Chevrolet Bolt — Outstanding range photo

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

(August 2, 2020) If you have decided it's time to purchase an electric car and you are shopping the ever-growing array of increasingly affordable vehicles, one of the EVs that's a must for your shopping list is the 2020 Chevrolet Bolt. The small hatchback has numerous desirable attributes including a 259-mile range on a single charge and a starting price of less than $40,000.

Despite its smallish size (only 164 inches long with a wheelbase of 102.4 inches) it has a spacious cabin with room for four adult passengers, and crossover-like cargo capacity measuring 17 cubic-feet.

The biggest news this year for the Bolt, which was introduced in 2017, is an increased driving range from 238 to 259 miles, which puts it ahead of most electrified rivals including the Standard Range Plus version of the Tesla Model 3. photo

Like previous years the Bolt comes in only two trim levels — LT and Premier — starting at $37,495 including a rather inexpensive destination charge of $875. The LT is well equipped with the same engine and one-speed transmission and the same range as the Premier, which starts at $41,895.

The Bolt surprised us at how well it drove and handled. Its 200-horsepower electric motor, which puts out 266 pound-feet of torque, offers pleasing performance measured in the mid-6-second range from 0-to-60. It merged into fast-moving traffic with ease and it had ample power for passing on a two-lane road. At the same time, its steering was accurate with good on-center feel and its brakes were responsive and predictable, stopping in a tested 116 feet from 60 mph. Unlike many EVs, the Bolt relies on standard friction brakes in D mode, which is why they feel so consistent and easy to modulate. To use the regenerative braking system that recharges the battery when you lift off the accelerator — resulting in improved range — the L mode needs to be selected. In the L mode one-pedal lift-throttle braking is available with extra slowing possible by squeezing the left-hand steering paddle.

On our usual winding rural road "test track" the Bolt inspired confidence around the curves without the body roll you might expect from a tall, narrow vehicle. The Bolt would be more fun on a winding mountain road than you might think. The large underfloor battery pack gives the EV a low center of mass and makes it less nose-heavy than it would be if it had a traditional gas engine.

The Bolt dashboard sports an attractive design with a large 10.2-inch screen at center dash. It features user-friendly switchgear with switches and controls easily accessible from the driver’s seat. Visibility from the driver’s perspective is excellent offering a good view out in all directions. For 2020 Chevrolet has added a surround-view camera — always helpful in parking lot situations — and a rear camera mirror. The layout also comes with an under-seat storage compartment, and a wireless charging pad. But power-adjustable seats and adaptive cruise control, features found in nearly all vehicles over 35 grand, are not available.

The most disappointing aspect of the interior is Chevrolet's use of hard plastic in lieu of any soft-touch materials. The Bolt might have more interior plastic than any car in the world costing more than $30,000. We think the cheapened interior puts the Bolt at a disadvantage over the ever-growing competition.

The Bolt comes with numerous available standard safety features including 10 airbags including side-curtain airbags, front-knee airbags, front-side airbags plus GM’s OnStar telematics system. Optional on the LT and standard on Premier are a blind spot monitoring system, lane-departure warning and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. The LT and Premier trims offer the Driver Confidence II package that brings forward-collision warning and low-speed emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, and auto high beams.

The Bolt's charging capability is on a par with most competitors. It can gain about 25 miles of range per hour on a 240-volt outlet. The fast-charging option can add about 100 miles of range from every 30 minutes when using a Level 3 fast- charging station. If you must use a 120-volt standard outlet, as we did, it will take more than two days for a complete recharge. The Bolt is rated at an excellent 118-MPGe gas mileage equivalent.

Our Premier trim level test car came with several options including the fast-charging system ($750), the Infotainment Package that includes a seven-speaker Bose audio system ($595),  the Driver Confidence II Package that brings such safety features as front pedestrian braking and lane departure warning ($495), and special Cayenne Orange metallic paint ($395). The bottom line was $44,130. There is an 8-year/100,000-mile warranty on the battery and electric drive components.

Several states offer tax credits for the Bolt, but as of March 31, 2020, a federal tax credit is no longer available.

2020 Chevrolet Bolt


Base price: $37,495; as driven, $44,130
Engine: Electric motor
Horsepower: 200 @ 0 rpm
Torque: 266 foot-pounds @ 0 rpm
Transmission: 1-speed direct drive
Drive: front wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 102.4 inches
Length: 164 inches
Curb weight: 3,563 pounds
Turning circle: 35.4 feet
Luggage capacity: 16.9 cubic feet
Cargo capacity (seatbacks folded): 56.6 cubic feet
Charging: 240V — 10 hours
EPA rating: 118 MOGe
0-60: 6.5 seconds (observed)
Also consider: BMW I3, Kia Niro EV, Tesla Model 3

The Good
• Exceptional 259-mile range
• Comfortable seating for four
• Nimble handling

The Bad
• Federal tax credit no longer available

The Ugly
• Interior adorned with plastic