Our first drive of the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV confirmed many of our best suspicions. Rumors of its excellent economy and legitimate range were true, as were claims of its driver-friendly performance and infotainment. Overall, we consider it the best electric vehicle value this side of a Tesla. Once more, though, for the record, a 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV starts at $37,495 before incentives and offers an EPA-estimated 238 miles of range on a full charge.
Though we discussed our real-world driving impressions in the first drive review, we didn’t size up the car for today’s consumer market. Sometimes, the right car for the guy next door is the wrong car for the executive gal down the street, and vice versa. As we’ve done in the past with cars like the 2017 Kia Cadenza and the 2016 Mini Cooper S, we’ll do our best to match Chevrolet’s breakthrough EV with consumers who could use it best.
Here are five people who should — followed by five who shouldn’t — buy the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV.
1. The green car pioneer
If you bought a first-generation Nissan Leaf or a Ford Focus Electric, you probably dealt with major range limitations and other compromises. It’s safe to say then that you’ll be impressed by what General Motors has accomplished just five years later. The 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV not only offers more than three times the range and more space, but it also has better economy and a superior battery management compared to those earlier models. You won’t find the frustrations you felt with first-generation EVs here. The Bolt is the practical green car you probably wanted then, and it costs less than a 2013 Ford Focus Electric ($39,995) did.
2. The urban daily driver
Though the Chevrolet Bolt EV is more than highway-capable, as an urban warrior it has no equal in economy and footprint. On the economy front, the Chevy Bolt EV achieves 128 MPGe in city driving. Let’s put it this way: If you drive fewer than 10 miles to work each day, you could probably charge this car once every two weeks. When you want to park in town, its 164-inch length will put you in the spots marked “compact” and “subcompact.” You’ll be able to squeeze your Bolt EV into spaces where the 183-inch Toyota Corolla can’t fit.
3. Midsize sedan consumers
Spaciousness and comfort are two of the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV’s best features. Not only are the seats comfortable, but the amount of head- and legroom in this car should make midsize sedan consumers take notice. Compared to a Ford Fusion and Toyota Camry, the Chevy Bolt EV offers more headroom and is close to both cars’ equivalents in legroom. The Bolt EV’s overall passenger volume is closer to a Toyota Corolla’s, but cargo volume is better than in either midsize sedan noted above. If you have a family of four and are in the market for a midsize model, check out the Bolt EV.
4. Everyone with access to state EV incentives
The Chevrolet Bolt EV’s one drawback remains its starting price. Battery costs are simply too high for automakers to build a car with a 60 kilowatt-hour pack, and businesses can’t drop their prices below Bolt’s list price for 2017. Yet the equation changes in states offering EV incentives on top of the federal tax credit. Places like Pennsylvania ($2,000), California ($2,500), Massachusetts ($2,500), and Colorado ($5,000) bring the starting price to as low as $25,000 — once you claim the full $7,500 credit. Add in the savings on gasoline, and you have yourself an excellent deal.
5. The environmentalist on a budget
If you want the ultimate in green driving, you could buy a Tesla Model S P90D, outfit your home with solar panels, and buy a battery to use all the energy you capture. Of course, this formula is as expensive as it is environmentally friendly. A P90D may replace a gasoline car with its 294 miles of range, but it costs over $90,000. Solar panels (prices vary) and battery storage (starts at $7,000 with installation) add to the expense. For the conservationist on a budget, the Chevy Bolt’s starting price of $37,495 is doable with available incentives. You can program charge sessions to make sure it only pulls the greenest energy from the grid.
Not everyone is ready for this car. Here are five types of people that probably shouldn’t plan on buying the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV.
1. Tesla owners
Over the past year, we’ve spoken with several Tesla Model S owners who put down deposits for a Tesla Model 3. Most want a smaller, simpler ride for daily driving and other tasks, so the Model 3 fits the bill. You could argue then that perhaps these same Model S and X owners might go for a Chevrolet Bolt EV. Personally, we don’t see it as a good fit. It’s a large leap from these premium models to the Bolt EV. Even with the excellent green car specs, we doubt this car will work for today’s Tesla owners.
2. The style conscious
Car consumers looking to make a fashion statement with their next ride should probably not put the Chevrolet Bolt EV at the top of their list. In profile, it lacks the attractive lines you see in the best-looking sedans and crossovers. Since there is barely any hood, the flourishes we admire in the front of a Chevy Volt or Ford Fusion (to name a few) have no place here. Bolt EV’s designers emphasized utility and economy, so they achieved their objectives there. The style conscious buyer would have to sacrifice on curb appeal if they went with a Bolt EV.
3. The family of five
We’ve mentioned how this car’s cargo space could appeal to families in the midsize market, but families of five would be cramped in a Chevrolet Bolt EV. The middle seat in the back is — as in so many modern cars — not an option for any teenager, let alone a young adult. For all the interior stretching Chevy did with this car, the Bolt EV ended up along the lines of a spacious small car (e.g., Toyota Corolla, Ford Focus). So who is this car ideal for? It’s best for a couple with an active lifestyle or a family with young children, but it’s a bad bet for any familial unit over four.
4. Road trippers without access to fast-charging
Fast-charging options have grown rapidly in North America since the end of 2015, but we still have a long way to go. Maps published by FleetCarma in September 2016 show how limited a non-Tesla driver’s options are on trips through America’s heartland. Between Chicago and California (and from Canada to Texas), you could not take trips and expect to quick-charge en route. Even though General Motors is bringing the Chevrolet Bolt EV to every U.S. state in 2017, it won’t be practical for drivers unwilling to wait for Level 2 charging.
5. The SUV driver
The Chevrolet Bolt EV offers drivers considerable utility with its cargo space and hatchback design. However, SUV drivers used to high-clearance and the ease of filling up large gas tanks are not going to go for this car — at least not until gas prices rise again. When we see a significant spike in the price for a gallon of gas at the pump, the Bolt EV could attract some compact SUV consumers. Until then, it will be a long shot for any consumer that’s not looking for something from the plug-in car segment.
Disclosure: In order to bring this report to our readers, the Autos Cheat Sheet reporter received complimentary airfare, accommodations, and meals while attending a Chevrolet Bolt EV drive event.
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