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2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV Review

The 2019 Chevy Bolt EV electric hatchback started a trend that others are only now catching up to.

The 2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV’s long 238-mile range has helped it outrun competitors.

That may change soon.


For now, we give the all-electric hatchback a 6.8 on our overall scale. Its long range and fun electric powertrain buoy sagging safety and comfort scores. 

This year, the 2019 Bolt EV (silently) glides into a few new exterior colors—nothing major.

The big stuff is already there: 60-kwh battery rated for 238 miles, a 200-horsepower electric motor, front-wheel drive, and 10.2-inch touchscreen.

Like last year, the Bolt EV is offered in LT and Premier trims, and costs about $37,500, before applicable state and federal tax perks.

The Bolt EV is an upright hatchback with mostly good looks. Exterior designers tried (and mostly succeeded) in dressing Poindexter well for the party—it’s a few clever tricks to hide the hatchback’s practical shape. Inside

Under the hood—or more accurately, the floor—a battery powers the Chevy Bolt EV around town with ease and silent operation. After repeated tests we can say that the Bolt EV is capable of its 238-mile rated range over and over again, and that it’s relatively fun along the way.

Four adults will fit fine in the Bolt EV, five in a pinch. Behind the second row, there’s nearly 17 cubic feet of cargo room for gear. The second row tumbles down to offer as much space as many compact crossover SUVs.

The Bolt EV safely crashes, according to federal and independent testers, despite lacking an engine up front. The small Chevy gets good ratings for its crashworthiness, but sub-par headlights and spendy active safety features hold it back.

The electric powertrain is complemented by good features that include 17-inch wheels, Bluetooth connectivity, automatic climate controls, and the 10.2-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.

Styling
The 2019 Bolt EV looks like a funky hatchback instead of a weirdo electric car. That’s probably the point.
The 2019 Chevy Bolt EV hides its boxy layout well in clever ways that we appreciate.

It’s still an economy-minded car, albeit one with smoother edges. We give it a point above average for the effort outside. It gets a 6 out of 10. 

The Bolt EV’s wheels are pushed all the way to the corners, which makes the car look smaller than it is and maxes out its interior space.

There are a few neat tricks designers used to hide the Bolt EV’s boxy shape: a rising window line and deep creases trick eyes into thinking the body is racier than it is. Blacked-out roof pillars help the roof visually “drop” toward the tail end, which is funky but wide.

Inside, the Bolt EV the pastiche of plastic surfaces meld between economy-car efficiency and tech-heavy control deck. The dashboard places the big 10.2-inch touchscreen front and center, but the controls and buttons are laid out better than the first-generation Volt. We like that.

Performance
If you haven’t driven an electric car like the 2019 Bolt EV before, the way it moves might surprise you.
Performance isn’t the first reason many people will consider a 2019 Bolt EV. Its perky powertrain is a pleasant fringe benefit.

Despite the Bolt EV’s focus on efficiency, it manages to accelerate and hold the road well, which are both byproducts of an electric powertrain with a low, even weight distribution.

The Bolt EV earns a 7 out of 10.

The big, flat 60-kwh batteries are low in the floor and feed the front electric motor’s 200 hp for up to 238 miles. At its peak the motor delivers 266 lb-ft of torque, most of it early on, in ways only electric motors can provide. The Bolt EV accelerates up to 60 mph in less than seven seconds, not ideal for efficiency, but not bad either.

The range is the Bolt EV’s most immediate perk, and the 238-mile rating is real—and real repeatable. In many drives, we were able to reliably drive the car for 200 miles or more, which means to us that “238” isn’t just attainable, it’s reliable.

The Bolt EV offers two drive modes that can best be described as “Normal,” and perhaps “Normal for EVs.”

The normal mode functions like any car would, including idle creep—where the front wheels inch forward when the brake pedal is released. For EVs, idle creep is functionally useless: the electric motors should only power the wheels when the accelerator is pressed. For first-time EV drivers, the mode might ease them into a new world.

The second mode is a more one-pedal experience, with stiffer regenerative braking and no idle creep. EV fans will recognize it as more normal to them, and first-timers might ease into the mode for more efficient driving.

Regardless of drive mode, the Bolt EV handles well with a generous on-center steering zone that keeps the Chevy tracking down highways with minimal fuss.

The transition between regenerative braking and friction braking was so subtle, we hardly noticed it in our drives.

Comfort & Quality
Quiet and comfortable, the 2019 Bolt EV’s interior is capacious—albeit somewhat cheap-feeling, too.
The 2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV excels at being a versatile hatchback with room for four or five adults with room for gear.

It costs more than many of its gas-powered contemporaries, and depending on your worldview, the Bolt EV’s comparatively high price may be too much to bear. In the end, we give it a point above average for its versatility, but just one. It gets a 6.

By our backsides, the Bolt EV’s thinly padded seats and upright seating position are just fine. We accept that some may not feel the same way, so we strongly encourage a long test drive before buying.
The thin seats afford more leg room in the rear, which again, is somewhat thinly padded. That means the quoted 36.5 inches of rear seat leg room feels longer, provided the seats aren’t a pain.

The good news is the Bolt EV’s somewhat tall ride height makes the hatchback easy to get into and out of. We liked the tall seating position and bright cabin, it offered great outward vision.

With both rows of seats in place, the Bolt EV offers 16.9 cubic feet of cargo room, which is more than some bigger sedans. Tumble the second row out of the way and the cargo capacity expands to 56.6 cubic feet of room, which is plenty for many big-box store runs, and almost as much as the Equinox crossover SUV.

The Bolt EV’s interior speaks to a more modest price tag than it has. It’s a handsome, clean, and quiet cabin, but its not very dressy nor high-buck. Some of the materials have a low sheen, hard plastic feel befitting a car that costs roughly half of the Bolt EV’s price, which can reach beyond $40,000 before applicable federal and state incentives.

Safety
The 2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV has good, but not great, safety ratings.
The 2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV represents the future in some respects, but not all.

The five-door hatchback has received mostly good scores for its crashworthiness, but poor headlights and spendy automatic emergency braking keeps it from scoring higher than a 6 on our safety scale. 

Federal testers give the Bolt EV a top five-star overall rating, but only a four-star score in front crash tests.

The IIHS largely agrees. The insurance industry-funded group gave the Bolt EV top “Good” scores on all its crash tests, but rated the Chevy’s headlights as “Poor” in every trim level. That’s not good enough.

Getting automatic emergency braking on a Bolt EV first requires the top Premier trim, then asks for two options boxes to be ticked: Driver Confidence I and Driver Confidence II. Nissan makes the life-saving technology standard on all Leaf models.

Driver Confidence I is available on LT and Premier trims and is recommended. It adds blind-spot monitors and rear parking sensors.

Driver Confidence II is available on top trims only and adds forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking (the IIHS rated it “Superior”), active lane control, and automatic high beams.

Aside from active safety features, the Bolt EV includes a rearview camera, airbags for belted passengers, and GM’s OnStar system that can alert first responders after a crash.

Features
The 2019 Bolt EV’s touchscreen is impressive, the way to get active safety features on the electric car isn’t.
It’s not an accident that GM’s most technologically advanced car has some of its best available features.

The 2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV is available in two trims, LT and Premier, with few options available.

The LT versions get 17-inch wheels, LED headlights, keyless ignition, cloth upholstery, automatic climate control, an 8.0-inch driver information display, Bluetooth connectivity, and a 10.2-inch touchscreen for infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

That’s breathtakingly short of great for standard features, the only omission is a critical one: no standard automatic emergency braking.

We’ll still give the Bolt EV a point above average for its big touchscreen, however. It gets a 6 out of 10 for features. 

Chevy offers on LT versions a convenience package that adds heated front seats and a steering wheel that we recommend for anyone above the Mason-Dixon line. Also optional is a DC fast-charging port that we’d recommend for all buyers; not only does it mean the Bolt EV is more useful around town, it’s hard to imagine trying to sell a used EV without a DC fast-charging port soon. Driver safety features are covered in the section above, but we recommend those as well.

Premier versions add leather upholstery, a camera-based rearview mirror, a surround-view camera system, heated front and rear seats, blind-spot monitors, and rear parking sensors.

Getting automatic emergency braking requires another spend-up option that includes active lane control and forward parking sensors.

Requiring two option packages on top of the spendiest model to get automatic emergency braking is something several other automakers don’t do anymore, Chevrolet should follow them.

Fuel Economy
The 2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV is one of the most energy efficient cars on the road—electric or otherwise.
Small, battery-electric cars are among the most efficient vehicles on the road today.

Our fuel-economy scale prioritizes cars like the 2019 Chevrolet Bolt EV because electrification isn’t a niche anymore—it’s clearly the future.

For its 238-mile EPA rated range, the Bolt EV aces our fuel-economy scale. 

For now, the 2019 Bolt EV is a rarity. Its efficiency and range is only rivaled by a small number of cars. The Tesla Model 3 is rated for up to 310 miles, but costs substantially more than the Bolt EV. The Leaf is rated for only 150 miles of range, but Nissan announced a longer-range version due soon.

The Hyundai Kona EV may pose the stiffest challenge to the Bolt EV. It’s rated for 258 miles on a single charge.

Chevy says the Bolt EV will charge from empty in roughly 9 hours on a 240-volt charger, most commonly found at home chargers. On a fast-charger, Chevy said the Bolt EV can add 90 miles of range in 30 minutes.



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