The Chevrolet Bolt used to be the EV everyone loved to hate. Dealers offered steep discounts just to move them off the lots while everyone cooed and gushed over flashier options like the Tesla Model 3. Then there was that whole catching-on-fire thing.
But now that dealer prices on pretty much every new vehicle have gone cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, the original Bolt EV looks like a pretty smart deal. That is, if you can find a dealership that isn’t charging outrageous markups.
The Chevy Bolt debuted for the 2017 model year with great fanfare. After several years of announcements, concepts and sneak peeks, Chevrolet finally had its production EV. Yes, there was the Chevy Spark EV before it, but it was a low-volume compliance car. If you haven’t already forgotten about that one, you should.
With 238 miles of range, as estimated by the EPA, the Bolt was way ahead of older models like the Spark EV, Nissan Leaf and Ford Focus EV. Chevy accumulated a shelf full of awards including the MotorTrend Car of the Year, North American Car of the Year, Automobile Magazine All-Star, and a spot on Time magazine’s list of Best Inventions of 2016.
As a car, the Bolt is a subcompact four-door hatchback, which put it in direct competition with the Leaf, Focus EV, BMW i3 and Volkswagen e-Golf. Chevrolet outpaced them all, selling more than 23,000 Bolts in its first year.
The Bolt has remained largely unchanged in six years on the market. Instead of a major redesign, Chevrolet opted to upsize a new model and call it the Bolt EUV, so now it’s a family of Bolts. Consequently, the Bolt remains one of the most affordable EV on the market, at least when measured by MSRP.
Like virtually all first-gen clean-sheet EV designs except Tesla, the Bolt is kind of frumpy. Somewhere along the line, focus groups told Chevrolet, Nissan, and BMW that an EV should look like something your Birkenstock-wearing middle school English teacher would drive. The Bolt was designed in the old Daewoo studio in Korea which had previously produced the Spark, so it’s an evolution of the Spark look.
Still, the design of the Bolt has worn well. It looks a little bit futuristic with its mostly flat pane from the windshield down to the headlight belt line over the bumper.
Like most vehicles designed to create interior volume in a subcompact structure, the wheels are pushed out to the corners of the vehicle giving more space for larger doors. The bottom line is, no one’s buying a Bolt to look super cool. Those people buy Teslas or now, Rivians and Lucids.
The futuristic look of the Bolt’s exterior extends to the cabin. Within the bounds of economy cars, the Bolt’s interior is perfectly good. The seats are comfortable, and the infotainment touchscreen is generous at 10.2 inches in all trims.
The front seats and steering wheel are also upholstered in perforated leather and heated when you buy the 2LT, which is really nice in most of North America. As a nod to the Bolt’s electric driveline, you get push-button gear selection on the center console.
Rear seat space is also good, courtesy of the egg-on-wheels exterior design. You can fit two adults back there in decent comfort, or flip the rear seats down and get 57 cubic feet of cargo capacity. Most people pack less than that to go away to college.
The Bolt is a front-wheel drive design, and there has never been any provision for AWD. Honestly, AWD is an affectation most of the time, and it would detract from range and efficiency. The electric motor provides 200 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque, giving the Bolt a lively and quick demeanor.
There is no transmission as such, just a differential and final drive. With this, the Bolt will hit 30 mph from a standing stop in under 3 seconds, and 6.5 seconds to 60 mph. For a favorable comparison, that’s about the same as a mid-80s Ferrari 308.
The official range estimate for a 2022 Bolt is 259 miles, but I’ve never failed to beat that number when I had one as a loaner. Getting great range is not something you have to do by crawling along the shoulder at 45 mph, either. Just avoid doing too many of those 0-60 sprints and use the one-pedal driving capability for regeneration.
The EPA rates the Bolt at 120 MPGe in combined driving, but that’s really a meaningless statistic. What matters is, you can charge the Bolt (slowly) on 120V wall current, and if you have a 240V Level 2 charger at home, you’ll wake up to a full charge every morning. The Bolt also supports DC fast charging, and you can juice up for 100 miles in 30 minutes.
Safety and Technology
Chevrolet outfits the Bolt with the latest in safety and driver convenience features. The base trim comes with a basic rear-view camera and automatic headlights, as well as a full suite of advanced collision mitigation systems. In the upgraded 2LT trim, Chevy adds lane assistance with blind-spot monitoring, plus rear parking assist and a 360-degree camera system.
As mentioned, in both the 1LT and 2LT trims, you’ll enjoy a 10.2-inch touchscreen with voice control. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard. Like virtually all EVs, the Bolt will show you all kinds of information on how you’re doing with energy efficiency, and what your charge times will be.
It’s hard to talk about safety and not mention the fact the Bolt EV had a problem with the batteries catching on fire. That only happened when two comparatively rare manufacturing defects were present in the same battery. To address that, Chevrolet is replacing the defective batteries and has a software fix that prevents even defective batteries from catching fire before they can be replaced.
Driving the Bolt is when this car really sells itself. In any other context, we’d call this car a hot hatch. For example, this year’s four-door Mini Cooper S comes with 189 hp and 206 lb-ft of torque, definitely in the same performance envelope as the Bolt.
The Bolt performs up to its specs, with nimble handling and plenty of scoot at any speed. When you reach your destination, it’s got great visibility and it’s easy to park. As we mentioned, there’s plenty of space under the hatch to haul whatever you’re buying, within reason.
The other thing about the Bolt driving experience has to do with EV range. Obviously, when total range is at 100 miles or less, you’re constantly looking at the range meter and planning your next charging stop. But at 259 miles (or more) you’ve got breathing room to make that unexpected side trip.
Speaking personally, I often need to go into the city, and that involves a 75-mile trip each way, over a small mountain range. With a Bolt, I can get into the city, run my errands, and get home again with a comfortable margin. That peace of mind is critical when you’re talking about driving enjoyment.
2022 Chevrolet Bolt EV Specifications
|Dimension||L: 163.2 inches/W: 69.5 inches/H: 63.4 inches/Wheelbase: 102.4 inches|
|Powertrain||Permanent magnetic drive motor, single-speed gearset and front-wheel drive|
|Fuel Economy||131 MPGe city/109 MPGe highway|
|Performance Specs||200 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque|
|Price||Base price: $26,595; As tested: $31,260 including $995 destination charge.|
|On-Sale Date||Available now|
Right now, Chevrolet is advertising the Bolt 1LT at $31,500, plus $995 in destination fees, but with $5,900 in cash allowances on the hood. That’s in place of the Federal tax credit that no longer applies to GM vehicles. Your state government may also offer EV tax credits, and your local dealer will know about those.
Theoretically, your bottom-line price on a base trim Bolt should be right around $26,595, or $29,795 if you buy the upgrade 2LT trim. By the way, with just $3,200 separating the two trims, you should definitely opt for the 2LT.
However, finding a dealer selling any new car at MSRP is a challenge right now. Many dealer websites just say, “MARKET PRICE — CONTACT US.” That’s never a good sign for finding a bargain. So while the 2022 Chevy Bolt may be the most affordable EV on the market by MSRP, actually getting that deal may be close to impossible.
2022 Chevrolet Bolt EV — Frequently Asked Questions
Is the Chevrolet Bolt being discontinued?
Not at this time. The 2023 Bolt has been announced with pricing and feature upgrades.
Will a new Chevrolet Bolt catch fire?
It’s very unlikely. There is a software update that prevents the fire that could occur if the battery defects are present. Out of 108,443 Bolts sold in the United States through June of 2022, just 19 have caught fire.
Is the 2023 Bolt a better car than the 2022 model?
The 2023 Bolt is almost identical to the 2022 model. A new color will be available, along with some new accessories like floor mats and an illuminated charging port.