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The first thing I noticed when I was in the 2018 Chevrolet Bolt was the gang voter. Upright, between the two front seats, familiar P-R-N-D-L markings. This selector lever speaks volumes about what this electric car is trying to be.
No buttons, no way to side like a Tesla or even a Toyota Prius, no knob. The gear stick of the bolt looks like something that you would find in any modern car, because everyone knows and understands, even if this one-speed electric car hardly needs it.
It's one of many examples of how this car wants to help support the electric car revolution by … well … being normal.
(Full disclosure: Chevrolet attacked us and asked if we wanted a Bolt for a week in New York City. We said yes, so they lent us one with full charge. Unfortunately, I scratched one of the doors and left a narrow parking garage exit. We apologize to all involved.)
What is it?
The Bolt is the first serious attempt by General Motors to sell a modern, off-the-shelf electric electric car after years of making various hybrids. Yes, there it was Chevrolet spark EV before, but with a range of only 82 miles, it was too limited to be your only car, as the Bolt would like to be.
Range is a big selling point here: 238 miles. It's not as impressive as that Long Range Tesla Models rated for over 300 miles, but on a par with the much more expensive Jaguar I-Pace, In a week of ordinary city driving it was difficult to bring a dent into this area.
It's a quasi-crossover hatchback, larger than your average hatch, but not as big as a real SUV, though it's surprisingly spacious inside. It's also surprisingly fun to drive, though that's hardly his primary mission.
Specifications that are important
Unlike the best-known electric car that came out this year, the Tesla Model 3, the Bolt does not come in a variety of battery and powertrain configurations. There is a bolt. That's all. It is front-wheel drive and powered by a 60 kWh battery mounted in the ground. It's all rated at a healthy, almost-hot hatch-esque 200 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque. Another fact that may surprise you: It is relatively slim at 3,563 pounds. (OK, that's not very slim and is a whole thousand pounds more than a Honda Fit, but batteries are not easy.)
Loading is easy too; Just plug it in, wait for the confirmation light and go. On a standard Level 2 charger (I expect most owners will have one at home), it will get back 25 miles range per hour, and on the DC fast-charging public stations it can add about 90 miles in 30 minutes.
Part of the thinking behind the bolt is that most people generally do not drive more than 40 miles a day, so most owners will not keep their batteries running down to zero all the time.
And unlike the Tesla Model 3, it's even $ 35,000, or at least pretty close to it, even before the $ 7,500 tax credit. (The one who is soon to expire for GM, By the way.)
So it's theoretically possible to get one of these for under 30 grand when the credit comes in, though most of the sales I've found are more expensive. Not bad on the paper. And it turns out, not bad in real life.
What is great
The bolt is just great a wagon, It was interesting to do this almost in a row with the Tesla Model 3 Performance, a car I really enjoyed spending time with. The difference in philosophy could not be more blatant.
Sometimes the Tesla tries to reinvent the wheel, even when it's not necessary, with its door to open the phone app, door unlock buttons, ultra-minimalist interior and many key features on a touch screen.
The bolt goes in the opposite direction. Anyone could come in this EV and find out. In fact, if you put a completely car agnostic person inside, they might not even realize it's electric. Not at first.
I loved the big, bright digital dashboard dashboard and the huge touch screen that was tastefully inserted into the dashboard. The latter looks really good, with classic fonts, responsive graphics, fast responsiveness, and easy-to-navigate menus. It feels like you're using a high-end tablet, and it's definitely a cut above most infotainment systems.
The Bolt is also pretty good on the front panel. Like all General Motors cars, it can be had with unlimited 4G LTE WiFi, and the speeds are excellent. Faster than the garbage WiFi in our office. I even edited some blogs and fired some emails about the comfort of the backseat.
The best trick of the car is regenerative braking. You may be wondering what the "L" means on this gear selector for an EV, and here it allows for full regenerative braking and true one-pedal driving. You do not really have to step on the brake pedal (except in emergencies, of course). The car slows down when you release the accelerator, as it recovers energy for the battery. This is best for city driving and lower speeds and it works remarkably well.
But! Then there is a paddle on the left side of the steering wheel that does the same on demand whenever you want. Pull the paddle and the vehicle activates regenerative braking; Let go and it's back to normal. Being able to turn this on or off immediately – for example, to get into a lap or when the traffic in front of you slows down – with only your left hand is a big little advantage.
What is weak?
The Bolt is definitely not much to look at from the outside. I mean, it's okay. It's not ugly, but it's in no way distinctive or visually conspicuous. It could easily be confused with any other hatchback or small crossover. This is in line with the normalcy GM was aiming for, but I think a little more visual flair would not have hurt.
The biggest disappointment is the interior, which is spacious but extreme blah, The Model 3 is extremely bony, but at least it's a prime place to spend time. The roots of the Bolts Economy Car really come from within. The dashboard is made of this hard, plastic white material that looks more like styrofoam. All this feels like a knock-off rate of the BMW i3, without the coolness.
The seats were similarly disappointing. They are flat at the back and bottom and feel very cushioned, so I never felt really well. I have the feeling that extreme street stumbling would be quite a punishment for your back.
By the way, it also has to be said until GM rolls out the recently announced network of Extreme Fast ChargersThe Teslas have the clear advantage for long-distance and road trips. Basically, without a supercharger network, the Bolt will have its headache with long-distance traffic. The Bolt has the range, but he does not have a backup yet.
Seat grumbles aside, the Bolt is a pleasant and even rewarding car to drive every day. It's best if you think of it as a city car plus: definitely destined to be an electric commuter, but with far less anxiety about your range than the 80-mile EVs that only seem to meet California regulations.
I drove the Bolt from my neighborhood in Brooklyn to the offices of Gizmodo Media near Union Square Park, every day I had it, a shuttle that only went about six miles in one direction. (And it usually takes 40 minutes to an hour because of New York.) I never worried about the distance during these trips; in fact, I had to make a special trip out of town to really consume some of that 238-mile load that was given to me.
Even in the city driving makes fun. It has enough juice that you can pass and between other cars if you need to jump with ease, and it's small enough that it's remarkably easy to park. The ride quality is great, and it's so quiet inside that it's actually quite comforting to work. A big isolator from the chaos and noise of the city.
I like engine noise as much as the next speed freak, but the Bolt is the simplest car to have a volume-volume conversation I've experienced so far.
At first, I stormed myself for doing that after our brief stint in Model 3 Performance. Of course, the Bolt does not have the intense, almost uncanny acceleration that the car has. Why should it? Not all electric vehicles are the same, and that's half the price.
But the bolt is not slow. It is not some golf cart. From a stop when you're on the gas pedal, you even get an eye-opening amount of torque control. The zero to 60 mph should happen in respectable 6.5 seconds and I have no reason to deny it. You will not stop anyone in this matter.
In terms of what it feels like to drive fast, it's somewhere between a standard Volkswagen Golf and a GTI – not crazy fast, but not boring either. The Bolt also has a sports mode, and with this commitment it feels surprisingly eager.
In terms of handling, it benefits from its compact size and the weight of the battery in the ground – no engine that loses its balance. It has a bit of body roll when you throw it hard in a turn, but it stays pretty flat. Again, better than you would expect.
Adventure while loading
It got tricky here: my attempts to load a bolt in New York City took almost a full day and were pretty crazy, but the car was not to blame.
After shutting the battery down about 75 miles, I took it to a workshop near our office on 10th Street and Seventh Avenue, which was controlled by the PlugShare app. Not good. Only the Tesla chargers were ready – and these do not work with a bolt – while the rest was broken. I paid a day in a second garage, which was closer to the office, and it was charged when I left it that morning, but when I got back around 8:30 pm. It was not loaded at all. The companion was confused. Their elevators were broken too, so I suspect it was a problem with the building.
My next stop was at Whole Foods (of course at Whole Foods, right?) In Gowanus, Brooklyn, not far from where I live. But the ChargePoint chargers and the access card that belonged to my loaner did not stand up. Also no luck.
Eventually I stowed it in another garage near the grocery store overnight, and – lo and behold – when I came back the next morning, the car had an almost full battery. I had to teach the companion how to do it, but still. Success! Finally.
Of course it was a frustrating day. But it is important to know that my experience is not typical for most Bolt owners. Chances are that they are able to load quickly at home, in their office, if they are lucky, or they have places nearby that they either trust to be charged.
I am confident that I would not have any problems if I had the bolt for a week. I just parked it overnight in the garage or found a reliable one closer to the office. But in New York City, you are always at the mercy of other people, twice that of EV charges.
The bolt starts at $ 36,620. Our tester was a Bolt Premier, the better of the two available Trims, which starts at $ 41,780. The Premier includes leather seats and a variety of lane change and parking aids.
With options like this sweet roof rack, our car came to $ 43,905. All of this is ahead of the $ 7,500 EV tax credit, which would bring their "true" price to $ 36,405.
Here's the thing: At this price, above the average new car transaction price these days, the Bolt is a solid deal. But with the pale seats, the Econo hatch and the decidedly non-premium interior, the Bolt is Not a middle $ 40,000 car. It just is not. If you want one of these, do yourself a favor and get it before the balance expires.
If it does, Chevrolet has to drop the price, make it somehow more premium, or go over to some electric crossover SUV thing that is similar under the skin but can justify the steeper price, the way all the transitions seem to do.
In many ways, the bolt is a win. It's priced good (as long as the EV balance exists), it's funny enough, it's practical and it's easy to live. You can hardly ask for a better way to get people into electric cars. Yes, charging was a pain but I would sort it out someday and most drivers will not have to cope with New York City headaches as I do.
I was somehow surprised that I came to many of the same conclusions about the bolt that my colleague Kristen Lee had about the Tesla Model 3 Long Range she has tested. (I was on vacation when she had this car and I could not drive it.) Although the Model 3 does some radical things with its design and interior, at the end of the day it tries to drive like a normal car. Range-anxiety-free car would, and the bolt tries exactly the same. I think that the EV market needs normality right now.
And like Kristen, I'm not ready to have this as my only car, and not just for loading and range reasons. I would miss engine noise, gear myself, and all the other irrational things I love about internal combustion engines. But there was something rewarding, even quiet, to walk around in something that I knew had not contributed to air pollution, gas consumption and air pollution The climate change will eventually get us all done,
Would the Bolt have a good day next to an old, funny, funny and terrible Jalop phone? They could do much worse than this combination.
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