Chevrolet brings EV driving to the masses in an affordable, tech-laden package.
Makers of electric vehicles tout the abandoning of the fuel pump as a money saver, but that frugalness always seems to come with an insanely high up-front price. Chevrolet wants to change this frustrating trend with the Bolt, which was revealed by GM CEO Mary Barra at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show. On top of that, it claims to travel 200 miles on a single charge, a huge range boost for affordable electric cars. We were curious to see it in action. Luckily, Chevy had a pre-production unit on hand for DT to take for a spin.
First impressions are everything, and the Bolt caught our eye with its sharp, contemporary exterior style. That’s important for a car that’s a bit diminutive like this one, otherwise it’s easily dismissed as either too cute or trying too hard. Happily, the Bolt looks cool enough for a younger demographic without appearing too over-styled for an older one. It doesn’t stray too far from the concept we saw at last year’s Detroit Auto Show, save for chunkier headlights and more pronounced highlights.
Chevrolet built the Bolt on a unique platform, which speaks to its investment in the Bolt’s long-term future and commitment to the engineering of the car. The unique platform allowed Chevrolet to construct a flat-bottomed interior where the batteries are stored and shave millimeters wherever possible to maximize interior space.
The pre-production test mule was missing the refinement we saw in the official photos, but the lack of dazzle allowed us to focus on all the tricks the Bolt has tucked up its sleeves. First off, the amount of saved space certainly adds up, and allowed a full-grown man to drive while another full-grown man sat behind him, with room to spare. Helping with the ample legroom is a set of seats that are thinner than usual. The usual internal seat foam has been replaced with a suspension combined with a plastic membrane for support.
Connectivity is a major focus at this year’s CES, so it goes without saying that the Bolt is a showcase of what Chevrolet has in store for its EV customers, going so far as to “tether” occupants via Bluetooth. (It’s not as frightening as it sounds, trust us.) The car maintains a low-energy connection with your paired smartphone over a considerable distance, so when you return to the car, it connects seamlessly with the hands-free systems, eliminating that momentary delay of re-pairing. This gives riders access to a Wi-Fi hotspot powered by 4G LTE, which can be accessed through the 10.2-inch MyLink infotainment display.
We were incredibly impressed by the Bolt’s modesty, and lack of bravado.
In MyLink, you’ll find many of the usual touchscreen features you’d expect, like navigation and radio functions, but there are pages that you can swipe through — Flipboard style — that give you data on energy usage. The neatest thing about it, though, is that you can configure the widgets on the screen to your preference; you aren’t stuck with a fixed home-screen arrangement that you may not like.
If bringing 200-mile, long-range EV capability down a few pay brackets wasn’t enough, the Bolt takes on a few other features found primarily on luxury vehicles such as surround vision. This utilizes multiple cameras throughout the exterior to create a birds-eye perspective of the car, which is handy for parking. It also rocks a rear-view mirror that can display the feed from an active 80-degree rear-view camera. It eliminates concern about passengers obstructing the view, but if it’s too disorienting for you, a simple flip of a switch toggles it to a regular mirror. It’s handy, and may prevent accidents.
We were only afforded a very constrained loop in a parking lot, so there’s not much to say about its performance, but features like single-pedal mode should help relieve some of the sting of traffic-heavy commutes. In this mode, lifting off the throttle brings the car to a full stop without having to alternate to the brake over and over again. It may seem small, but we’re confident the first time you get to use it in actual gridlock conditions, you’ll be thankful to have it.
Our time with the Bolt was fantastic, brief as it was. We were incredibly impressed by its modesty, and lack of bravado. Chevy has taken grand concepts like long-range electric travel, Internet connectivity, and features often reserved for cars 10 times as expensive and put them all in an attainable package.
The Bolt is slated for production at the end of the year, and Chevrolet is gunning for a price below $30,000 (after $7,500 in government rebates). We’re still somewhat in the dark about its power output and range during actual use, but this information may be revealed at next week’s Detroit Auto Show. The Bolt isn’t some super car that will revolutionize the world with its stunning capabilities, but it does set a new standard, giving ordinary folks the choice to go full electric for the first time. Power to the people! We can get behind that.
- 200-mile range in an affordable package
- Space saving means it can fit four comfortably
- Configurable MyLink touch screen
- Cameras galore!
- $30K price depends on trim and government rebate
- How fun is it to drive?
- Rear visibility isn’t great without 80-degree camera