News

Car Review: 2020 Chevrolet Bolt

Car Review: 2020 Chevrolet Bolt
Autos
As peppy little electric hatchbacks go, the Chevrolet Bolt is at the front of the pack. The North American Car of the Year in 2017 and the first back-to-back Canadian Green Car of the Year award winner (2017 and 2018), the 2020 Bolt improves on the attributes that has made it an (EV) fan favourite. The 200-horsepower, front-wheel-drive electric powertrain is still plenty peppy — zero to 100 km/h takes 6.5 seconds, which is a little quicker than a Honda Civic Si — but now with 66 kWh of battery, its maximum range has been extended to 417 kilometres.

Now, you’re not going to get all those 417 klicks every time you juice up those 66 kWh of lithium-ions. Indeed, a full recharge typically sees the Bolt’s range readout specifying a best range of, say, 390 kilometres, a worst-case scenario of 320 and a median of roughly 350.

Now to some that may be disappointing, but in fact, I found the Bolt’s EV range monitor’s accuracy — not to mention, its honesty — its most refreshing attribute. For one thing, it was almost always absolutely, positively bang-on-the-money. Indeed, the Bolt was the first EV that if it claimed I had 350 klicks of juice left and the nearest charging station was 349 kilometres away, I would drive there without hesitation. as if it were simply a matter of physical distance when, in fact, it has more to do with trust. Too many EVs — and not a few gas-powered cars — are so unrealistic with their consumption/range calculations that they beggar belief — and skepticism — being the first step on that long road to suspicion, we get anxious that zero-emissions might be synonymous with delayed arrival.

Car Review: 2020 Chevrolet Bolt Premier

Besides, the suspicion that you might not arrive at your destination — that dreaded range anxiety — is just silliness when you have a realistic range of 350 kilometres. Indeed, despite the fact I’m a heavy commuter — I often drive more than the 50 or so kilometres a day EV proponents claim is the typical North American average — I saw no need to plug the Bolt in every night. Short of an extended road trip, the Bolt will easily see you through everything from two days of heavy commuting, to quick sprints to the mall. Low-mileage urbanites might even find they only need to plug in once a week. EVs may still be less useful for mile munchers — the fastest DC charging still takes over an hour to fill the Bolt’s, err, tank — but anyone, even suburbanites with long daily commutes, shopping for their second car should look at EVs in general, the Bolt in particular. If they can afford it, that is.

Now, as I said, the Bolt is one peppy little runabout. As EVs are wont to do, the Bolt’s initial acceleration is impressive if not quite Tesla-otherworldly. It handles decently — thanks to a low centre of gravity — and the ride is more than passable. I’d rag on the numb steering, but in these days of electric power steering systems, it’s no worse than any other small car. It’s also fairly roomy with decent legroom and expansive headroom. Cargo space is a little down compared with its direct competition, but it’s still a hatchback, meaning 16.9 cubic feet of golf-bag-swallowing space.

Back to that pricing insinuation. As laudable as the little Chevy is in all performance regards, its interior is a serious disappointment. I won’t say it’s absolutely crappy, but to be absolutely sure, the materials, build quality, and décor have no place in a vehicle that costs north of $50,000. The seats, as a few have noted, are not BarcaLounger comfy. Worse yet, their coverings look like the Premier was somehow mistakenly clothed in GM’s taxi package. The dashboard is no better, plasticky to the extreme with significant gaps along its face and in its connection to the front doors. Oh, the Bolt’s eight-inch digital gauge set and 10.2-inch infotainment touchscreen are up to par and the expansive window area makes it feels larger than its outside dimensions would suggest. Nonetheless, there’s no getting around the fact that the Bolt’s interior would get a serious razzing in any car over $25,000.

This is only partially GM’s fault. The knock that The General has to take is that the Bolt is now an aging design — and a little schlocky to begin with — that is starting to look a little old. It was due for a redesign in 2021 that will now arrive, thank you very much COVID-19 , for the 2022 model year. That’s not a moment too soon.

But part of the problem — and I’d posit the predominant part of the problem — is the realities of traditional automakers needing to produce their EVs at a profit. The Bolt’s size and interior may say budget hatchback, but so do its major competitors — the Hyundai Kona Electric , Kia Niro, and Nissan’s Leaf. A few of those may manage to disguise that price-point angst a bit better than the Bolt does, but the fact remains that a Kia Soul EV is about twice as expensive as its cheapest gas-powered sibling and I can absolutely guarantee you there’s not $20,000 of improved trim bits and performance in the electric version.

And that remains the Bolt’s — and, indeed, the segment’s — biggest issue. In a non-subsidized marketplace — I’m thinking anywhere other than Quebec or British Columbia — it’s a tough sell . Proponents of zero-emission vehicles are constantly telling us that the era of cost-competitive electric vehicles — not just on a total cost of ownership, but in base MSRP — is upon us. But as the Bolt and its competitors highlight, there’s still a huge gap — as much as $20,000 — to be made up. When, even if, that gap can be bridged.

Indeed, I’d say all the traditional automakers face the same problem. They need to make money on their EVs and so, when you look at a Bolt — or a Niro or Leaf — you’re looking at the real price/performance ratio of electric vehicles as they currently stand. They can’t go back to the stock market, a la Tesla, every three months to finance their latest shortfall. Nor can they claim the huge revenues, again a la Tesla, of selling EV credits

Fans of that Silicon Valley start-up are often wont to proclaim that that company’s Model 3 shows that EVs can compete on an equal price footing with their direct competitors. That requires believing that Mr. Musk et al have magically found a way to engineer $20,000 in savings compared to companies that 100 years in building cost-effective automobiles.

I prefer reality. In the meantime, that makes the Chevy Bolt a great electric vehicle whose interior puts paid to the idea that EV price parity is right around the corner.
Read more on driving.ca
News Topics :
Similar Articles :
Autos
The Tesla Model S, Audi e tron, Hyundai Kona Electric, and Kia Niro EV offer some of the best range on the market, according to Transport Canada.Handout / Tesla / Audi...
Autos
The Chevrolet Bolt EV set a benchmark for affordable electric vehicles with 383 kilometres of range on a full charge when it debuted a few of years ago. Now, for...
Autos
It’s only been the last couple of years that putting together a list of five electric vehicles for under $45, 000 was possible, and given the coming wave of new, affordable...
Autos
It’s only been the last couple of years that putting together a list of five electric vehicles for under $45, 000 was possible, and given the coming wave of new, affordable...
Autos
I had to chuckle when I first jumped into the 2019 Nissan Leaf Plus and looked at the full charge range 390 kilometres. Almost seven years to the day, back in...