What the experts say about the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt

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In this ongoing series, Boston.com talks with automotive authorities about why you should consider driving — or avoiding — a specific model.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt

The arrival of the all-new Chevrolet Bolt heralds the age of practical electric vehicles designed for the mass market. With 238 miles of electric range―more than twice as far than any segment rivals―the Bolt has enough juice to handle a week’s worth of commuting before its battery needs to be charged. Starting at $36,620, the car is affordable for most consumers and General Motors’ answer to Tesla’s forthcoming $35,000 Model 3, which will travel 215 miles on a charge.

The Bolt, a five-passenger compact car with interior space that rivals the much larger, all-electric Model S luxury sedan, draws its power from a 60-kilowatt lithium-ion battery pack, a 200-horsepower electric motor, and a single-speed transmission. The electric vehicle handled capably when this reporter tested it on a closed autocross course, accelerating powerfully and cornering with agility. The battery needs nine hours to replenish fully but can attain up to 90 miles of range after plugging in at a direct current fast-charging station for half an hour. The Bolt’s lengthy powertrain warranty―eight years or 100,000 miles―should help ease any concerns about taking a chance on the new technology.

The Bolt’s LT base trim comes with Bluetooth, a 10.2-inch touch screen, a built-in Wi-Fi hot spot, satellite radio, dual USB ports, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.  An 8-inch display screen shows the car’s remaining battery life and other performance metrics. For an additional $4,285, the Premier trim adds leather upholstery and heated front and rear seats. A wireless device charging station and dual USB ports for the backseat are available.

The Bolt received the Top Safety Pick designation from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety; it has not been rated for crashworthiness by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. A rearview camera comes standard, as does Chevrolet’s Teen Driver system, which allows parents to set controls on the vehicle’s speed and audio volume. Chevrolet offers a spate of optional advanced safety features, including blind spot monitoring, rear parking sensors, lane change alert, rear cross traffic alert, pedestrian detection, a 360-degree parking camera system, lane departure warning, and automatic emergency braking. 

The Bolt is eligible for a federal tax credit of up to $7,500.

What the experts are saying

Fun and functional

While mainstream EVs aren’t new, the Chevy Bolt is perhaps the first offering that really makes sense for a huge swath of people. It’s truly affordable, starting at around $36,000 (before tax incentives), and most importantly, it has a range that’s actually usable: 238 miles on a single charge, according to the EPA. The tall hatchback shape makes it functional, too, with space for people and cargo. Plus, it’s an entertaining little thing to drive, with gobs of instant torque. If you’ve been cautiously interested in EV ownership, the Bolt might just be the car to change your mind about the electric lifestyle.” – Steven Ewing, managing editor at Motor1

Electric vehicle benchmark

“The Chevrolet Bolt EV is the first long-range electric car that’s priced for the mass market. The upright hatchback doesn’t have the sex appeal of a Tesla, but actually has as much interior room as a Model S, not to mention sales and service at more than half of all Chevy dealers. It’s surprisingly fast, its 238-mile range rating means you don’t worry about battery capacity for days of commuting at a time, and the user displays and infotainment are first-rate. Its only drawback is fairly slow DC fast-charging and the limited number of charging stations for that. We gave it our Best Car To Buy 2017 award, and in just six months, the Bolt EV has become the benchmark that every other electric-car maker now has to live up to. It’s still pricier than other cars its size—most versions come in at around $40,000, before the $7,500 federal income-tax credit plus state, local, and corporate incentives—but it’ll be cheaper to run per mile for the huge majority of drivers.” – John Voelcker, editor of Green Car Reports

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Minimal maintenance

“With 238 miles of range, the Bolt gives you no range anxiety. I know that Tesla (which is launching a Bolt competitor) has some name cache to it, but I think we got it beat. I can tell you that I have one, and I’m really happy with it. I drove about 45 miles already today, and my dashboard right now says I still have 207 miles of range. It’s roomy, like a mini crossover. I’m 6-foot-2, 240 pounds, and I can fit comfortably. This car is so quiet―no squeaks, rattles or thuds―that it’s like a science experiment. It’s also very low-maintenance. There’s no oil, so you don’t need oil changes. It only requires drivers to rotate tires every 7,500 miles and a brake fluid change at 150,000 miles.”  – Paul Masse, owner of Paul Masse Chevrolet in East Providence, Rhode Island