Automakers are constantly trying to be cute, clever, or creative with the names of vehicles, trim levels and paint colours. This usually gets overlaid with the sound of a whomp-whomp trombone in most people’s heads. The folks over at GM got me this time however, as the key tag on my 2019 Chevrolet Bolt Premier said the paint colour was ‘Shock’, an obvious link to the electric nature of the vehicle. I arrived after dark to pick up the car, and found a smiling, glowing highlighter-coloured vehicle staring back at me. I was shocked at how bright it was, even at night.
The Bolt is the second all-electric vehicle to be produced by General Motors since the EV1 was killed in 1999, which was followed by the Spark EV which ended production in 2016. Building on the technology that made the Volt (reviewed here) a success, the Bolt ditches the gas generator in favour of a significantly larger battery. Combining this large battery with fast-charging capabilities gives the Bolt a driving range generous enough to avoid range anxiety for daily driving, as well as weekend trips away provided there’s a charging station somewhere along the route.
Available in only two trim levels with very few additional options available, the Premier is the upper trim level bringing all of the niceties you’d expect in a top trim Chevy. It adds extras like leather seats and more technology throughout, heated front and rear seats, as well as a visually different exterior to show that you spent the extra coin. One notable addition in the Premier is roof-mounted side rails, making it easy to bring additional cargo with you when off on an adventure with friends or the family.
Starting with an MSRP of $49,600 for the Premier, the Shock paint has a price tag of $495, Black Bowtie emblems are an extra $260 charge, and the Driver Confidence II package (which includes automatic braking, lane keep and forward collision systems) is $795. As tested this glowing electric toy has an MSRP of $53,045.
The Chevrolet Bolt is a brand new vehicle designed from the ground up (for the 2017 model year), including the battery. This means that the designers were able to get away from a lot of the required design features of a gas-powered car and make the most out of an impressively small form factor. The battery makes up the entire floor of the vehicle, allowing the interior of the car to stretch itself pretty much to all four corners of the car.
Having all its weight so close to the ground also allows for the car to be pretty tall without getting a lot of body roll or weird dynamics in the handling. Despite its compact size, the interior of the Bolt is as roomy as many larger vehicles, and can’t even begin to be compared to other gas or hybrid vehicles of similar length and width. The seat design leaves a lot of room for improvement however, as they are fairly flat and un-bolstered.
With a listed trunk volume of 479L, there’s no shortage of space for stuff, making it perfect for picking up groceries or a weekend trip out of town. The Bolt doesn’t eschew trunk space for batteries or an AWD system like some other cars in this size class, and the tall roof is great for loading up awkward items. If you don’t have rear passengers, folding down the second row nets a fantastic 1,603L of cargo space for the all-important Costco run.
Being an all-electric vehicle, there isn’t much to say about the powertrain. The front wheels are driven by a 200 horsepower electric motor, with 266 lb-ft. of torque available from a stop. Thanks to all of the peppy torque, the Bolt hits 100km/h from a stop in just 6.5 seconds, and is fantastically responsive in city driving. Lightly using the brakes will put the Bolt into regeneration mode, or there is a paddle on the back of the steering wheel that can be used at will to slow the car down rapidly and recover as much energy as possible.
I searched forever in the vehicle settings for “one-pedal mode”, a mode where lifting off of the throttle starts to instantly slow the car down with regen. After resorting to internet forum searches, I learned that this can be achieved by putting the shifter into “L” setting every time, but that’s not as convenient as a permanent vehicle setting.
The Bolt is an ideal commuter car, competing against other compact EVs like the Nissan Leaf, the Hyundai Kona Electric and the Tesla Model 3 (reviewed here). The Bolt is priced on the high end of the EV group, but also has one of the most generous ranges. Priced reasonably high when compared to similarly classed gas and hybrid cars, you will need to have a pretty large commute to make the fuel savings worth the extra. On the other hand, the Bolt is smooth, quiet, and a lot of fun.
Weighing in at a respectable curb weight of 3,563 pounds, the 60 kWh battery provides a maximum driving range of up to 383km. During our testing we never saw the maximum range meter go above 250km, but considering that the majority of our test driving was stop-sign riddled city driving in winter conditions with the heat on, that is still pretty fantastic. Information screens on the center console tell you how your technique, comfort settings and other factors affect your battery range.
Charging up the Bolt is a breeze, coming standard with a 120V charge cable so you can grab some extra mileage no matter where you stop for the night at a rate of up to 6.4km per hour. You will definitely want to get a 240V fast charger installed at home to cover the regular commute. A full battery charge at 240V can be achieved overnight in as little as 9.5 hours.
Time-of-use rates and departure times can also be programmed in to the Bolt as presets so that it charges itself as cheaply as possible. A great feature that came in handy this winter was the remote start option, as the Bolt could warm up the cabin while still plugged in and not use any battery charge to do so.
The best thing about the 2019 Chevrolet Bolt Premier is how absolutely unassuming it is. Unlike getting behind the wheel of some other EVs for the first time, driving the Bolt feels just like any other car. There is no odd driving or vehicle dynamics to get used to, or a fancy, futuristic shifter that is unique to the car. The Bolt has no learning curve, fits all of your stuff and has enough battery range for almost anyone’s daily activities. Simply put, it’s a perfect commuter car for most people, even if they don’t know it yet.