2018 Chevrolet Bolt Premier Review - Electricity Isn't Even the Most Interesting Part [UPDATED]

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
Fast Facts

2018 Chevrolet Bolt

Permanent magnetic drive motor (200 horsepower; 266 lb-ft)
Single motor and gearset, front-wheel drive
128 city / 110 highway / 119 combined (EPA Rating, MPGe)
1.8 city, 2.1 highway, 2.0 combined. (NRCan Rating, Le/100km)
Base Price
$40,905 (U.S) / $49,300 (Canada)
As Tested
$43,510 (U.S.) / $51,990 (Canada)
Prices include $875 destination charge in the United States and $1,895 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can't be directly compared.

Despite winning some key awards upon introduction (including 2017 North American International Car of the Year), the 2018 Chevrolet Bolt has flown a bit under the radar thanks to all the noise surrounding Tesla’s Model 3.

Which is a pity, really. I don’t know if the Tesla is better than the Bolt, as I haven’t yet driven the 3, but I do know the Bolt is worthy of more attention than what it’s getting.

I also know that the rest of Chevy’s small-car lineup could use an infusion of the Bolt’s design. There’s plenty to like about the car that has nothing to do with its EV powertrain, and some of those good qualities would be well-suited to other vehicles in the brand’s portfolio.

I’ll get to that. What you most need to know about the Bolt, if you don’t already, is that Chevy’s electric hatchback has an EPA-estimated maximum combined range of 238 miles (225 city/217 highway). That gives it a decided edge over Nissan’s Leaf (151 miles) and a slight boost over the standard Tesla Model 3 (220 miles), although it’s far from the promised 310 miles of range from the long-range version of the Model 3.

For whatever reason, I never put that range to the test – I did a lot of driving in the Bolt if measured by time, but not so much in terms of miles. In other words, I drove a lot of short trips in an urban environment, mostly sitting in traffic. I wish I’d put more miles on it – not to challenge it on range, but to spend even more time with an interesting car.

The Bolt’s electric motor makes 200 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque and, like any other EV, the torque is felt instantly, making for swift around-town acceleration.

Ride and handling is about on par with other small commuter cars – engaging enough to be interesting but middle of the road enough to remind you that this is a commuter car, not a sports car. The ride is unremarkably balanced, but it’s comfy enough.

Speaking of comfort, the tall roof allows for plenty of headroom to go with the abundant legroom. Unfortunately, the design also features an expansive dash that poses glare issues. There’s acres of dashboard there, man.

I dug the available wireless cell phone charger, but found it worked inconsistently with my iPhone. A too-quick turn could cut the connection.

Chevy’s press materials claim the upright seats deliver an SUV-like view of the road, and while that’s a stretch (you’re still closer to the ground than you would be in any SUV), you do get good visibility thanks to the seats and the large windshield.

Back on the road, the Bolt has the ability for regenerative braking via one-pedal driving, like a few other EVs out there. For those that don’t know what that means, it means you can lift off the gas and the vehicle will slow much more quickly than it would if it were coasting – it’s basically like hitting the brakes. The brake pedal is still there to provide quicker stops, and you’ll need it to fully stop the Bolt – the one-pedal ability gets you down to a couple MPH, but not a full stop. Correction: I screwed up. I have confirmed with Chevrolet that when the shifter is in the “L” position, you CAN bring the Bolt to a stop using one-pedal driving. You cannot do so in “D.” As a safety precaution, the vehicle will NOT stop in “L” if your seatbelt is off. Finally, you can also stop the Bolt using the regenerative braking paddle. When you release the paddle in “D,” the Bolt will creep, release in “L” and it will remain stopped.

The one-pedal action takes some getting used to, but once you’re used to the sudden deceleration, it becomes second nature easily enough.

Expansive dash aside (seriously, developers could build homes on it), the interior design of the Bolt manages to be both eye-pleasing and easy to use. The infotainment screen is large at 10.2 inches, and it’s easy to both read and use. It’s far better than Chevy’s already solid MyLink infotainment, and the screen for the gauge cluster is also easy to read. I’d like to see the infotainment system used on other Chevys.

The physical buttons below the screen are also easy to use and intuitive in terms of layout.

Materials did strike me as a tad downmarket for the price, and the panel gap between the closed driver’s door and the dashboard made me wince. Minor quibbles, to be sure, but the Bolt isn’t cheap and one expects Chevy to recognize that if you’re ponying up for the Bolt, it’s not just for the EV powertrain.

I didn’t need to charge the Bolt during my time with it, which strikes me as a bit of a win (hooray, range!), although I also didn’t put a lot of miles on it, like I said. If you need to charge it, which you will eventually, a full charge of the lithium-ion battery will take 9 hours and change via a 240-volt outlet. A 120-volt outlet will net you 4 miles of charge per hour.

Forget the EV powertrain or the nearly 240 miles of range for a second – the Bolt is a well-packaged small car with interesting design and infotainment tech. That alone may make it worthy of a look, although the price ($37,495 base, including D and D and before incentives), will make many a non-EV customer blanch. And yes, the Model 3 is costlier once optioned out.

Speaking of options, my Premier-trim test car had heated front seats, leather seats, heated rear seats, USB port, lane-change alert, blind-zone alert, 360-camera, rear park assist, rear cross-traffic assist, and more standard. Options included lane-keep assist with lane-departure warning, low speed forward automatic braking, front pedestrian braking with pedestrian detection, wireless device charging, rear USB, and premium audio.

The Model 3 isn’t the only competitor, of course. For similar money one can snag a Volt without leaving Chevrolet’s showroom, and the Volt offers gas backup to alleviate range anxiety.

So the Bolt’s market may be limited, for now at least. But for those interested, the car is interesting enough to be worth it.

[Images: © 2018 Tim Healey/TTAC]

Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

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6 of 55 comments
  • Steverino Steverino on Jul 10, 2018

    Tim, based on your photos you live just a couple blocks north of me. If your parking situation is like most of the neighborhood's, it's good you never had to plug it in since that would require a lucky parking space and a long, long cord. One reason electrics won't work for a large portion of the world's population.

    • Tim Healey Tim Healey on Jul 11, 2018

      I live in a building that has outlets in the garage, but they are a pain to access. So have you seen either the Corvette Stingray with the number plate or the FR-S with FT 86 markings cruising the 'hood?

  • Arach Arach on Jul 11, 2018

    I might be dense, but the article spends some time talking about "L". What the heck is "L" mode? I assume "D" is for "Drive". "L" in a traditional automatic might be "low", although I haven't seen that in like 15 years, coupled with the fact that "low" makes no reasonable sense for what I believe is a transmissionless single-speed vehicle... in addition, theres no "L" on the shifter shown in the image. can someone clarify what the heck the "L" mode is the author is talking about?

    • See 2 previous
    • Blackcloud_9 Blackcloud_9 on Jul 11, 2018

      “L” is meant for Low in the traditional sense from the 2-speed or 3-speed transmissions from the 60s through the early 80s. But it is applied differently in the Bolt (and Volt). In the old days you would throw your car in low for steep declines or mountain driving, etc. In the Bolt/Volt it works much in the same way that if you lift off the accelerator with the car in “L” it will slow dramatically. However, like you pointed out, the Bolt/Volt have a single-speed transmission* so you can drive it in "L" all the way up to its top speed if you choose to do so. Then, as you let off the "gas" the car uses the electric motor as a generator to slow the car without ever using the brakes. As for the picture, I had forgotten that GM decided to put in their – let’s change how the shifter works because we can – shifter in the Bolt. I currently own a Volt which still had the traditional P-R-N-D-L setup. *I know saying single-speed transmission is a highly simplified version of how the Bolt/Volt get the engine power to the wheels, so please don’t correct me on this.

  • Rust-MyEnemy Whoa, what the hell is wrong with Jalop1991 and his condescension? It's as if he's employed by Big Plug-In or something."I've seen plenty of your types on the forums....."Dunno what that means, but I'm not dead keen on being regarded as "A type" by a complete stranger"" I'm guessing you've never actually calculated by hand the miles you've driven against the quantity of gas used--which is your actual miles per gallon."Guess again. Why the hell would you even say that? Yes, I worked it out. Fill-to-fill, based on gas station receipts. And it showed me that a Vauxhall Astra PHEV, starting out with a fully charged PHEV battery, in Hybrid mode, on my long (234-mile) daily motorway daily commute, never, over several months, ever matched or beat the economy of the regular hybrid Honda Civic that I ran for a similar amount of time (circa 5000 miles)."You don't use gasoline at all for 30-40 miles as you use exclusively battery power, then your vehicle is a pure hybrid. Over 234 miles, you will have used whatever gas the engine used for 200 of those miles."At least you're right on that. In hybrid mode, though, the Astra was using battery power when it wasn't at all appropriate. The petrol engine very rarely chimed in when battery power was on tap, and as a result, the EV-mode range quickly disappeared. The regular hybrid Civic, though, deployed its very small electric reserves (which are used up quickly but restore themselves promptly), much more wisely. Such as when on a trailing throttle or on a downward grade, or when in stop-start traffic. As a result, at the end of my 234 miles, the Civic had used less gas than the Astra. Moreover, I hadn't had to pay for the electricity in its battery.I look forward to you arguing that what actually happened isn't what actually happened, but I was there and you were not."Regardless, that you don't understand it appears not to have stopped you from pontificating on it. Please, do us all a favor--don't vote."You really are quite unpleasant, aren't you. But thanks for the advice.
  • Tassos Jong-iL Electric vehicles are mandated by 2020 in One Korea. We are ahead of the time.
  • 1995_SC Can you still get some of the tax credits under the new program?
  • Analoggrotto HyundaiGenesisKia saw this coming a long time ago and are poised for hybrid and plug-in hybrid segment leadership:[list=1][*] The most extensive range of hybrids[/*][*]Highest hybrid sales proportion over any other model [/*][*]Best YouTube reviews [/*][*]Highest number of consumer reports best picks [/*][*]Class leading ATPs among all hybrid vehicles and PHEVs enjoy segment bearing eATPs[/*][/list=1]While some brands like Toyota have invested and wasted untold fortunes into full range electric lineups HyundaiKiaGenesis has taken the right approach here.
  • EBFlex The answer is yes. Anyone that says no is just….. wrong.But the government doesn’t want people to have that much freedom and the politicians aren’t making money off PHEVs or HEVs. So they will be stifled.