Auto123 reviews the 2020 Chevrolet Bolt all-electric vehicle.
When you look at the Bolt, it looks like a small car with unpretentious styling. The format is somewhere between the old Sonic and the Cruze, itself retiring this year. It's more reminiscent of a compact model in its approach and design. But don't be fooled by its somewhat simplistic looks. There's a lot of technology lurking inside the shell of this car.
Introduced in 2017, the Bolt was the first “affordably priced” electric car to offer significant range. Before it showed up, remember, you had to pay over $100,000 to get 400 km of range from an EV, in the form of a Tesla. Enter the Chevy Bolt, available for half the price and capable of doing 383 km. Success was immediate and Chevrolet sold all its Bolts as fast as it could churn them out.
But the competition was quick to grasp the idea. Two years later, Hyundai introduced the Kona, a small urban SUV that was more practical and roomier. It sold for the same price as the Bolt but one-upped it with 415 km of range. Then came the Kia Niro and Soul EVs, two more very competitive options.
In order not to lose its prior advantage on the market – or at least to try to keep up - the Bolt arrived on the market for 2020 with a more powerful battery that increases the range from 383 to 417 km, thus placing it back on even terms with its Kia and Hyundai rivals.
The cabin is dominated by a 10.2-inch touchscreen display that constitutes the centre of operations. On it you can, for example, get an accurate driving range projection based on the time of day, topography, weather conditions and your driving habits.
Low-energy Bluetooth technology was designed specifically for the Bolt to minimize energy consumption. Like most GM products, you have a WI-FI hotspot, allowing owners to easily access applications and services using a high-speed wireless connection.
You also have a rear camera that provides a wide-angle view of the environment behind the vehicle, a peripheral view to see what's around the car, and the all-new MyChevrolet application that combines features with important owner and vehicle information (vehicle charge status, remote starter, pre-adjusting cabin temperature, etc.). You also have a tailored navigation system that creates routes that maximize range and indicates the location of the nearest charging station when needed.
LT versions of the 2020 Bolt come with HDI headlights, LED daytime running lights and taillights, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, automatic climate control, digital instrument cluster, passive keyless entry, remote starter and manual-adjust front seats with fabric upholstery.
The Premier trim includes body-colour exterior mirrors, chrome exterior trim, 360-degree rearview camera, blind spot monitoring and lane change warning.
Still the same power output
Like all EVs, the power on hand is available on as soon as you step on the gas. So that despite the Bolt weighing more than 1,650 kg, it will only take you 6.5 seconds to reach 100 km/h, thanks to the 200 horsepower and the 266 lb-ft of torque available from the powertrain. No complaints there.
The battery, now of 66-kWh capacity, will take about 10 hours to recharge when plugged into a 240-volt outlet. It also offers a quick recharge capacity on a Level 3 outlet that will return to you about 150 km of charge in 30 minutes.
On the road, the weight of the battery under the vehicle's floor gives you a solid feeling like you’re well-planted on the ground, yet handling is surprisingly agile due to the car's small, very manoeuvrable size. Again, no complaints there.
A cheap car interior
As it has been since the beginnings of the Bolt, Chevrolet clearly chose to invest its available development money in the powertrain and tech, and scrimp on the interior layout. Although it has modern styling and many different trim colours and textures, the materials are pretty cheap and seem fragile.
The entire dashboard and door trim (except for the armrest) are made of hard plastic, which doesn't sit well when you start to dwell on the price you paid for the car. The centre armrest compartment looks tacked on and seems as if it’s hanging on by a thread, while the glove box door seems to come from a dollar store.
GM also forgot an important detail for this mildly revised 2020 edition. The manually adjustable seats offer mediocre comfort and support. The discomfort felt in the original 2017 model remains. You also have to get used to controls like the not-so-intuitive gear selector. There is some good news though, like the convertible hatch-accessed trunk that offers a surprising amount of cargo space for the size of the vehicle.
On the road
When the road you’re on is smooth and clean, there's nothing to complain about; the silence on board is exemplary, visibility is flawless and the precise steering makes driving a pleasure. It drives, dare I say it, like a little sports car. The Bolt is agile, fast and nervous and takes corners with enthusiasm, with virtually no roll. When the road surface deteriorates, some will find the suspension a little dry as it hits kind of hard.
The brake pedal is a bit spongy and difficult to modulate. To help things, there is the "Regen on Demand" system. A paddle on the left side of the steering wheel helps to slow the car down whenever you let off the accelerator, thanks to regenerative braking. When you hold the paddle down, energy is fed back into the battery, increasing your range. We've also found that modulating the paddle allows for smoother stops. When used effectively, it almost completely eliminates the need for a conventional brake pedal.
The Bolt offers what every EV enthusiast is looking for: long range at a realistic price. It's also quite fun to drive, which is a great little bonus. Now Chevy has to roll up its sleeves and do some work on the finish and comfort, because the competition is stronger when it comes to those elements.
Very good visibility
We like less
Cheap fit and finish