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- Highs Almost instant acceleration, competitive driving range, spacious cabin and cargo space for its size.
- Lows Staid exterior styling, unimpressive interior quality, pricier than most economy cars.
- Verdict The Bolt hatchback isn't exciting, but it has the range and practicality to attract and satisfy first-time EV buyers.
The 2021 Chevy Bolt isn't as interesting as the Hyundai Kona Electric or as sexy as the Tesla Model 3, but its smooth ride, roomy cabin, and popular standard features make it an appealing option to mainstream-brand shoppers. The Chevy has an EPA driving range of 259 miles, which is nothing to sneeze at, and its fast-charging capability allows it to replenish up to 100 miles of range in 30 minutes. Sure, the Bolt's design borders on dorky, and its interior quality doesn't qualify as premium despite a starting price close to $40,000 (before federal tax credits), but its electric motor sends 266 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels, providing zippy acceleration. We also appreciate its one-pedal driving and satisfying-to-use hand-brake function.
What's New for 2021?
Chevy made the previously optional DC fast charger standard on the Premier model.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
While the Premier has exclusive content like ambient interior lighting, leather seats, heated rear seats, and more, these things don't justify the added cost. We'd stick with the more affordable LT trim, which provides plenty of features. We'd likely select the Comfort and Convenience package for its heated front seats and heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel. And the Driver Confidence package (with blind-spot monitoring, rear-cross-traffic alert, and rear parking sensors) would also make its way onto our build sheet.
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EV Motor, Power, and Performance
The Bolt's electric motor provides instantaneous response to accelerator inputs and ample low-end torque that lets you shoot off the line when the light turns green. Responses are less immediate at highway speeds, but the electric Chevy still makes passing and merging on the highway a cinch. With a composed ride and plenty of power, the Bolt will challenge whatever negative preconceptions you might have about electric vehicles. It rides smoothly, keeping the cabin isolated from harsh impacts. Its steering is quick and accurate, but we'd prefer to feel more feedback from the road. The brake pedal is firm and provides above-average stopping power, but the regenerative braking system that recharges the battery when you lift off the accelerator means you can drive in most scenarios without ever touching the brake. A paddle on the left side of the steering wheel allows for increased on-demand regenerative braking, and it can bring the car to a complete stop, much like the traditional brake pedal.
Range, Charging, and Battery Life
While it takes about 10 hours to fully charge the Bolt's battery using a 240-volt outlet, the fast-charging option can add roughly 100 miles of range every 30 minutes with a Level 3 connection. The 2021 Bolt boasts an EPA range of 259 miles on a full charge, which is competitive with other similarly priced electric vehicles such as the Hyundai Kona Electric. While the Tesla Model 3 Long Range can travel up to 353 miles on one charge, it costs considerably more.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPGe
We haven't tested the 2021 Bolt on our 75-mph highway fuel-economy route, which is part of our extensive testing regimen. However, the last version we evaluated achieved 102 MPGe in our real-world test, which translates to a highway range of 180 miles. You can expect to see significantly better range if you stick to lower speeds around town. In fact, during an unorthodox range test in California's Death Valley, we were able to exceed the EPA's estimated range in the real world.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
Although spacious and practical, the Bolt's interior quality and appearance don't befit its $35,000-plus price. Hard plastics abound inside, although Chevy added some interestingly textured materials to spice up the dashboard. At least the digital instrument-cluster display and central touchscreen look crisp and modern. Power-adjustable seats are not available. Generous front and rear passenger space make the Bolt very comfortable for four and even decently spacious for five. The Bolt is nearly as practical as an average-size small crossover, with enough cargo space to hold five carry-on bags behind the rear seat. There's a useful compartment directly behind the electronic shifter that's perfectly sized for a smartphone, and the center console is well proportioned.
Infotainment and Connectivity
The large central touchscreen is well organized and easy to operate, but it isn't as quick to respond as we'd like. Built-in navigation isn't available in the Bolt. You'll have to rely on your smartphone for directions; luckily, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability is standard. Several useful EV-specific menus allow you to readily access information such as battery-energy usage and remaining range.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
Overall Safety Rating (NHTSA)
Chevy's electric hatchback is available with driver-assistance technology such as automatic high-beams and rear parking sensors. For more information about the Bolt's crash-test results, check the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Key safety features include:
- Available forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking
- Available lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist
- Available blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
Chevrolet provides standard coverage limits for the Bolt's electric-powertrain components. It also includes the first maintenance visit, but overall coverage doesn't come close to that of Hyundai.
- Limited warranty covers three years or 36,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers eight years or 100,00 miles
- Complimentary maintenance covers one scheduled visit
2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV
front-motor, front-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door hatchback
PRICE AS TESTED
$43,735 (base price: $37,495)
permanent-magnet synchronous AC motor
200 hp @ 4750 rpm
266 lb-ft @ 0 rpm
liquid-cooled lithium-ion, 66.0 kWh
single-speed direct drive
Suspension (F/R): struts/multilink
Brakes (F/R): 10.9-in vented disc/10.4-in disc
Tires: Michelin Energy Saver A/S Selfseal, 215/50R-17 91H M+S TPC
Wheelbase: 102.4 in
Length: 164.0 in
Width: 69.5 in
Height: 62.8 in
Passenger volume: 94 ft3
Cargo volume: 17 ft3
Curb weight: 3585 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS
Rollout, 1 ft: 0.3 sec
60 mph: 6.7 sec
90 mph: 13.9 sec
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 6.7 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 2.5 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 3.7 sec
¼-mile: 15.2 sec @ 92 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 93 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 191 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.79 g
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/city/highway: 118/127/108 MPGe
Range: 259 miles