2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV: First Impressions

img 182713516 1452539511178 jpg 2017 Chevrolet Bolt | Cars.com photo by Angela Conners

CARS.COM — Chevrolet may have driven the first nail into the Tesla Model 3’s coffin by beating it to market with the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV.

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The Bolt EV like the Model 3 has a 200-mile range, though Chevy says the actual range may be considerably more when final certification is done; room for five and a price in the low-to-mid $30,000s after the $7,500 federal tax credit is factored in. To cap it all off, it will be here sometime this summer. And unlike Tesla, GM tends to stick to its launch timetables.

img 184560558 1452539499559 jpg 2017 Chevrolet Bolt | Cars.com photo by Angela Conners

But how does the Bolt EV look and feel? Impressive. Visually, the production model differs from last year’s concept most notably in the roof treatment — new black plastic trim separates the roof from the lower body, lending it a longer look than the concept. It looks like a small crossover with a taller roofline. The Bolt EV is distinctive but carries the Chevrolet face well, with an obvious link to the rest of the family line. The Bolt EV is far more attractive than the Nissan Leaf, which still looks like a science experiment, yet the Chevy manages to advertise that it’s not a conventional vehicle.

img 155007886 1452539566638 jpg 2017 Chevrolet Bolt | Cars.com photo by Angela Conners

Inside, the Bolt EV is comfortable for full-size adults thanks to some clever packaging. The flat floor afforded by the new type of battery pack enables plenty of legroom for front and backseat passengers, and the hatchback body style means there’s adequate headroom in the back for 6-footers.

img 155931407 1452539557176 jpg 2017 Chevrolet Bolt | Cars.com photo by Angela Conners

The Bolt prototype’s material quality was understandably prototype-level, but the shape and layout of everything is top notch, resembling the latest Chevrolet Volt for style and operation. Visibility is excellent to the front and sides, but rearward is a little challenged thanks to the thick C-pillars in the cargo area. The backseat is compact-car sized, so it may fit three people across, but they won’t be three happy people. It’s best suited for two full-sized adults or three children.

So the Bolt is comfortable, relatively affordable, can actually carry some luggage and tops 200 miles on a charge, which takes nine hours on a 240-volt Level 2 charger or 30 minutes to get 90 miles of range with a Level 3 DC fast charger, and it seats four comfortably. Chevy says the Bolt EV goes from zero to 60 mph in less than seven seconds, meaning it’s likely a lot of fun to drive, though we’ll put it through its paces once we get one to test-drive.

Much of the media is saying this is the car that could finally usher EVs into many garages across America, but low gas prices and confusion with Chevy’s own Volt could hinder its adoption. Aside from these nitpicks, it feels like Chevy just threw a whole lot of cold water on Tesla’s plans.

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Detroit Bureau Chief Aaron Bragman has had over 25 years of experience in the auto industry as a journalist, analyst, purchasing agent and program manager. Bragman grew up around his father’s classic Triumph sports cars (which were all sold and gone when he turned 16, much to his frustration) and comes from a Detroit family where cars put food on tables as much as smiles on faces. Today, he’s a member of the Automotive Press Association and the Midwest Automotive Media Association. His pronouns are he/him, but his adjectives are fat/sassy. Email Aaron Bragman

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