Canada’s cheapest EV impresses with generous range
THE GOOD
  • Excellent range
  • Ease of use
  • Great regenerative braking
  • Most affordable EV
THE BAD
  • Lack of features
  • Frumpy style
  • Not very comfortable

The electric vehicle (EV) space is heating up quickly, and with so many interesting models in the near-future pipeline the current crop of emissions-free cars must step up or risk being left behind.

The 2022 Chevrolet Bolt EV was updated for this year in an attempt to entice potential buyers with its simple operation, affordable entry price, and generous driving range.

Fuel Economy: 10/10

The 2022 Chevrolet Bolt EV is officially estimated to have 417 km of range, but on a warm summer day and with a full charge, the car I tested was showing a generous driving range of 442 km. Other Bolt drivers have also reported upwards of 500 km on a full charge. Either way, the range is generous and puts it near the top of the pack in its price bracket.

A full charge on another day during testing showed 466 km of range. The Bolt makes range estimates based on past driving behaviour, so I must have been doing well. On this day, the Bolt’s display showed a maximum of 549 km under the most ideal conditions and a minimum of 382 km if I drove it like a maniac under the worst conditions. I really appreciate that the Bolt’s range calculator provides both best- and worst-case scenarios, as it helps with trip planning and helps quash any of the dreaded range anxiety. I wish more EVs did this.

The Bolt EV also doesn’t show its percentage of battery remaining, with Chevy figuring it’s far more useful and less stressful for a driver to see the state of charge in relation to what it means for the range. This is a small change that I also feel will help people who are new to EVs feel more comfortable.

During a road trip from Toronto to Ottawa and back, the range was comfortable enough that we didn’t feel anxious about charging because the range was more than enough to make it to the capital in one shot. We also picked a hotel that offered free Level 2 charging, so we plugged it in overnight and woke up to a full charge. Try getting a free tank of gas with your hotel stay…

My efficiency across almost 1,300 km of driving clocked in at 13.9 kWh/100 km. I also love that the Bolt EV has detailed reports of how energy was used and recuperated. This helped me increase my efficiency even more, and it also showed that driving it with maximum regenerative braking helped me gain more than 55 km of range since the last full charge.

Power: 9/10

The 2022 Chevrolet Bolt EV’s powertrain is simple, proven, and effective. With its 65-kWh lithium-ion battery pack and electric motor driving the front wheels, it outputs 200 hp and a healthy 266 lb-ft of torque. Power delivery is smooth and seamless, and while it’s not as quick as a Tesla, a full stomp on the accelerator results in an instant surge forward and decent passing power.

On a regular 120-volt household plug and using the included onboard charger, the Bolt EV recharges at a rate of about six km/hour, but moving up to a faster 240-volt Level 2 connection means a full charge from empty in about seven hours – perfect for overnight charging. A DC fast charge connection will yield about 160 km of range in half an hour or so. When you plug it in to charge, the display also lets you know what time charging will be complete, another simple but appreciated feature that helps with planning.

Driving Feel: 8/10

With the battery pack located under the hatchback’s floor, the low centre of gravity helps the Bolt EV feel planted, making it surprisingly nimble and confidence-inspiring. If pushed harder than normal through a sweeping corner, it does have the tendency to understeer, but that has more to do with its low rolling-resistance tires that are efficient but not the most grippy. The steering also feels quite twitchy and disconnected, and I prefer more feedback and resistance. Both minor traits shouldn’t be issues under normal circumstances, and as long as you’re not driving like you’re in a rally.

The battery packs also make the frame feel extra stiff, however, so the Bolt gets tossed around a lot on broken roads and driving over train tracks. If you’re looking for a more comfortable and floatier ride, you might find the Bolt too stiff.

The Bolt EV has an excellent regenerative braking system that makes one-pedal driving easy and efficient. I like that once you turn it on, it stays on and doesn’t revert to the normal mode after you turn the car off. The regen brakes bite hard without being too twitchy, and while it takes a bit of getting used to, especially while parking, once you become accustomed to operating it smoothly to maximize efficiency, you’ll be hooked.

Style: 6/10

The Bolt EV got some sweeping visual updates for 2022 that help it look more modern, but those cosmetic changes didn’t fix the fact that the Bolt EV still has the proportions of a jellybean. Although the shape remains awkward, the updates to the front end, including the new grille-less design with a body-coloured diamond-pattern insert and angular headlights, make the Bolt look more like an EV, whereas before it could pass as any regular hatchback. It’s an improvement, but it still strikes me as a bit dorky.

The dashboard has been updated to look more conventional with its layout and shapes, and the two-tone design has been ditched for a more monochromatic vibe. The white plastic in the previous model looked and felt particularly cheap, and while the black plastic used now is an improvement, it still feels like an obvious cost-cutting measure. Overall, it can look quite bleak inside.

Chevy also uses a lot of piano black on the dash, which looked good for all of two days before it got unbearably dusty. I despise piano black and wish automakers would stop using it, but there’s only one interior offered in the Bolt EV, so a duster is going to become a fixture in your onboard toolkit.

User Friendliness: 9/10

The Bolt EV’s simplicity and ease of use make it accessible and not intimidating, even if you’ve never driven an EV before. Some EVs have dazzling, minimalist interiors that look cool but require a learning curve to get used to, and it can be intimidating – especially if you’re new to EVs. The Bolt’s interior is straightforward, everything is clearly labelled and easy to find, and the interface will be familiar and intuitive to almost anyone. The touchscreen is responsive and the menus all make sense, so it’s never a task to find what you’re looking for. Oddly, there’s a dial under the volume knob you can use to scroll and select functions on the touchscreen, but its proximity to said touchscreen makes it entirely redundant.

One of the big changes for the 2022 Bolt was getting rid of the electronic gear selector stick in favour of a push-button and trigger system. The buttons feel more user-friendly than before, and this new setup opens up a lot of space on the centre console.

While it’s tough to gauge where the car’s front corners are because its nose is so stumpy, visibility is otherwise excellent through its tall, large windows and parking this tiny-footprint hatchback is remarkably easy.

Features: 6/10

The caveat with the Bolt’s excellent user-friendliness and relative affordability is that they come at the expense of features; the fewer features a car has, the easier it is to use, and the lower the cost. And because the 2022 Chevrolet Bolt EV only comes in a single trim, you don’t have the option of upgrading to get more features even if you want to.

Every Bolt EV comes with heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, cloth upholstery, push-button start, 17-inch wheels, an eight-way power driver’s seat, manual passenger seat, heated side mirrors, a 10.2-inch touchscreen, digital dashboard, a subscription-based Wi-Fi hotspot, wireless phone charger, and wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. That’s about the bare minimum these days, but it’s a shame not to see features like adaptive cruise control, a head-up display, surround-view parking camera, or the ability to use the Bolt EV as a mobile generator – tech that many other newer and more advanced (and, yes, more expensive) EVs offer.

Safety: 8/10

The Chevrolet Bolt EV comes standard with 10 airbags, forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keep assist with lane departure warning, a follow-distance indicator, rear parking sensors, automatic high-beams, and a teen driver profile.

The 2021 Bolt EV got “Good” scores from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) in all crash tests except for the passenger-side front small overlap test, where it got an “Acceptable” score. The child seat system got a “Marginal” score for ease of use, the headlights got an “Acceptable” rating, and the IIHS said the front crash prevention system was “Superior.”

Comfort: 6/10

Seat comfort is a common complaint amongst Bolt EV drivers, and unfortunately, the updates for 2022 haven’t addressed this. The seats offer little support, and after our long road trip both me and my passenger were stiff and felt the need to call the chiropractor.

Luckily, the Bolt’s tall stance means headroom is generous for front-seat occupants, but with the passenger seat in a comfortable position for a person who stands 6-foot-3 tall, there was almost no legroom left behind it. Headroom in the back isn’t generous, either, so if you regularly have three passengers to drive around the space might be insufficient. The back-seat passengers don’t get any amenities, either.

I also found the front centre armrest positioned too high for me to use comfortably. I also dislike that the touchscreen is slanted upwards, which makes it a touch more awkward to operate. Neither are deal-breakers, though. A greater cause for concern was the consistent squeaking coming from the steering rack and some of the interior panels, which were loud enough that I could still hear them with the audio at a normal listening volume.

Practicality: 8/10

The Bolt EV offers 470 L of cargo space in the trunk and 1,614 L when the 60/40 split rear seats are folded. The trunk itself is tiny and wasn’t deep enough to fit my collapsible grocery carrier that I’ve had no issues fitting in the trunk of pretty much every other vehicle I’ve driven. The under-floor storage in the trunk provides a good place to stash the onboard charging cable and a few other emergency provisions, however.

Inside, there’s a huge pass-through storage compartment under the gear selector, and the centre console/armrest cubby is deep, too. The pockets in the front doors are also large enough to fit a large water bottle. Unlike other EVs, the Bolt does not have a front trunk.

Value: 8/10

Chevrolet claims the 2022 Bolt EV is the most affordable all-electric vehicle in Canada. With its $38,198 starting price before destination fees, taxes, or incentives are considered, its claim checks out, and because of its generous range it makes for quite the bargain in the EV space.

My issue with the value proposition is that those dollars are likely to get you more car and more features if you were shopping for an internal-combustion car, so you’d really have to be committed to getting an EV and willing to forego some useful bits and bobs. While government incentives, saving money because EVs require less mechanical maintenance, and the fact that charging generally costs less than gas (and can even be free if you look hard enough), make the Bolt EV compelling, the lack of features for the price might still drive away some of you who are on the fence about buying an EV.

The Verdict

The 2022 Chevrolet Bolt EV shines with its simple, efficient operation, its enticing price compared to other EVs, and its excellent driving range, but in a time when the electric vehicle space is really heating up, it fails to sparkle as an overall package.

Even though I was impressed by its performance on a long road trip because the Bolt effortlessly proved how easy it is to live with an EV, its lack of features left much to be desired.

If you’re already committed to the idea of buying an EV, the Bolt EV’s generous range and low asking price should be more than enough to seal the deal. But if you’re looking for something more high-tech that offers more comfort and features, there are some slightly more expensive EVs or slightly less expensive gas-powered vehicles that may be more compelling.

Competitors

Specifications

Engine Displacement 150 kW   Model Tested 2022 Chevrolet Bolt EV LT
Engine Cylinders Electric motor w/ 65 kWh lithium-ion battery   Base Price $38,198
Peak Horsepower 200 hp   A/C Tax $100
Peak Torque 266 lb-ft   Destination Fee $1,800
Fuel Economy 1.8 / 2.2 / 2.0 Le/100 km ( 16.0 / 19.2 / 17.5 kWh/100 km ) cty/hwy/cmb; 417 km est. range   Price as Tested $40,988
Cargo Space 470 / 1,614 L seats down  
Optional Equipment
$890 – Bright Blue Metallic Paint, $495; 17-inch Machined-Face Aluminum Wheels w/Carbon Flash Painted Pockets, $395