Len Ingrassia: Chevy Bolt increases its range

The 2020 Chevy Bolt has good curb appeal for a sub-compact hatchback with a 259 mile range.Photo courtesy Len Ingrassia.

As auto manufacturers wrestle with how much pure electric technology consumers want, several cars have emerged beyond Tesla that will move you along several hundred miles before needing a charge.

Still others, such as Toyota, have backed off the electric train in lieu of hybrid technology while citing “range anxiety” — worry that the battery will drain, leaving you stranded before a charging point is reached.

The new Chevrolet Bolt is near the top of a handful of small cars with a 259-mile range — an increase of 20 miles over last year’s model without increasing battery size.

• Pros: the ultimate green machine, quick off the line, quiet ride.

• Cons: pricey, touch screen glare, no available navigation.

The Bolt debuted in 2017 and has seen minor modifications since then. Two trim levels are available — LT and Premier. Each has the same electric battery pack under the floor powering a 200-horsepower electric motor.

Base price for the LT in your driveway is $37,495, and the loaded Premier is $41,020, although we understand that Chevrolet is dealing on these cars.

Normally we would recommend the base model, but the Premier’s safety gear, fast-charging equipment, Bose sound and infotainment package for $2,235 is worth the extra coin.

Kia Niro and parent company Hyundai’s Kona and Ioniq have entered the EV sensation, as has Nissan's Leaf and Tesla's Model 3, with more expected to debut this year.

Our four-door hatchback tester was fun to drive. As with electrics, its power is all in instantly. Our independent testing of the Bolt from a dead stop to 60 mph recorded a brisk 6.1 seconds, quicker than most gasoline-powered sedans.

Driving the Bolt takes some getting used to because its transmission is one speed and steering is a point-and-hoot affair. Braking is firm, and its regenerative function is recharging the battery automatically and can bring the car to a complete stop without pedal pressure.

While the interior is on the sparse side, an 8-inch multicolor display provides driver information at steering wheel height. At center console is a 10.2-inch touch screen that houses entertainment functions including audio streaming, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, phone and climate controls.

Front seats are comfortable, but a lack of cushioning, lumbar support and no power adjustments would be noticeable on longer trips. There is a surprising amount of cargo room in the hatchback with seating for up to five. With second-row seats folded, the Bolt leads most rivals with just under 57 cubic feet for luggage, golf clubs or big-box shopping for two people.

Available safety gear includes adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitors, rear cross traffic alert, lane keeping, automatic emergency braking and front pedestrian braking.

Home charging on regular household current will take days to complete, necessitating the need for an installed 220 line that will still take nine hours. Fast-charging stations with a full charge in less than 90 minutes is the preferred method if they are nearby your daily route. Cost is $12 to $14 for a full charge.

Len Ingrassia is an independent automotive columnist. Contact him at lenscarcorner@comcast.net.