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.
2018 chevrolet bolt premier review electricity isn t even the most interesting part

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]

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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.

  • Jim Bonham Thanks.
  • Luke42 I just bought a 3-row Tesla Model Y.If Toyota made a similar vehicle, I would have bought that instead. I'm former Prius owner, and would have bought a Prius-like EV if it were available.Toyota hasn't tried to compete with the Model Y. GM made the Bolt EUV, and Ford made the Mach-E. Tesla beat them all fair and square, but Toyota didn't even try.[Shrug]
  • RHD Toyota is trying to hedge their bets, and have something for everyone. They also may be farther behind in developing electric vehicles than they care to admit. Japanese corporations sometimes come up with cutting-edge products, such as the Sony Walkman. Large corporations (and not just Japanese corporations) tend to be like GM, though - too many voices just don't get heard, to the long-term detriment of the entity.
  • Randy in rocklin The Japanese can be so smart and yet so dumb. I'm America-Japanese and they really can be dumb sometimes like their masking paranoia.
  • Bunkie The Flying Flea has a fascinating story and served, inadvertently, to broaden the understanding of aircraft design. The crash described in the article is only part of the tale.