2020 Chevy Bolt EV Premier: Still breaking new ground
I tested the 2020 Chevy Bolt EV Premier just before this year's National Drive Electric Week, scheduled for Sept. 26 to Oct. 4. It features a host of free online event to promote EV ownership that can be found at driveelectricweek.org.
The timing reminded me that Chevy was widely praised when it beat Tesla to the market with the first affordable long-range electric vehicle in late 2016. The Bolt EV started at $37,495 before federal incentives and was EPA rated at 238 miles of range on a full charge. More than that, the compact hatchback had a lot of interior room and was flat out fun to drive, thanks the 266 foot-pounds of instantly available torque from its electric motor.
A lot has changed since then. Elon Musk finally got the compact Tesla3 into production, although for more than the $35,000 he originally promised. And other manufacturers are now beginning to offer EVs with similar ranges and prices, most notably Nissan with the redesigned Leaf Plus and Hyundai with the Kona EV.
Chevy is preparing to respond with a completely refreshed Bolt EV and a brand new Bolt EUV — the company's first electric utility vehicle — next year. But in the meantime, the 2020 Bolt EV has been upgraded to an EPA rated 259 miles of range, although owners report getting a lot more by using its adjustable regenerative braking system. Fast charging is also now available at all trim levels. Chevy is also sweetening the pot by offering buyers the choice of zero financing for 72 months plus a $4,750 cash allowance or an $8,500 cash allowance.
The incentives are helpful because, like all EVs, the Bolt is priced higher than equivilant gas-powered vehicles. The federal incentives are no longer available because Chevy has sold so many of them — more than 60,000 so far. But Oregon is also offering an instant $2,500 rebate on all EVs, including the Bolt. And, of course, owners save on gas, oil changes and maintenance costs.
Despite the relatively few changes for 2020, there are still plenty of reasons to choose the Bolt over comparable affordable EVs. For starters, it is still roomy and fun to drive. And — although Tesla models are known for their tech — the Bolt also incorporates a great technology package. It comes with a 10.2-inch touchscreen infotainment and control system, and an entirely digital 8-inch driver information display. The onboard 4G/LTE data system supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and you have the ability to create a wifi hot spot in the car.
In addition, onboard safety features include a standard rearview camera, and Premier trim includes a 360-degree surround view camera. The Bolt Premier also includes blind spot and rear cross traffic alerts, pedestrian safety signal, and rear parking assist. Optional add-ons include a Driver Confidence II Package of advanced safety features.
One of the things I like best about the Bolt EV is that it looks like a normal car. Early EVs like the Leaf, BMW i3, Mitsubishi i-MiEV and Think City were all styled to let people know they were different, both inside and out. But the Bolt looks like a conventional hatchback on the outside and typical economy car on the inside, augmented by its large display screen, energy flow readouts and available leather seats.
If you've never driven an EV before, take a Bolt out for test drive. You'll be surprised how smooth, fast and nimble it is. And if you're ready to go electric, put it at the top of your shopping list.
2020 Chevrolet Bolt Premier
Base price: $37,495 (before incentives)
Price as tested: $44,130 (before incentives)
Type: Compact hatchback
Engine: Electric Motor (200 hp, 266 lbs-ft)
Transmission: Direct drive
EPA estimated mileage equivalent: 128/110
Overall length: 164 inches
Curb weight: 3,563 pounds
Final assembly: Lake Orion, Michigan
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