Take Two: 2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV


Still Fine in its Fourth Year

An automotive writer normally tests a car for a week and based on that, attempts to provide an impression of what it would be like to own it. In the case of the 2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV, I can provide five days of recent experience plus three years of personal history.

2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV
Looks the same, but improved underneath

The bottom line? The 2020 Bolt EV I just tested is almost exactly the same as the 2017 model that I leased on January 8, 2017, with a few important differences. In some ways, thatโ€™s a good thing, because the Bolt was remarkably well thought out and executed at its debut.

The Bolt EV was the first affordable all-electric vehicle with extended range. In 2017 in California, if you bought the car, you could take $10,000 off with federal and state credits. Back then, Teslas retailed at significantly more, and the Model 3 wasnโ€™t out yet. Other EV choices then included the Nissan Leaf, with under 100 miles of range, and the VW e-Golf with 124. The Bolt EV boasted an impressive 238 miles of range, enough to eliminate most range anxiety.

2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV
Iโ€™ve brought some history to this review

The big news with the 2020 Bolt is that it now has 259 miles of range, a nice boost of 21 miles. GM improved the battery chemistry to make the same size battery store more electricity (60 to 66 kilowatt-hour). From a marketing standpoint, this development may also be an attempt to outdo the Hyundai Kona EV and Kia Niro EV, which debuted after the Bolt and boasted 200+ miles of range.

This Yearโ€™s Modelย 

My test Bolt EV wore low-key Slate Gray Metallic paintโ€”a far cry from the eye-popping Kinetic Blue Metallic of my own car. There seems to be a demand now for colors that mimic a filing cabinet. It was, however, beautifully applied, and is new for 2020. The test car featured the Dark Galvanized/Sky Cool Gray interiorโ€”my carโ€™s had white on light gray. The newer Bolts have a handy sliding sunvisor, too, but otherwise, the interior looked identical.

2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV
Room for a bass and amp

The Bolt is a tall hatchback, not an SUV, so itโ€™s not exactly the hot design in the marketplace. It may resemble a subcompact Honda Fit, but in fact it has midsize room inside, with tall chairs up front and plenty of rear legroom. The tall roofline helps. The car is relatively narrow, so four people will be comfortable and folks sitting three across in the back might be happier if they are children.

Being a hatchback, the Bolt easily drops its rear seats flat to make room for a huge load of cargo. I carried an upright bass and amplifier in mine. A hard panel at the rear can create a level load floor or drop down into the cargo area for taller items. The charging cable (for Level 1 household current) lives under there, but itโ€™s also a nice space to hide things since the cargo space is exposed. The car comes with a dainty cloth cargo cover for when the seatbacks are up that does an adequate job.

The Bolt provides a firm ride and vigorous acceleration. Its 200-horsepower motor produces up to 266 pound-feet of torque, which pulls the car along silently from 0-60 in just 6.5 seconds. You can set the carโ€™s one-speed automatic transmission to have very light energy regeneration (feels like a typical automatic) or click the lever into โ€œLโ€ for higher regeneration, which adds more energy to the battery. As with my own Bolt, I used the L setting virtually all the time, so I could do โ€œone pedal driving.โ€ This means you can use the accelerator to move forward when you press down and also to slow downโ€”even to a complete stopโ€”by lifting off your foot. It becomes a fun game to see if you can just make it to the line at the stop sign or stoplight without touching the brake pedal. The brakes themselves work fine when you need them. Strong regen feels a little like downshifting in a manual-equipped car.

Still Modern

The Bolt was a new design in 2017 and has all the modern safety and tech conveniences you could want. As in my own car, I used Apple CarPlay app to orally send and receive texts while driving (with help from Siri.) The 10.2-inch center screen is bright and clearly laid out. Preferably when parked, you can scroll through and see how youโ€™re doing saving energy. Redundant audio controls on the steering wheel make it easy to pick music selections and control volume, or you can touch the screen itself.

2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV
All up-to-date tech

Some people have complained about the Boltโ€™s firm, narrow seats, but the 2020 model ones felt a little more comfortable. As a Premier model, my tester had leather chairs, which I have heard are more comfortable than the standard cloth ones in the LT, but you should spend some time in them yourself if you opt for the base model.

If anything, the Bolt EV is very much what it was designed to be and offers a solution to EV motoring for most people. Itโ€™s not the hottest product on the market, with Tesla providing sex appeal and Hyundai/Kia adding a true crossover look with their models. Choices from more manufacturers are on the way. But prices have remained about the same, and by now GM has ironed out any issues with the platform. A new Bolt-based crossover is coming soon, if you can wait a year or so.

The Bolt EV is base-priced at $37,495 for the LT. The Premier, with extra comfort and convenience features, plus upgrades like leather seats, polished alloy wheels, a cool video rear view mirror and roof rails, comes to $41,020. My tester had $1,840 worth of options, including $750 for the fast-charge plug (worth it if you travel longer distancesโ€“should really be standard equipment), and totaled $43,735.

The federal rebates for Bolt are gone, but there are some great deals now. I saw an online offer of an $8,500 cash allowance or (for well-qualified buyers) 0% APR for a 72-month loan. Lease rates on an LT start at only $199/month for three years. Check with your dealer for details and read the fine print.

2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV
Four years on, still a leader

If you donโ€™t know the Bolt EV, you should sample one before signing a deal on an EV. Itโ€™s fun, spacious, ย well made, and if you have a European sensibility and like hatchbacks, itโ€™s perfect. I had virtually no service needs during my three-year lease. One battery issue was fixed free on warranty (including a free loaner), and all I did was rotate the tires and change the cabin air filter. And I never went to a gas station.

By Steve Schaefer; photos by Steve Schaefer and Chevrolet

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Road Trip:ย 2020 Nissan Leaf EV

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Disclosure:

Clean Fleet Reportย is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle. Because of this we donโ€™t address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition, we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology. As part of these events we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements.

Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class, which leads us to emphasize electric cars, plug-in hybrids, hybrids and diesels. We also feature those efficient gas-powered vehicles that are among the top mpg vehicles in their class. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views atย publisher@cleanfleetreport.com.



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