The 2020 Chevrolet Bolt EV hasn’t changed much on the surface since its introduction, but it’s still one of the best long-range electric car values around. It's marketed as a small crossover, but you could fairly call it a compact hatchback. Its range has always been superb, and it gets even better for 2020 with an EPA estimate of 259 miles on a full charge. It also drives well enough, is incredibly roomy inside and is one of the few inexpensive EVs that is (mostly) built in America — its driveline is built in South Korea, but final assembly takes place in Michigan.
There are some downsides: the cargo area is small, and the interior materials and fit and finish are disappointing. With new challengers that include the Nissan Leaf Plus, Hyundai Kona Electric and Kia Niro EV, the Bolt's once-formidable range is no longer a unique selling point, but it's still a compelling choice.
What's new for 2020?
The most important update for the 2020 model year is that new EPA range rating: 259 miles, up by 21 miles compared to the 2019 model.
Beyond that, very little has changed. The back-up and surround view cameras have been upgraded to high-definition, and there are two new exterior paint colors — Oasis Blue and Cayenne Orange Metallic. That new blue is no added charge, but the orange falls in the “Premium” paint tier, costing an extra $395. You can read more about the 2020 Bolt changes in our first drive review.
What are the Chevy Bolt's interior and in-car technology like?
The Bolt's interior is remarkably packaged, emphasizing passenger space at the expense of cargo room. Four adults can fit comfortably inside, and there's enough room for an adult to sit up front with a large rear-facing child seat behind. That said, the cargo area's size and shape may make it difficult for families hoping to haul strollers and other bulky items.
The thin front seats can also be unsupportive, with sparse cushioning stretched over a seat frame that can dig into the shoulder blades of some front passengers. The bench-style rear seat isn't very contoured and can be tiring to sit in for long stretches. That said, the low front sills make stepping into the Bolt a breeze, and the high greenhouse is surprisingly airy. In terms of quality, the cabin materials and fit and finish are lower than even the disappointing GM norm – hard plastics, large gaps and rough edges. It looks OK, but there are nicer environments found in the Hyundai Kona, Kia Niro and Nissan Leaf.
The Bolt, as mentioned above, doesn't offer onboard navigation, which makes using a smartphone virtually a requirement if there's a chance you'll need to find a charging station along an unfamiliar route. The 10.2-inch touchscreen is big and bright, as is the crisp instrument panel. It offers many of the EV-specific features, like energy consumption, that you'd expect. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also included, and OnStar is available for a subscription fee.
How big is the Chevy Bolt?
Despite being marketed as a small crossover, the Bolt is really just a tall, compact hatchback. And while it is diminutive overall — 164 inches long on a 102.4-inch wheelbase, which is about a foot shorter than a Leaf — it offers ample interior volume for its footprint. Chevy puts the Bolt at 94.4 cubic feet of overall passenger volume, and 16.9 cu. ft. of cargo volume — slightly more passenger volume and a fair bit less cargo volume than the aforementioned Leaf and its subcompact SUV competitors from Hyundai/Kia.
That squares with what you experience inside the Bolt — a spacious cabin with a slightly cramped cargo area. That said, as long as the back's not already full of stuff, there's plenty of room back there for a large grocery run, and maximum cargo space improves to 56.6 cubic feet with the rear seats folded, which is indeed on par with small crossovers. As a commuter and occasional people-mover, or for families who pack light, the Bolt is pretty ideal. It might be tight for two-kid families with lots of stuff, however.
What is the Bolt's performance, range, and fuel economy?
Like any EV, the Bolt feels peppy at low speeds. The 0-60 time varies a bit depending on state of charge, but assume it's between 6.5 and 7 seconds, which is very quick for a vehicle in this size range. Motivation is provided by a single permanent-magnet electric motor with a 200-horsepower (150-kW) output, putting power through a single-speed transmission. Its 66-kWh battery provides a competitive EPA estimated 259 miles of range.
The EPA estimates that the Bolt will provide 118 combined MPGe, which is 2 MPGe less than the Kona Electric and 6 MPGe ahead of the Leaf Plus and Niro Electric — essentially, they’re all close enough that you won’t notice a difference.
DC Fast Charging is not standard; it is a $750 standalone option for both trim levels. The Leaf Plus, Niro EV and Kona Electric all include fast charging as standard.
What is the Chevy Bolt like to drive?
If there's a single word for it, let's go with "zippy." A short wheelbase, good steering feel, and a composed ride make the Bolt feel a lot like any decent-driving hatchback, but with extra torque and ultra-quiet operation. And we mean quiet — like most EVs, on smooth pavement the Bolt offers the sort of tranquil environment previously reserved for Bentley owners. It's neither sporty nor luxurious, but it drives well.
Its regenerative braking scheme may or may not be to your liking, however. Most electric cars allow you to determine the level of regenerative braking the car delivers when you lift off the throttle, which effectively allows for "one pedal driving" where much of the slowing is done by the car. It makes driving in gridlock much friendlier. You can do this in the Bolt, but your options are unusual. Leaving the car in Drive makes it behave like a regular car — you'll need to brake as usual. Putting the car in L engages aggressive regenerative braking, which allows for one-pedal driving, but unlike competitors, there's only one setting for it. Then, uniquely, there's a steering wheel paddle that activates max regenerative braking as if you have a second brake pedal. However, there's so little nuance to this paddle's operation that it basically just stabs at the brakes. In total, we don't like it. Three or four levels of regenerative braking, selected in a clearer manner through a touchscreen or dial, would be easier to understand and operate.
Where can I read more about the Chevrolet Bolt?
Our West Coast Editor took the scenic route from Tacoma to Portland to challenge the Bolt’s new 259-mile driving range.
We take a very close look at three of the strongest entries in this segment, looking at the granular details to see how they stack up, though the Bolt’s range has improved since then.
A slightly tongue-in-cheek look at the Bolt's performance credentials. With ample torque at low speed, the Bolt is almost an autocross contender.
Our first drive of the Bolt from back in late 2016. It mightily impressed us with unparalleled range — but since then, the competition has caught up.
What features are available and what's the Bolt's price?
The Bolt is available in two trim levels. The LT starts at $37,495 and the Premier at $41,895 — both MSRPs are before any federal, state or local EV tax credits or other incentives. There are no mechanical differences between the two. While the MSRP remains unchanged, it's worth noting that as of this writing, the federal tax credit has been reduced from $7,500 to $1,875 on the Bolt, and GM’s federal tax credit expires completely on April 1, 2020.
Standard equipment on the LT includes LED head- and taillamps, proximity entry and push-button start, a Teen Driver feature, and the Infotainment 3 system with the 10.2-inch touchscreen.
Stepping up to the Premier provides 17-inch alloy wheels, body-colored door handles, roof rails, leather seats, a leather-wrapped and heated steering wheel, a surround-view parking camera, ambient interior lighting, a rear armrest, an auto-dimming mirror and some driver assistance features highlighted in our safety section below.
You can see a complete breakdown of 2020 Chevy Bolt features, specs and local pricing here on Autoblog.
What are the Bolt’s safety features and crash ratings?
The Bolt comes standard with 10 airbags and a rearview camera. Many driver assistance features are optional on the LT but standard on the Premier: blind-spot warning, rear-cross traffic warning and rear parking sensors. There are also optional accident avoidance tech features available on both trims: forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and low-speed automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assist, a following distance indicator and automatic high beam control.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the 2020 Bolt its highest rating of "Good" in all crash tests apart from “Acceptable” for small overlap front: passenger-side. It gets an "Acceptable" rating for headlights and a "Marginal" rating for LATCH anchor ease of use. The government gives the Bolt an overall five-star rating, its highest, but only four stars in overall front impact protection. Some side crash tests also received four stars, although the overall rating for side impacts and rollovers is five stars.
We consider the Bolt to be a safe vehicle given its overall size and safety content, although we are disappointed that many helpful driver assistance features are an additional cost. That said, even as extra-cost packages they are not bundled with non-assistance content and all safety content is available on the base trim.