2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV

By May 1, 2020

The 2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV gets a range boost to become even more appealing. Electric vehicles have long been pegged as the future of motor vehicles, and models like the Bolt are a big reason why.

The things holding EVs back from increased popularity have always been affordability and lack of range, or how far the car can go before its battery needs charging. The Chevy Bolt was designed to be an affordable EV from the get-go, and now it’s improving in the range department.

For the 2020 model year, the Bolt EV earns a 10% boost in battery capacity, rising from 60 to 66 kWh. Nothing physical has changed in the LG Chem-configured battery pack, but the Bolt EV is now EPA-rated for 259 miles of range, which is up from 238 miles last year. Additionally, two new body colors are available.

As before, the Bolt EV comes in two trim levels, LT and Premier. Only a handful of options are available. The Bolt Premier now includes a surround-view camera system and a rear camera mirror.

Mounted low, a flat battery pack feeds the front electric motor, which yields 200 horsepower. Torque output peaks at 266 pound-feet, mostly achieved early on, promising brisker takeoffs. Front-wheel drive is standard; all-wheel drive is unavailable.

Chevrolet’s electric hatchback is one of the most energy-efficient cars on the road. According to the EPA, the Bolt EV achieves 127 MPGe city, 108 highway, and 118 combined. Some battery-powered cars are more efficient. The Hyundai Ioniq Electric, for example, achieves 133 MPGe combined and has a range of 170 miles.

Chevrolet advises that the Bolt EV can recover 100 miles of range in 30 minutes of DC fast charging. A full charge at a Level 2 (240-volt) setup takes about 10 hours. A DC fast-charging port is optional, but it’s a wise addition. Chevrolet’s Energy Assist feature lets owners search for charging stations.

Crash-test and other safety ratings have been good. The NHTSA gave the Bolt EV a five-star overall safety rating, while the IIHS name it a Top Safety Pick. However, the availability of contemporary safety technology is limited and costs extra.

The Bolt EV gets no standard active safety features, but there are two options packages available to equip them. The Driver Confidence I package, offered for both trim levels, includes blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alert, lane change alert, and rear parking sensors. These features are standard on the top Premier trim.

The Driver Confidence II package adds automatic emergency braking, forward-collision warnings, active lane control, lane-departure warnings, automatic high-beam headlights, and a following distance indicator. Many of these features are standard on the electric Nissan Leaf.

Outward vision is excellent. The Bolt EV remains available across the U.S., unlike some electric models that are offered only in California and a few other localities.

Model Lineup

The Chevy Bolt EV is available in LT and Premier trim levels.

The base LT starts at $37,495 including destination. It comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless ignition, automatic climate control, a six-speaker audio system, and an 8.0-inch driver information display. The infotainment system has a 10.2-inch touchscreen and is compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

The $41,895 Premier model adds leather upholstery, a camera-based rearview mirror, an HD surround-view camera system,heated front and rear outboard seats, a heated steering wheel, blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alert, lane change alert, and rear parking sensors.

Exterior

Despite a curvaceous profile, the otherwise boxy Chevy Bolt EV probably won’t turn many heads. Viewed from afar, the body looks almost van-like. Up close, it turns out to be more of a tall, short, economy-focused small car.

Chevrolet employed a few traditional vehicle-design tricks. Pushing the wheels outward toward each corner, for instance, makes the Bolt seem smaller. A “floating” roofline helps make the roof visually “drop” toward the rear. The wedge-like beltline helps the Bolt appear a bit stocky, yet rather graceful.

Interior

Even though the Bolt EV is quiet and comfortable, as well as space efficient, details fail to impress. The hatchback is laid out effectively, yet the interior is its weak point. An amalgamation of plastic surfaces, it blends economy-car efficiency and excessive ambition, trying to squeeze in too many contours and controls.

Overall, the cabin suggests a lower-priced vehicle. Drab tones of plastic and hard surfaces within reach intensify that impression.

From outside, the Bolt EV looks versatile and spacious – and it is. Essentially, it’s a boxy little utility vehicle wearing a curvy overcoat. Four adults fit well enough inside, and five can manage.

Seating space excels, but seat comfort definitely falls short. Around town, the thinly padded backrests and upright seating position are fine. On longer trips, the short cushions lack suitable support.

Rear seats tumble down, creating space that compares to many compact crossover SUVs. Like those up front, the back seats are thinly padded. Getting in and out is easy, thanks to the tall seating position and ride height.

Mounted high, the dashboard looks a bit like a minivan’s control stack. Centered on the dash is a generously-sized 10.2-inch infotainment touchscreen that’s mostly intuitive and free of lag.

Behind the back seat, cargo space measures 16.9 cubic feet – more than what some large sedans provide. Tumbling the seatback expands capacity to 56.6 cubic feet.

Driving Impressions

As its name suggests, the Bolt EV is a noteworthy example of practical hardware. It also implies the ability to “bolt” ahead from a stoplight when it turns green.

Newcomers to electric vehicles might be pleasantly surprised by its highly perky performance, especially in urban settings. Efficiency doesn’t necessarily impede energetic responses. The electric propulsion system packs quite a punch.

Generally, the battery-powered hatchback accelerates strongly, holds the road well, and rides like a bigger vehicle. Mounting the big, flat battery pack low in the floor helps with handling and stability.

At the same time, the Bolt EV drives much like any compact car – albeit one that’s a heavyweight for its nearly 3,600-pound size. Acceleration to 60 mph takes less than seven seconds, which is swifter than many efficiency-focused sedans and crossovers. A generous on-center steering zone helps keep it steady on the highway, with minimal fuss or deviation.

Two drive modes are standard. Normal mode functions like any car, including simulated idle “creep.” The second mode increases regenerative braking, allowing something like “one-pedal driving.”

Final Word

Except for the bigger, more costly Tesla models, the 2020 Chevy Bolt EV leads the battery-powered pack in terms of range. Some rivals exude greater charm, or offer quicker fast-charging. Chevrolet’s electric hatchback also stands out for its strong powertrain, exceptional versatility, and comparatively spacious interior. Demerits include a shortage of standard safety features and seat comfort.

—by James M. Flammang, with driving impressions from The Car Connection

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