bolt reigns supreme as the king of the attainable EVs.
The everyday EV with everyday range
The heart of a traditional car is the engine, but it’s all about the battery when you’re talking EVs. The Bolt’s battery is a 960-pound, 60 kWh lithium-ion pack located in the floor beneath the seats. This configuration gives the Bolt its elevated seating position; the car’s passengers sit about a head taller than they would in, say, a. It’s for this reason that Chevy feels it’s OK to call the Bolt a crossover rather than a hatchback.
This EV crams electricity into that battery pack via a 7.2-kW onboard charger that, when connected to a 240-volt home or public charging station, adds about 25 miles of range per hour on the plug. So, from flat, the Bolt takes a maximum of 10 hours to charge.
If you’re in a rush, an optional DC Combo Fast Charging system can rapidly juice up the battery to 90 miles of range in just 30 minutes. (After that initial boost, DC Fast chargers revert to the slower standard charging speed.) With 238 miles of range to work with, I never ran into a situation where I needed an emergency fast charge, but I’d still recommend this $750 option, as it adds a lot of convenience and flexibility for very long trips.
I should note that the Bolt comes standard with a 120-volt trickle charger that plugs into a standard home wall outlet, but it’s only really useful for emergencies, with an extremely slow charging rate of about 4 miles for each hour plugged into the wall.
All those kilowatt-hours of electricity the Bolt stores are used to power its electric motor, a 150-kW (about 200 horsepower) unit that sends up to 266 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels via a single-speed reduction gear. That much instantaneous torque in a car this size gives the Bolt very responsive performance at low speeds and a peppy around-town feel. Floor it and the 3,580-pound hatchback will do an eerily silent, sub-7-second 60 mph sprint (though that’s obviously not how you want to drive to reach the full 238-mile range at an EPA-estimated 119 mpge).
The Bolt’s suite of available driver-aid technology is solid, but not nearly as advanced as you’d expect from a car with such a high-tech powertrain.
In our loaded-up Premier model with all of the bells and whistles, there’s a Surround Vision system. This evolution of the rear camera stitches together feeds from four strategically located cameras to provide a 360-degree view of the area around the car at low speeds. This sort of bird’s-eye view is very helpful when squeezing into tight spots, but it’s perhaps not as impressive as an auto-steering parking system would be.
An optional Driver Confidence package adds lane-keeping assist, which uses the electric power steering to help keep the Bolt between lane markers at highway speeds. The package also brings with it a forward pre-collision alert system with low speed automatic emergency braking. The system can even detect and brake for pedestrians. However, while the Following Distance Indicator can let you know when you’re too close behind the car ahead, there’s no adaptive cruise control option that can automatically maintain a safe cruising distance for you.
A load-out like this would be impressive if we were talking about a Spark or, but EV buyers tend to be more savvy and have higher-tech expectations, so lacking gee-whiz features like adaptive cruise or automatic parking is a bit of a bummer.
Chevrolet is using the Bolt in its own autonomous car testing, so hopefully we’ll see these features added in future updates and model refreshes. Especially if the Bolt wants to remain competitive when the Model 3 arrives.
Nearly all of the Bolt’s interior design details deliver a spacious and airy feel, from the high roof, to the inclined dashboard, to the thin, suspended construction of the front seats which frees up extra legroom for backseat passengers.
Front and center on the Bolt’s dashboard is the large 10.2-inch color touchscreen display that serves as home to a unique version of Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment system. The software here has been stripped down to the essentials. There’s still onboard satellite and terrestrial radio, Bluetooth calling and audio streaming, plus USB connectivity for audio playback, but there is no onboard navigation or even the option to add it.