2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV Review

The future is already here, it’s often been said; we just don’t realize it yet. How’s this for the future: an inconspicuous little one-box hatchback that can parallel-park with the best of urban hoppers, cram all the antique furniture and Meow Mix as necessitated by a sane person, then launch into hyperspace within the span of an on-ramp? The ethos of the Chevrolet Bolt EV, the most underrated and least-assuming electric vehicle you can buy today.

Chevrolet’s been producing the Bolt since 2016 — as many as GM’s Orion Assembly can crank out, anyway — and for 2019, the Bolt EV stays mostly the same. A 10.2-inch center screen gets revised graphics and more responsive touchscreen capabilities. Its regenerative L mode (called B by other carmakers) is tweaked for safety — for example, the Bolt EV will automatically shift to Park if the door is opened and the seatbelts aren’t secured.

Chevrolet says this is handy for drive-thrus; short-armed people will likely find it useful. Its tire monitoring system now alerts you when the tires are at their appropriate pressures.The Bolt EV also receives selective charge termination, or the ability to stop charging after a certain percentage (from 40 to 100 percent in 5 percent increments). If you get free charging at your job, for example — an increasingly popular workplace perk — you can charge to the level you need to get to work, then mooch at the office. Makes sense!

Lastly, a press release touts “separate heat and AC buttons.” Seems minor, but don’t laugh: carmakers eliminating minor stuff like this is why people were so ready to complain about touchscreens in the first place. With these incremental changes, what GM really touts is its adherence to customer feedback: Volt and Bolt EV owners are a loyal group, Chevrolet’s PR team informed us, and all of these improvements arose from their inputs.

Lastly, the Bolt EV gets three new colors for 2019, including a screaming shade of lime called, appropriately, “Shock.” Get it? It’s a pun.

So, consider all of these changes for 2019 a firmware upgrade, more akin to an iPhone update. What remains the same is everything else.

More Mileage With Identical Gear

The Bolt EV’s single, high-capacity electric motor generates 200 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque from a standstill. It features a 60kWh lithium-ion battery pack and a 7.2-kW onboard charger. With a 240-volt wall unit, the Bolt EV can add 50 miles (80 km) of range in just two hours. With DC fast charging, it can be charged to 90 miles (145 km) in half an hour, and 160 miles (257 km) in one. Chevrolet lists the Bolt EV’s MSRP at $37,495, ($46,195 in Canada) a figure that remains unchanged for the 2019 model year.

Bolt EV owners will wax on about how practical their cars are, how 56.6 cubic feet (1,602.73 L) of interior space with the rear seats folded is a paragon of practicality, how 238 miles (383 km) of range — quietly among the industry’s best — is more than what they need daily, and how $7,500 of federal tax credit made their Bolt EV relatively affordable. What they might neglect to mention is how surprisingly — shockingly? — quick the Bolt EV is.

With its 266 lb-ft of torque available at an instant, the Bolt EV can, well, Bolt to 60 miles per hour in 6.5 seconds. But that’s not the key figure there. It reaches 30 mph in 1.25 seconds, a much more tangible metric for around-town performance. Freeway merges happen immediately. Stoplight drags feel uncouth, rebellious. Getting out of the way of others has never been more interesting. And like the most unassuming cars, it feels far quicker than numbers would have you believe.

Quick but Sedate Handling

Otherwise, the Bolt EV struggles with its own imbued performance. On acceleration, the steering wheel twitches with the scepter of torque steer; when the front wheels aren’t understeering, they act in a jittery manner. The combination of flat electric steering and tall, upright shape means that the Bolt EV isn’t as “zippy” as its looks and dimensions suggest. Low-resistance tires are noisy. The Bolt EV is comfortable, its suspension soaking up Burlington, Vermont’s rutted city streets nicely, and some body roll across turns feels composed and in control. Its brake feel underfoot is very natural, less stiff and harsh than other EVs and hybrids — and one clever electrified trick from Chevrolet means that you won’t have to use it.

The Bolt EV’s regenerative braking paddle, mounted on the left side of the steering wheel, activates the regen braking without having to move your foot across pedals. It’s effectively a hand control for your brakes, and you can even coast to a stop with it, on regenerative braking alone, all the while sending power back into the batteries. (The brake pedal activates regen first, and then disc brakes for more stopping power.) It seems strange and novel. Turns out, it’s addictive: the fingertip paddle allows you to fine-tune changing speeds with precision.

Futuristic Cabin, except the Navigation

The Bolt EV is a comfortable and airy place to be, with good sightlines and visibility, coupled with a four-camera Surround Vision system. The interior is full of subtle embossed patterns that denote a certain futuristic sensibility. Exclusive gauges and center screens have been redesigned with new graphics that are reminiscent of Microsoft Windows: all friendly squares and blocks, devoid of flourish.

One curious omission: the Volt gets a new and intuitive navigation system, but it’s not available on the Bolt EV, not even as an option—especially on a car that has lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, and other smart driving tech as an option. Evidently, product planners suggested that Android Auto or Apple Carplay would make for fine substitutes. Which means that you gotta double-check that your apps and operating systems are all updated because that’s the only way to get your phone to play nice. Say what you will about the redundancy of in-car navigation, but it’s nice to have that option as a backup—especially on a screen this huge and crisp.

The Bolt EV is a fantastic electric car from a carmaker that might seem like the last to produce a fantastic electric car.

a version of this review first appeared on AutoGuide

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