With even greater range this year, the 2020 Chevrolet Bolt continues to win over skeptics who think the average American will never buy an electric car. The Bolt isn’t as big as some electric rivals from Tesla, TSLA, +0.74% Audi NSU, -1.72% and Jaguar, but it’s also not as expensive, either. The all-electric Bolt qualifies for a $1,850 federal tax credit, but due to Chevrolet reaching the government’s 200,000 electric vehicle limit, that credit disappears in March of 2020. However, General Motors GM, -1.73% is offering generous cash incentives to keep the Bolt’s price competitive.
Mostly you just get in the Bolt and drive. And drive. And drive.
Designed to be an electric from the ground up, the Bolt’s engineers were able to incorporate the 1,000-lb. battery pack into the Bolt’s design in a way that isn’t a detriment to the vehicle’s ride and handling. With a 9-hour average charge time (at a 240-volt charging station) or a little under two hours using a DC Fast Charging station, the Bolt still isn’t as convenient as a gasoline-powered car, but it is more environmentally friendly, cheaper to fill up and a lot more hip. Like the BMW i3, the Bolt is cute and fun to drive, and with a 259-mile range, it can travel farther than the i3 solely on electric power. The Bolt can also outdistance the Kia Niro EV and Nissan NSANY, -0.65% Leaf, and ties the Hyundai HYMTF, +2.79% Kona EV for overall range.
The 2020 Chevrolet Bolt: it still takes longer to charge than to fill a gas tank.
What’s new for 2020?
The Bolt EV gains two new colors: Oasis Blue and Cayenne Orange Metallic. Both the rear vision and surround vision cameras are upgraded with HD quality cameras.
What we like
- Roomy interior
- 250-plus mile range on a single charge
- Affordable price after tax credit
- Cost of the 240 charging station (around $750) can be financed with the car
- Available in all 50 states
What we don’t
- Charging times still too long compared with the time it takes to fill a gas tank
- No backup motor/generator option
- Drab interior colors
- Lacking some driver safety features such as adaptive cruise control and high-speed autonomous braking
$37,495–$44,000 (Price before tax credit and GM cash back offers)
As the Chevy Bolt EV is a pure electric car — fuel economy is measured in miles per charge, not per gallon of gasoline. The Bolt is powered by an electric motor producing the equivalent of 200 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque, the latter available almost all at once. Electricity is stored in a 60-kilowatt lithium-ion battery pack. Chevrolet claims the Bolt can travel up to 259 miles on a single charge, and that’s a believable figure given the fact that there are two regenerative onboard charging systems. The first system is common on all hybrid cars and recaptures energy generated when braking. The second, called Regen on Demand, uses a steering-wheel-mounted paddle that allows the driver to initiate regeneration without ever depressing the brake pedal. The concept is similar to downshifting a manual transmission car, using engine braking to slow the vehicle.
Officially, the Environmental Protection Agency rates the Bolt EV at 127 MPGe in the city and 108 MPGe on the highway for a combined MPGe of 118.
Standard features and options
The 2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV is offered in two trims: LT and Premier. Both cars qualify for a $1,850 tax credit from the federal government that ends in March of 2020. There may also be further savings offered by GM and at the state level.
The Bolt LT
The Bolt LT ($37,495) includes 17-in alloy wheels with self-sealing tires, auto HID headlights, power adjustable heated outside mirrors, keyless entry with push-button start, Teen Driver, automatic climate control, 10 airbags including side-curtain and driver and passenger front-knee airbags, 8-in driver information center, 6-speaker audio with 10.2-in color touchscreen and Chevrolet MyLink, dual USB ports, OnStar with 4G LTE Wi-Fi, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, power door locks, power windows, a rear vision camera, remote start, cruise control, Bluetooth and a tilt-and-telescopic steering column.
Options for the LT are bundled into three packages. The Comfort and Convenience Package adds heated front seats, an autodimming rearview mirror and a leather-wrapped heated steering wheel. The Driver Confidence Package brings blind spot monitoring and lane-departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert and rear parking sensors. The Driver Confidence II Package adds collision avoidance with low-speed automatic braking, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist, pedestrian detection braking and automatic high beams.
The Bolt Premier
The Bolt Premier ($41,895) adds contents from the LT’s Comfort and Convenience and Driver Confidence packages plus leather seating, upgraded 17-in wheels, roof rails, heated outboard rear seats, a Surround Vision 360-degree camera, ambient lighting and a rear seat armrest. Optional packages for the Premier include the Infotainment Package that adds a 7-speaker Bose audio upgrade, wireless charging pad and rear-seat dual USB ports. Also optional is the Driver Confidence II Package.
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The Bolt comes with a 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty, a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty and an 8-year/100,000-mile battery, a thermal-management system, a charging system and electric drive component warranty.
All 2020 Chevrolet Bolts comes standard with 10 airbags including side-curtain airbags, front-knee airbags, front-side airbags plus a rear view camera and 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, lane-departure warning and auto high beams.
In testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Bolt earned five stars overall, with four stars in the front crash test and five stars in the side and rollover tests. The nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the Bolt its highest rating of Good in all but the small overlap front passenger crash test, which scored an Acceptable rating.
Behind the wheel
We recently tested the Chevrolet Bolt. Here is what our Autotrader expert reviewer had to say about the experience:
“The best compliment we can pay to the Bolt is to say driving it is pretty unremarkable. If you’ve never driven an electric car, you’re in for a surprise — and that surprise is that there are no surprises. The big difference you’ll notice is that there’s no engine noise (since there’s no engine), so you notice road and wind noise a lot more than in a gasoline-engine car. But mostly you just get in the Bolt and drive. And drive. And drive. Chevy reports acceleration from zero to 60 mph at 6.5 seconds, which is pretty quick for a compact hatchback.
“The Bolt has an independent front suspension and a semi-independent rear suspension. The new chassis is pretty rigid, and the suspension is non-adjustable, so the ride is pretty firm. That’s good for handling but not as good for comfort — always a delicate balance, but nicely managed in this case. Sophisticated electric power steering delivers good response, with a light weight at low speeds and heavier feel at higher speeds. The low center of gravity (thanks to the battery placement in the chassis) lends a sense of stability around the curves. It’s even possible to wring a little bit of fun out of the Bolt on a winding road.
“The Bolt offers a level of engagement that you can enter into, or not, as your personality and tastes dictate. If you’re into the gaming aspect of EVs, you can interact with the car to maximize range — it gives you feedback in the instrument panel to let you know how you’re doing. Or you can ignore that and just pay attention to your state of charge and range like you would with a fuel gauge. A range of advanced safety features are available on the Bolt, too.
“Unlike the interior of its competitor, the BMW i3, the Bolt’s interior is simple and familiar-looking rather than jarringly modernistic. The most prominent feature is the big 10.2-inch touchscreen display at the top of the center stack. It’s rectangular and set into the dash in landscape orientation. The center console is low and open, which makes the cabin feel a little bigger and less cramped. Soft-touch plastics are in the right places, and build quality appears solid. Several calming color schemes are available to keep the Bolt serene.”
Other cars to consider
2020 BMW i3 — The BMW i3 isn’t as roomy inside as the Bolt, and its styling is rather radical both inside and out. The i3’s cruising range isn’t as long as what the Bolt can do, but it does offer an optional onboard gasoline motor generator that extends its range to about 180 miles.
2020 Nissan Leaf — The Leaf offers a new 62-kWh battery that extends the Leaf’s range to 226 miles. The base Leaf S costs nearly $7,000 less than the Bolt LT, but it is not as well-equipped nor can it go as far.
2020 Volkswagen e-Golf — Volkswagen’s VWAGY, +1.09% e-Golf looks just like the gasoline-powered Golf, which some people may prefer to the Bolt’s futuristic styling. The e-Golf’s range is limited to 125 miles. Enticing lease deals may make the e-Golf a tempting alternative.
2020 Hyundai Kona EV — The Kona EV may be the Bolt’s closest competitor, with similar pricing size and range.
Used Tesla Model 3 — While a bit pricier than the Bolt, a used Tesla Model 3 will give you more range and interior room and more cool features like autonomous driving and all-wheel drive (AWD).
If you only need the basics, the LT’s low price makes it the better deal. Toss in the two Driver Confidence Packages and you have a nicely equipped electric at a good price.
This story originally ran on Autotrader.com.