2017 Chevrolet Bolt Review: Go Fast, Quietly
For the better part of the past decade, most of us have been talking about electric vehicles. Thing is, until Tesla rolled around with the Model S, no one actually had experienced an EV that made sense for day-to-day living. Today, buyers can choose from an ever-expanding variety of EVs, but none with the range capabilities of a Model S or Model X. Not until now anyway. With the Bolt, Chevrolet brings to market an EV rated for 383 kilometres of range, easily outdoing the likes of the Nissan Leaf (172 km), BMW i3 (183 km), Ford Focus Electric (185 km), and Hyundai Ioniq (200 km).
All that range, however, comes at a cost - a starting price of $42,895 to be exact. So is it worth all the dough? Does the Bolt outdo it’s less expensive competition? Let’s find out.
So, much, range. I’ve tested a number of EVs over the last few years, and there’s always one sticking point: range. It doesn’t help that I live in a highrise with nowhere to plug-in on site. This means a schlep over to the charging station complex pretty much anytime I return home from a drive. With the Bolt, I went two whole days without charging; and even then had ample range left to run errands before looking to charge. During my time with the car, temperatures were hovering around the 2 to 8 degrees Celsius range - not cold enough to severely impair range. With a heavy lead foot – the best way to drive an EV – I was seeing range estimates on a full charge of about 280 km, and that’s with the use of heated steering and seat, radio, and that aforementioned heavy foot. Not bad at all.
A beautiful place to sit. Form it’s two-tone and textured surfaces, to the large, bright, infotainment display, to the well rendered dash, the cockpit of the Bolt is a rather special place. I’m particularly fond of the tiny geometric triangle shapes on the lighter dash panels that actually have texture to them; I’d even go so far as to say it’s one of my all-time favourite cabin design elements. On a more practical note, the flat floor made possible by smartly laying the battery pack under the car really opens up the cabin’s usable space. You even sit high like in a crossover, with all the driver and passenger seating space of a good sedan.
Going fast is easy. As I mentioned earlier, the best way to drive an EV is by mashing that throttle pedal, especially since electricity costs a fraction of what gasoline does. With the equivalent of 200 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque delivered without hesitation, the Bolt will easily jump past nearly every other vehicle at a red light; that is if you don’t end up spinning those skinny 215 width low-rolling resistance tires. On the handling front, Tesla still reigns supreme, but the Bolt with its low centre of gravity is actually not bad at all for jaunts in and around the city and on wide open highways.
Unnecessarily quirky - what happened to designing familiar cockpits? Chevrolet seem to have gone out of its way to make the Bolt’s controls and user interface overly different, gimmicky even. Sure, the Bolt’s like nothing anything else in the Chevy lineup, but going so far afield of its standard human-machine interface, which is quite good by the way, seems really unnecessary.
No user selectable regen. This may seem a strange complaint, but I really dislike a one button approach to regenerative braking. There’s one paddle behind the steering, and it applies strong regen braking when pressed, and returns to mild regen when released. What I’d really like to see is a regen off option where the car can coast with minimal mechanical friction on the wheels. It’s not as novel as it seems - the Hyundai Ioniq Electric does user selectable regen, and it’s marvelous.
A little pricey. I’m reticent to list the price of the Bolt as a negative because the price for it is easily justified by its superior range. That said, not every EV buyer needs a car with a lot of range, and if that alone is the Bolt's reason for a premium in the thousands of dollars, I'm not sure it's worth it for everyone. If you have a fixed daily commute distance, you can easily estimate how much range you need. According to a Statistics Canada survey, the average Canadian commute time is a little over 25 minutes, which we could extrapolate to be be no more than 60 km, so a return journey to and from work would still easily be within the range of even the lowest range EV for most. If you have a total commute distance that’s well within the range of a less expensive EV, do you really need the one with a 383 km range at what could be a nearly $10k premium?
Photos: Kanishka Sonnadara / Motor1 Canada