ROYAL OAK, Michigan — The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt will chirp the tires loudly enough to surprise a musclecar driver in the next lane, though it offers nothing as ludicrous as a Ludicrous Mode. It rolls slightly taking a tight cloverleaf onramp at-speed, takes a set and corners flat and neutrally, with a nice, sharp turn-in. And it will brake itself in 45-mph city traffic if you choose low gear, as road test editor Eric Weiner did while commuting between Ann Arbor and Metro Detroit with the car. This electric hot hatch is fun to drive — or at least as fun as it gets on Michigan roads.
“I genuinely enjoyed commuting in the Bolt,” Weiner says. “I always drove in Low mode for one-pedal driving most of the way, especially in stop-and-go traffic during rush hour on the freeway. Pleasantly light steering makes the Bolt easy to juke in and out of traffic gaps and the super-stiff chassis handled the broken roads with shocking poise. Probably helps that the battery is a structural element to the chassis. Harsh impacts are apparent, but they seem to get soaked up by the chassis.”
Chevy marketing likes to highlight the Bolt’s crossover/utility vehicle ride height and interior volume, but the battery pack’s low placement in the dedicated electric vehicle platform keeps the center of gravity low, which makes handling acumen almost a natural feature like the quick starts that are provided by an electric motor’s instant torque — especially in the Tesla Model S.
We already confirmed the new Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle’s hot hatch status by naming it one of our 2017 All-Stars. We enjoyed the quiet BEV on the twisty sports car roads that carve through Nevada’s Mount Charleston and on the Speed Vegas circuit on the edges of Sin City.
The Bolt, with its EPA-estimated 238-mile range, and 128 city/110 highway MPG-e was launched more than half a year before Elon Musk’s Tesla Model 3. While it has none of the visual sex appeal of the Model 3, which is to be priced an estimated $2,500 below the boxy Chevy, Weiner likes the Bolt’s big greenhouse, its large windshield, thin A-pillars, and low beltline.
“Some might knock the hard plastics in certain parts of the interior,” he adds, “but I think Chevy did a good job of combining lightweight, sturdy and easily cleaned surfaces that in many cases are made from recyclable materials.”
Despite all the glass, the car’s interior never heated up much for Weiner’s commute during an unseasonably cold early spring. (There is the option to into the Bolt’s climate-control settings to divert more energy to the heater, if you can spare the range.) For this critic’s short, five-mile commute however, the heated seats and heated steering wheel were enough.
The biggest revelation is how the Chevy relieves range anxiety on daily commutes, even in cold weather. We never saw more than 187 miles of range on the Bolt’s dash, but we felt liberated by such numbers. Although my home has an outdoor 120-volt outlet off the driveway, the Bolt’s portable charger cord must reach over a gate installed to keep the collies in the back yard, and so it was easier — and as effective — to leave the Chevy unplugged at night and charge up at the office using our Nissan-sourced 240-volt charger.
I also tried using a Nissan EVgo fast-charger located on Woodward Avenue in neighboring Ferndale (it’s next to the Dunkin Donuts just south of Nine Mile Road).The car was already juiced up to 158 miles of range, causing the fast-charging process to slow down. A half an hour at 43 amps and an $11.95 charge to my American Express pushed the Bolt up to 188 miles of range, with both the charger and the Bolt’s dashboard gauge indicating that the battery level was about 93 percent.
For Eric Weiner, who is a renter, these infrastructure-related challenges are the Bolt’s only downside.
“There aren’t really a ton of fast-charging options as of right now, so if you need a quick jump, you’re mostly out of luck. I used the PlugShare app to locate available stations,” he says. “For most people using the Bolt EV for their daily commute, a home-installed Level 2 charger is definitely the answer.”
The Bolt’s dash gauges offer a low-end, a high-end, and a middle-estimated range. The aforementioned 188 miles was the upper level, with the low-end estimate being 131 miles and 160 miles being the middle. After leaving it unplugged on a Monday night, the Chevy Bolt woke up Tuesday morning with 74/91/107 miles left. It got me to a connected car conference in Dearborn and back to the office, where I plugged it in again at 72/89/106 miles range. Though a full charge takes nine hours at 240 volts, a charge of about six hours that afternoon got it to a healthy 129/165/194.
Weiner saw the lowest estimate range during the Bolt’s stay with us when he brought it back that Thursday to the office from Ann Arbor with no overnight charge. The dashboard indicated a low estimated range of 45 miles, mid of 55 and high of 64 — enough to get him back to to Ann Arbor if necessary.
Obviously, owning a Chevy Bolt can turn you into a numbers geek, if you aren’t one already. The good news is now you can be a car geek, a numbers geek, and an environment geek without giving up practicality and without spending more than $40,000, at least after applicable tax credits.
2017 Chevrolet Bolt Premier Specifications
|PRICE||$41,780/$43,510 (base/as tested)|
|MOTOR||Permanent magnetic drive/200 hp, 266 lb-ft|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-motor, FWD hatchback|
|EPA MILEAGE||128/110 mpge (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||164.0 x 69.5 x 62.8 in|
|0-60 MPH||6.5 sec|
|TOP SPEED||93.1 mph|