He Said/She Said: 2017 Chevrolet Bolt
Dan & Lacey have high expectations of the “world’s first affordable, long-range all-electric vehicle.”
Lacey Elliott: The electric vehicles are officially becoming a part of our real world. However, most people are waiting for something that is more affordable and has a longer range. I am spending this week with the all-new Chevrolet Bolt; a car that might just be both those things. Billed as the “world’s first affordable, long-range all-electric vehicle,” I have high expectations of this EV.
Dan Heyman: You and me both, Lacey. It’s been talked about by GM almost as much as the Volt was in the months (years?) leading up to its release. It’s also an all-electric car, which is new territory for GM – remember, the Volt still gets a gas engine for backup – and an area of the automotive segment that’s been gaining lots of traction lately, with the likes of Tesla, Nissan, Hyundai, Toyota and BMW all getting on the full-EV bandwagon.
The Bolt then, has more competition that we would have imagined even three years ago, so let’s see if it steps up to the plate.
LE: The Bolt has a compact hatchback design so it offers decent room for all passengers and of course, lots of extra stuff in the back. I think it looks great! The rear seats split 60/40 and when they are both folded down, it gives you just over 1600L of space. There is an available false cargo floor that provides additional space and keeps items neatly stowed away.
The front end of this EV is enclosed because batteries don’t need air. This, along with the flat under body not only adds to the aesthetic appeal but it streamlines the airflow and helps to improve aerodynamics. Several exterior colours from bright ‘Orange Burst’ to a neutral ‘Nightfall Grey’ are available so that you can get the vehicle that you really love the look of.
Even though it is classed as compact, the cabin feels open and airy. The dash is modern looking yet the layout is simple and intuitive. Nice touches of chrome are sprinkled throughout and if you upgrade to the Premier Trim the leather seats look and feel fantastic. The Premier trim also gets you a heated leather steering wheel; my new must have feature for cold Canadian winters.
The front console has a ton of useable space with a sliding arm rest and cupholders large enough to accommodate my shaker bottles and coffee cups.
The touch screen is 10.2 inches diagonally; its huge! It seemed almost too big when I first drove it but I quickly appreciated how easy it is to see the needed information. This is the screen that displays your ‘normal’ car information as well as specific information needed for the electrics. The ‘Energy Details’ screen breaks down the percent of energy that has been used while you drive including climate control, heated seats or charging your phone.
Big guys like Dan should have lots of leg room in the back seat. A small complaint is that Chevrolet made the actual cushion on the seat backs thinner to allow for more space and I found them uncomfortable. Because it is electric, it’s not the vehicle you would buy if you take a lot of long road trips with the family anyways. You would have to decide if a slightly uncomfortable back seat is more important than having less space.
DH: It’s strange; while I like the sexy curves and ritzy detailing of luxury tourers and sports cars as much as the next guy, I’m also a fan of the high-roofed mini-people mover silhouette carved by the Bolt. It just so happens that those luxury tourers and sports cars I talked about come mostly from Europe and while the Bolt doesn’t fall into either one of those categories, its is a body style that’s been made popular by the Europeans, too; it seems that over there, every compact hatch – from the lowliest Ford to the lowliest Citron – gets a high-roofed variant, and I rather like it. It makes for a nice view out and like Lacey mentioned, more room inside for taller folks like me.
The exterior detailing also isn’t bad; the way the black headlight surrounds stretch down the sides of the front fenders to incorporate the “Bolt EV” logo, for example, is cool and reminiscent of the taillight treatment on the original Volt. The two-tone wheel option is also cool – even somewhat sporty – and the roof spoiler is a nice compliment.
Not quite as enamoured with the interior, however. We’ll speak to the numerous screens and lights that make up the dash a little later, but even they can’t detract from the fact that there’s a lot of plastic in here, and it’s of a pretty cheap variety. It’s all over the centre stack and console, and the doors are rife with it, too. It may make the car lighter and more environmentally-friendly (many pieces are made of recycled materials) but you just know it will scratch like crazy as time goes on.
I do like the two-tone seats we had in our Premier-spec interior (LT is your base option), however; they look good – kind of tuxedo-ish – and they’re quite comfortable, too. Could I have used a little more side bolster support? Perhaps, but this isn’t meant to be a sports car and most will be just fine with the flatter cushier seats.
ON THE ROAD
LE: Unlike the Chevrolet Volt, this Bolt is a pure electric vehicle, it doesn’t have a gasoline generator to extend the range of the car.
That being said, the Bolt has a range of 383km and this is currently what sets it apart, and ahead of the competition. Most Canadians drive an average of 80km round trip a day to work. A full charge could last you two or three days, depending on your personal distances. Of course, most of us would be home at night and charge the car while we sleep.
Acceleration is instant. The Bolt puts out an impressive 200hp and 266 lb-ft and can get to 100km/ h in under seven seconds. The battery is low under the floor so it helps keep the centre of gravity low and the handling is surefooted.
The electronic shifter selects gears electronically and that results in a smoother action compared to a traditional shifter. The electric steering is surprisingly precise.
I am actually blown away with the smooth ride and quiet interior. However, is it possible that it’s too quiet? Of course, no gasoline engine means less noise but Chevrolet has done a fabulous job of insulating the Bolt so that very little wind or road noise gets inside of the cabin either. The peaceful interior is almost eerie. Just another thing to adjust to with an EV.
DH: One aspect of these great direct-drive EV powertrains is just how responsive they are. Without the inertia associated with a traditional transmission and powertrain, the Bolt zips forward as soon as you depress the throttle, feeling very hot hatch-like in its report. Lacey asks if it’s too quiet, and the fact that it has no sound to accompany it does take some getting used to, for those that haven’t experienced EV powertrains before—but you tend to get over that quite quickly.
The ride is in keeping with that silent powertrain and thanks to that low centre of gravity Lacey talked about, the Bolt stays nicely planted – high roof and all – through the bends and is pleasingly bereft of brittle panel creaks and the like over most bumps. That’s a nice, upscale touch that sets the Bolt apart from other similar Chevys such as the Sonic or Cruze hatch, and I’m all for it.
Also a big fan of the regen on demand paddle that Lacey mentions in the next section. Put simply, it makes regenerating your battery that much more effective – as long as you remember to use it. You can let the brakes do all the work if you’d like, but using the paddle takes some strain off of that and almost allows for “one-pedal driving.” No need for the brake, just throttle and paddle—in stop-and-go traffic around town—as the paddle will bring you down to a full stop.
SAFETY & TECHNOLOGY
LE: When connected to a 240-volt charger it takes about 9.5 hours to fully charge the battery. As I mentioned earlier, for most people this would mean charging it overnight. It is also important to keep in mind that you will most likely not need a full charge every day.
‘Regen on Demand’ on the steering wheel paddle means you can use the paddle to slow the car down without using the brake pedal. This system converts the lost energy from braking into usable electricity and transfers it back to the battery.
The battery pack and propulsion system come with an 8 year/160,000km warranty so there is no need to worry about problems in the near future.
The Bolt is loaded with safety features. Surround Vision, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Departure Warning and Forward Collision Warning are just a few standard features.
The Hyundai Ioniq EV and the Ford Focus EV both have similar pricing but have much less range. The Ioniq gets about 180km and the Focus 125km.
Also Read: 2018 Nissan Leaf EV takes you even Further
DH: Of course, this being a vehicle of the “EV” variety, the technology section holds a little more weight than most. We could talk about the infotainment, but it’s hardly different here than it is in other Chevys so you get what they get, including sat radio, navigation, OnStar support, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility and a bloody great big touchscreen display. “Displays”, I should say; you’ve got your traditional centrally-mounted display, but the unit behind the wheel that acts as your (fully-modifiable) gauge cluster matches it inch-for-inch. There’s a lot of screen time here, that’s for sure so you’d better get comfortable with it.
The big story, however, is the EV system and the various aides it employs. You can program when to charge the car through an app, set it to use more or less brake regen depending on the conditions you’re in and allow it to control how much of your climate control is sapping resources. There are so many submenus that it can be a little imposing at first, but once I got the hang of them, I found them to be intuitive enough and fairly easy to navigate. It all points to Chevrolet taking Bolt development very seriously, and the fact that getting one in Canada can be a challenge these days goes to show you that it may be a little more popular than even GM envisioned.
LE: The starting price for the entry level LT trim is just over $40,000 and of course every province has its incentives to help lower that price. This is a current EV that is going be affordable for a lot of people. With that being said, Tesla Model 3 is soon to hit the road. I can’t wait to see what that car will offer.
DH: I’d say that on the EV front, the Bolt ticks all the right boxes. It’s got the range – even the upcoming, all-new Nissan Leaf can’t match it in this department – it looks properly modern and the tech on offer is right up there with the best in the biz.
Having said that: while Lacey says she likes the starting price, it should be noted that since the Bolt arrived, other manufacturers have been coming to the table with some more competitively-priced options. The Hyundai Ioniq Electric, for example, starts at almost five grand less than the Bolt. Same goes for the Prius Prime, although that’s only available in Quebec for the moment so we’ll have to put an asterisk beside that one.
Still, though; none of those cars offer the same interior space the Bolt does, that same quirky, European silhouette and, if I’m honest, that same styling offered by the Bolt.
Assuming your local dealer has one to try, I’d suggest you do so but just know that there is competition in the segment that has been hitherto nonexistent.