- The 2020 Chevy Bolt has been updated to deliver 259 miles of range per charge, an improvement on the 240 miles that we enjoyed back in 2017 when we first tested the EV.
- Otherwise, the Bolt isn’t much changed, apart from getting a 66-kilowatt-hour battery pack, larger than the 60 kWh pack from the previous iteration.
- The Bolt now competes against a more crowded field of contenders, including the Tesla Model 3, but this zippy subcompact continues to be charming, versatile, and affordable.
- I called it a masterpiece back in 2017, and I haven’t changed my mind.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
I can remember a time when Tesla’s only real competition was the Chevy Bolt.
Oh, how long ago 2017 now seems! The Bolt is still with us, but a lot of other long-range EVs have arrived to steal Tesla’s thunder. Sort of. Tesla still dominates the EV market.
What Tesla doesn’t dominate is the entry-level segment; in fact, Chevy and the Bolt have that space almost to themselves (some competition has emerged from Kia/Hyundai).
Whenever I think of buying an EV, I invariably think, “Tesla.” But soon thereafter, I remember that I could head over to my local Chevy dealer, about two miles from my house, and drive a Bolt home that same day, assuming there was one on the lot.
For that reason, I like to keep up with the Bolt and was thrilled when the updated, longer-range version landed at Business Insider’s suburban New Jersey test centre.
Here’s how it went:
Say hello to the 2020 Chevy Bolt EV, in top-level Premier trim. The paint job was my personal Chevy fave these days: “Cajun Red Tintcoat.”
The Bolt remains a subcompact hatchback, a modest platform for such an important vehicle. The base price was $US41,020, but a few thousand bucks in extras took the sticker to $US44,130, as-tested.
For 2020, the big update to the Bolt EV is more about what’s under the hood than what’s visible to the eye …
… The update doesn’t really look different from the car that wowed us back in 2017.
The Bolt’s biggest rivals remain the base version of the Tesla Model 3 at about $US40,000, with 250 miles of range. I tested a more expensive version: $US57,500.
The Nissan Leaf Plus is also in the competitive mix. We tested a $US44,000 example that offered 214 miles of range.
The Bolt is a decently-made vehicle in that company, but it’s far less snazzy than the Model 3 and a bit more bare-bones than the Leaf. Still, Chevy took the car from announcement in 2015 to launch in 2016 — an impressive dash to market.
The Bolt EV formed the basis for GM’s entire EV strategy — the automaker intends to roll out 22 electric vehicles by 2023.
The Bolt is manufactured at GM’s Orion assembly plant, where it can be modified …
… To serve in the autonomous fleet of GM-affiliated self-driving car company, Cruise.
I’ve actually visited Orion, where the Bolt assembly process is an efficient thing to watch.
The Bolt was envisioned by the GM’s Korean studio, a lab for the company’s small-car platforms. Because it was engineered around its large, 60 kWh LG battery pack — which provides actual structural integrity to the car — the Bolt is distinctive within GM’s global lineup.
There’s no internal-combustion engine, to there’s no need for a grille intended for air intake. Unfortunately, this does give the Bolt’s fascia a very plasticky appearance.
The Bolt gets a nice pair of HID Xenon projector headlights, plus LED running lights. The lamps are intellibeam units — they an “turn” with the car.
The Bolt EV nameplate appears both on the flanks and the rear.
And the Chevy bowtie badge, is shimmering gold, is front and rear.
The front …
… And rear wheels were 17-inchers on my test car.
So, there no way around this: the 2020 Chevy Bolt EV Premier is a rather small vehicle. That’s not a negative: the base version is $US36,620, and it offers long-range, entry-level EVing in a versatile, hatchback platform.
All Tesla has to compete with it at the moment is the long-range, all-wheel-drive version of the new Model Y crossover, at $US53,000.
Aesthetically, the Bolt combines a fun appearance with a vibe that definitely says, “I don’t cost that much.”
The back end’s design would be familiar to anyone who’s ever tailgated traffic in Europe, where hatchback’s rule the road.
At 17 cubic feet, the Bolt’s cargo hold is larger than the Tesla Model 3’s trunk (15 cubic feet). The Model 3 has a front trunk, or “frunk,” adding some space, but drop the Bolt’s rear seats and capacity expands to 57 cubic feet.
It easily swallowed two large boxes.
The interior was “Dark Galvanised Grey.” While it was far from upscale, it was comfy and pleasant.
The rear bench seats were also pretty good, for the segment.
The lack of internal-combustion components means that the Bolt has good legroom in back, for a subcompact vehicle.
Plenty of room to stretch out! Normally, we note that subcompacts are basically useless for transporting adults in the back seat, but the Bolt is sort of an exception.
The multifunction steering wheel is nothing special, but it was heated in the Premier trim. The front seats were also heated.
The joystick shifter has a learning curve, but I got the hang of it in a hurry.
Storage space is decent, for a vehicle this wee.
The lack of an engine, again, creates interior space.
The Bolt is easily the most capacious-feeling subcompact I’ve ever tested.
Nothing exceptional or high-tech about the key fob — but the Bolt EV does have remote start! There’s a myChevrolet app that has Bolt-specific features.
Let’s see what’s under this EV’s hood!
We aren’t seeing everything here — for gearheads, popping the hood on an EV can be sort of dispiriting. The Bolt’s 66 kilowatt-hour battery pack is actually located under the vehicle’s floorboards.
Orange is the universal colour of electric-vehicle under-the-hood-ness. This is so mechanics, engineers, and emergency personnel know where the high-voltage connections are.
The Bolt’s drivetrain has a single motor over the front wheels, with a single forward gear, and the total power output is a peppy 200 horsepower.
The charge port is located on the Bolt’s left side.
There’s an included charge cable, for “trickle” charging or 240-volt overnight re-juicing.
According to Chevy, the Bolt can return four miles each hour to the battery at 120-volt, and can get back to full in ten hours on 240-volt. A DC fast-charge returns 100 miles to the battery in 30 minutes.
I used ChargePoint to top off the Bolt at a nearby Level 2 station.
It’s a simple plug-and-play process.
The Bolt does a good job of using regenerative braking and a regen paddle on the steering wheel to keep battery charge optimised. If you aren’t hitting the freeway and taxing the battery, it’s possible to putter around town for a week and still have more than 100 miles in the “tank.” I ended up with 135 miles in reserve.
The infotainment system runs on a responsive, colourful 10.2-inch touchscreen. In my tester, it was upgraded with a $US595 package.
There’s a suite of apps, 4G LTE Wi-Fi connectivity, Bluetooth pairing, USB ports front and rear, a premium Bose seven-speaker audio system, wireless charging, and available Apple CarPlay and Android Auto — but no GPS navigation.
The system also offers various monitoring screens …
… for EV enthusiasts …
… Who want to track their Bolt’s performance.
The cameras are pretty crisp, and my Bolt also had some driver-assist goodies, including forward-collision alert and lane-departure warnings.
As with all GM vehicles, OnStar’s safety and connectivity services can be accessed at the push of a blue button.
So what’s the verdict?
In Premier trim, the Bolt is a tad pricey for a subcompact that lacks much in the way of interior amenities and cargo capacity. I mean, for about the same moolah, you can become the proud owner of a BMW X3 crossover SUV.
That said, the Bolt at any trim level is extraordinarily appealing because you can just mosey down to your friendly, neighbourhood Chevy dealer (or, in the COVID-19 era, make an online visit) and in a few hours, get yourself a nice electric car that serves up 259 miles of range on a single charge.
The truth is that I’ve always been a Bolt fan, and with some extra miles added to the previous top range estimate of 238, I’ve even more of one. Testing the vehicles during the coronavirus pandemic – when I’ve been staying close to home and limiting nonessential journeys – also made it clear that 260 miles on a charge is plenty. I tried to run the Bolt down under 100 miles, but I failed. And that was during a week of evaluation. For suburbanites with access to either 120-volt or 240-volt home charging, the Bolt is an ideal EV.
It’s also a lot of fun to drive, with go-kart handling and zippy acceleration: 0-60 mph in 6.3 seconds. As is usually the case with me, I find a lead foot on the highway with EVs, and the Bolt was no exception. That single electric motor applies torque to the front wheels in an addictive surge.
Some EV buyers might now see the Bolt as more of a means to an end, given that it’s nowhere near as overtly high-tech as the Tesla Model 3, not as nicely appointed as the Nissan Leaf. The much more plush MINI Cooper SE Electric has less range but comes off as more solidly made. And then there are your Audi eTrons and Jaguar I-PACEs and, on some distant, exalted plane, the Porsche Taycan. In that company, the Bolt is basic.
But it’s been effective basic since 2017, and it continues to offer the best bang for the buck in the nascent EV market. I called it a masterpiece back in 2017, and although it competes in a more crowded arena these days, it’s still a car that I hate to give back when the test week is over.
In other words, if I were buying, there’s a good chance I’d be buying a Bolt.