2017 Chevrolet Bolt Review

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2017 Chevrolet Bolt Overview

Acceleration. It’s a trait that distinguishes all-electric cars from their gas-burning counterparts. And the all-new, all-electric 2017 Chevrolet Bolt is accelerating on multiple tracks, literally and figuratively, with groundbreaking, and affordable, quickness.

The new Bolt was introduced as a concept car at the NAIAS in Detroit in January of 2015. One short year later--a remarkably quick turnaround in the auto industry--the production model Bolt was unveiled at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Within hours of that introduction, critics were behind the wheel test driving the 4-door compact hatchback, another remarkably accelerated course of events for a process (moving from reveal to first drive) that can often take months.

Full technical specifications are not yet available for the Bolt, but Chevy claims it can go from 0-60 mph in less than 7 seconds, and test drivers seemed to think that claim is accurate. More technical details for the Bolt will be released in mid January at the Detroit show, although full specs won’t be available until the car is about due to hit sales lots, which is expected to be late 2016.

But the acceleration we may end up remembering most about the Bolt is how it quickly furthered the push toward affordable and practical all-electric vehicles. General Motors Chairman & CEO Mary Barra called the Bolt “a game changer” when it was presented in Detroit in Jan. 2015. Only time will truly tell, but as of Jan. 2016, that statement feels accurate.

The Bolt is expected to have a range of 200-plus miles and cost around $30,000 (after a $7,500 tax rebate). The combination of those two numbers in one vehicle is what sets Bolt apart…for now. Tesla has plans to introduce its similarly-priced Model 3 next spring and Volkswagen appears ready to introduce high-range electronic vehicles at multiple price points.

You do have to pay extra for the Bolt’s 240-volt charging unit, though just how much extra is still unknown. It can fully replenish the vehicle’s battery in nine hours or provide 25 miles of range in about an hour. Drivers can find information like battery levels, range estimation, and charge settings on the standard 10.2-inch display screen in the center of the dashboard.

The test drives offered by GM were brief, but those who got behind the wheel of the Bolt all came to a similar conclusion--this car is plenty ready for the real world. As mentioned, the acceleration is smooth and can push the Bolt forward fast enough to handle any everyday passing or merging situation. The ride is comfortable and the steering is precise and weightier than one might expect from a small car, but maybe that shouldn’t be a surprise considering the chief engineer, Josh Tavel, drives a Spec Racer Ford in the pro-racing division at Sports Car Club of America events.

While it does take some cues from Chevy’s hybrid Volt, the Bolt was built on a unique platform. This tells us GM is committed to the vehicle in the long term. In the short term, it allowed the designers to create a flat-bottomed floor that improves aerodynamics and helps create what amounts to an incredible amount of space inside the compact Bolt.

Even with a 6-foot-plus driver at the wheel, a 6-foot-plus passenger can comfortably sit in the driver's-side back seat. That’s due to the flat floor and the unusually thin seats, which use a suspension system to complement their specially designed foam pads. Testers reported the seats as comfortable during their short rides, though how the seats hold up on long road trips remains to be seen. The Bolt also offers 56.6 cubic feet of cargo volume with the rear 60/40 split-folding seats down.

The Bolt is loaded with an impressive amount of high-quality technology and connectivity, something else that you rarely find in this price range. GM outsourced much of the electronics manufacturing to LG, which will supply the GM-designed electric motor, battery cells, battery pack, DC/AC power inverter, on-board charger, instrument cluster, infotainment system, and other electronic parts and pieces. The result is first-rate technology like a touchscreen with no delay between touch and response.

Apple’s CarPlay and Android Auto are both available, so you can pair your smart phone to the Bolt no matter what brand you use. You can configure the widgets on the home screen however you want. And there are options for a rear-view mirror that doubles as a display screen for the rear-facing cameras (meaning no pillars, cargo, or rear passengers will impede your rear view), as well as Surround Vision, which uses four cameras to create a virtual bird’s eye view of the vehicle.

No crash tests have been performed with the Bolt, but it does use an advanced high-strength steel frame and comes with 10 air bags and automatic crash response. Available safety features include forward pedestrian alert, forward collision alert, side blind-zone alert, and rear cross-traffic alert.

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After working at gas stations and car washes in high school, driving across the country more than a dozen times and even living on the road in a well-outfitted truck, Tim O'Sullivan finally started putting some of his automotive knowledge to work when he began writing for CarGurus in 2008. He's also an award-winning journalist and the Sports Editor at the Concord (NH) Monitor.

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