2017 Chevrolet Bolt Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt was new.


Performance: 9.0

With plenty of torque, the all-new 2017 Chevrolet Bolt accelerates briskly from a stop. It also has terrific range and one of the best mpg-e estimates in the class. A low center of gravity equates to nimble handling, though low-rolling resistance tires prioritize efficiency over grip. Still, the Bolt is entertaining to drive.

  • "The Bolt is very quick off the line and has decent passing power at highway speeds as well. The Bolt scaled the Malibu hills as effortlessly as any diesel-powered car - maybe more effortlessly, or at least it seems that way, because there's practically no sound, much less the clatter of a diesel." -- Cars.com
  • "Despite the fact that there's a half-ton of battery crammed into a small car, the Bolt is not only a good EV, it's fun to drive as well." -- New York Daily News
  • "For more typical urban and suburban driving, we could say the ride was quiet, and the Bolt eases out of its parking space and gets underway with smooth decorum. You can sneak in and out of your parking garage late at night undetected. This would be a fine car for ninjas, though GM expects the average buyer to be a professional urban city dweller." -- Autoweek

Acceleration and Power

The Bolt features an electric motor that drives 200 horsepower through a single-speed transmission. It has a 238-mile driving range on a full charge, and it returns 128 mpg-e in the city and 110 mpg-e on the highway. (Read What Is mpg-e? for more information.) These numbers are decent for an electric car, especially the Bolt’s range, which exceeds that of most other electric cars in its price range. 

Using a 240-volt charger, replenishing a depleted battery takes nine hours (about 25 miles of driving range per hour). If you visit a public-use DC fast-charging station, you can recharge up to 90 miles' worth of range in just 30 minutes. 

Most drivers will find the Bolt's acceleration exceeds expectations. Chevy claims a zero to 60 mph time of about 6.5 seconds. With 266 pound-feet of torque, there's plenty of oomph to get this EV up and moving, especially around town. With highway performance, critics offer differing opinions. Some say passing and merging aren't a problem, while others claim the Bolt doesn't feel particularly powerful in these situations. The Bolt’s top speed is 90 mph.

The Bolt's gearbox, a single-speed transmission, features a low mode that activates a more aggressive setting for its regenerative brakes, even eliminating the need to use the traditional brakes. In this setting, the regenerative system reduces the Bolt's speed more than when the transmission is in its normal mode, recapturing more kinetic energy to use for recharging the batteries. This is perfect when approaching a stop light – you recoup energy that would have normally been lost. Many other hybrid and electric cars have a similar feature, and it's easy to get accustomed to.

  • "If the Bolt can indeed get from zero to 60 mph in about 6.5 seconds, as Tavel claims, it will match our best result for the BMW i3, the quickest entry among today's current crop of relatively accessible EVs, which excludes expensive machines like Tesla's Model S and Model X. The Bolt's torquey electric motor (200 horsepower, 266 lb-ft of torque) can easily chirp the tires from a stop and provides plenty of instantaneous power for slicing through city traffic or passing on the highway. Top speed is 90 mph, a relatively pointless measurement for most EV drivers." -- Car and Driver
  • "The difference between D and L (low gear on the shifter), is that while the Bolt will coast nicely in D, just like a standard car, in L it will immediately start slowing down and, again, come to a complete stop. (The car will engage the friction brakes if you get hit while at a stop.) This behavior is totally unlike a standard vehicle, but given some time it feels is totally natural. First-time EV drivers should get used to this quickly, just like the way Telsa (sic) and BMW i3 drivers already enjoy one-pedal driving." -- Autoblog
  • "I promised myself to treat the Bolt like a normal car: no babying the throttle, no hypermiling, and no lifting and coasting at any opportunity. I just drove. And the Bolt responded. It's not a fast car by any means, but it does have a prodigious amount of torque as you'd expect, enough to accelerate to 60 from a stop in less than 7 seconds. After that it runs out of steam quickly, but for zipping away from lights or ducking into gaps in traffic, it's quite rewarding." -- CNET

Handling and Braking

Chevy houses the Bolt's batteries and some other electric propulsion components underneath the rear seats and floor, which gives the Bolt a low center of gravity. This results in better handling than a majority of electric vehicles, with little body lean around corners. Steering is both accurate and well-weighted. However, the Bolt's low-rolling resistance tires limit its agility on sharper turns. They are beneficial, though, because they help the Bolt achieve better driving range. The ride is quiet as a library and firm without being uncomfortable.

In addition to regular brakes, hybrid and electric cars use a technology called regenerative braking. It captures the energy lost during braking that would otherwise go to waste, and uses it to recharge the batteries. While the transition between regenerative and regular brakes in some cars is not very smooth, the Bolt’s two systems work seamlessly.

  • "With the heavy slab of the 60-kWh worth of lithium-ion cells locked down under the floorboard, the Bolt is stable as she goes around any but the craziest of corners." -- Autoblog
  • "The Bolt isn't just good to drive for an electric car, it's good to drive, period. Sure, its cornering limits are relatively low because of its low-rolling-resistance Michelin tires, but the ride is satisfyingly firm without being harsh, and body motions are well controlled. Steering is heavily weighted, but not overly so, and has good on-center feel." -- Car and Driver
  • "Like all hybrids and battery-electrics, the Bolt employs regenerative braking, through which the drive motor serves as a generator, using the car's momentum and rotating drive wheels to recharge the battery. I'm pleased to report that the braking and pedal feel are pretty good. For a hybrid or EV, 'pretty good' seems to be the most you can ask for. The other end of the spectrum is 'terrible,' as represented by the Chevrolet Volt." -- Cars.com

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