2018 Chevrolet Bolt Premier Review - Electricity Isn't Even the Most Interesting Part [UPDATED]
2018 Chevrolet Bolt
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 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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- 1995_SC Can you still get some of the tax credits under the new program?
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