Tuesday, January 24, 2017

So....what's it like owning a Bolt?

Apologies for the huge gap since my last blog post. For some reason, something has been taking up a lot of my free time...😉

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Just chilling among some gasmobiles

I've been in possession of my Bolt for over a week now, so I think I have enough time in the seat to give some more in-depth impressions. Bottom line, the Bolt is pretty much what I expected, and even exceeds my expectations in a few ways. The Bolt is not perfect, but the positives waaaaay outweigh the few negatives. Since a lot of you guys have never driven a Bolt (or perhaps even seen one in person), I'll try to comment on aspects of the Bolt prospective buyers probably care about the most.

First off, I'm going to address the front seats (I have a loaded Premier with leather seats, btw). From reading online forums and social media, it seems that the front seats are by far the most polarizing item in the Bolt. I've seen quite a few complaints saying the front seats are "worse than a 10 year old Kia!", "horribly uncomfortable", and other comments along those lines.

My take? They are fine for me (not the greatest, but perfectly acceptable). However, I understand where the complaints are coming from. I am 6', 190 pounds, so I would rate myself "average" as far as body type goes. I find that when seated in a normal position, I can feel where the ridge of the seat on the left side presses against my thigh. It does not cause me pain or discomfort, but it is definitely noticeable. I've yet to log any long distance (100+ mile) drives in the Bolt, but for around-town driving, the seats are serviceable. The Bolt's front seats are narrower than both my Volts, and also have less cushioning due to the new, slimmer seat design.

Could the seats be made perhaps an inch wider to increase comfort? It sure looks like there is room to do that. My advice for any potential Bolt owner worried about the seats is to arrange at least a 30 minute test drive in the trim you are planning on getting. That should be good enough to let you determine whether the seats will be an issue for you or not.

Ok, now that I got that out of the way, let's get into more interesting items, like that "One pedal driving" GM has been pushing so much! Basically, it's a blast to drive the Bolt, especially in L! With the gear selector in "L", you will almost never need to touch the brake pedal except in emergency/sudden braking situations.

The regen level while in L is MUCH stronger than any plug-in I've driven to date (G1/G2 Volt, Spark EV, C-Max Energi). I've found that even without using the regen paddle on the steering wheel (for extra regen), I can stop at a light without using the brake pedal. In fact, there have been many times I've actually had to step back on the accelerator a little to inch up to the car in front of me because slowing in L was so effective. The regen paddle gives even more regen, which means you can come to a stop fairly quickly without ever touching the brake. For you tech nerds, max regen observed (either D or L) without the regen paddle was 50 kW, and 70 kW combined with the paddle. These regen numbers may vary based on the battery's state of charge, however.

Once stopped in L, the Bolt will not "creep" like many gas cars do. It will remain stationary until you step on the accelerator again. In "D", the Bolt will drive and function like any plain ole gas car, for those of you that find "L" driving not to your liking.

How about the gitty up? The Bolt has plenty! If you floor the Bolt from a stop, you WILL squeal the tires. In fact, you will want to grip the Bolt with two hands firmly if you do just that, because there is also some torque steer you will need to deal with. The Bolt's chief engineer said he actually had to tune down the "off the line" power, as the torque steer could literally rip the wheel from an average driver's hands if they weren't careful. I'd be interested to see how a Bolt fitted with stickier tires would fare. I've also only flipped to Sport Mode (increased throttle response, same max performance) once to make sure it works, since performance in normal mode is more than enough!

The driver safety packages are pretty cool. Here's a quick rundown of what each does and my take:

  • Lane Keep Assist (LKA): If you don't engage the turn signal and drift towards a painted lane divider, the Bolt will "nudge" you back towards the center of the lane. I've found it works well in the daytime as well as at night. The Bolt can even guide you around a slight curve on the highway all on its own with LKA active. However, anyone watching you from behind will think you are drunk, so you probably don't want to do that very often...especially if a cop is behind you. If you let it "bounce" around the lanes too much, it'll beep at you and display a message telling you to grip the steering wheel.
  • Rear view mirror camera: pretty cool. It gives a crisp view out the back and offers a wider angle view compared to the standard mirror. I've found I usually have the rear view mirror flipped to "video mode" during daytime driving. However, video mode fairly useless at night. Also, if it is wet or snowy, the view can get obstructed. The Bolt does have a dedicated sprayer for the rear view cameras, however.
  • 360 degree birds-eye surround camera: Very cool! Combined with the rear vision camera (along with the front camera), if you can't park the Bolt properly, you probably need to just give up your license. The 360 degree birds-eye view lets you see everything around your car out a few feet in each direction, so there should be no curbing of tires, bumping into other cars, or running over of pets or kids. 😉
    If you put the Bolt in "R", the backup/birds-eye cameras will activate on the center display. Put the Bolt back in "D" or "L", and the center display will switch to the front camera view, so you can see what's in front of you (will shut off automatically once you hit 5 mph). The Bolt does not have audible front parking sensors, however, so the front camera/birds-eye cam is all you get for judging front distance, along with your own eyeballs of course.
  • Rear cross-traffic alerts: ....they work. That's all I can really say about that. If you are in "R" and the Bolt detects a car approaching from the left or right, it will trigger an audible alert combined with some red arrows on the center display pointing in the direction the car is coming from.
  • Front Collision Alert (FCA)/Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB): I've had the FCA trigger twice so far...both times on the highway when I was approaching traffic that had started slowing suddenly. The FCA will flash some red lights in the lower left corner of the windshield in addition to triggering audible alerts. There are 3 settings for FCA you can select via a button on the left side of the steering wheel that adjusts sensitivity. Also, in the settings menu, you can choose to turn FCA off, in addition to "FCA on, EAB off", or "FCA on, EAB on". I haven't had a chance to see how EAB works (nor do I want to).
  • Front Pedestrian Braking: Haven't had a chance to see that in action either, as I haven't tried to mow anyone down yet. If someone wants to volunteer and be a guinea pig and you're in Central Maryland, let me know. You'll have to sign a waiver saying it's not my fault if I run you over, though. 
The Infotainment Package adds Bose speakers, wireless charging for compatible smartphones, and 2 USB charge-only ports in the rear. I've yet to test the wireless charging feature, since my phone (Motorola Droid Z Play) needs an accessory to use it, but the phone (5.5") fits snugly without a case. Any phone bigger than 5.5" likely won't fit. The wireless charging pocket is located in front of the center storage compartment...big improvement over the location in the Gen 2 Volt, which was IN the center compartment. Also, the center armrest can be adjusted to slide forward a few inches.

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2017 Volt and Bolt side by side

What if people don't really sit in the rear, you don't care about wireless charging, and you aren't an audiophile? It's likely you won't find the infotainment package of much use, so you can probably save yourself $495. FWIW, the Bose speakers sound pretty nice, but I am definitely not an audiophile.

Also, there is a fairly large storage compartment between the driver and front passenger seats. Perfect for putting a purse (ladies), murse (metro guys), or other random items.

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Can also fit a large box of latex gloves for when you need to handle those bodies stuffed in the hatch.....wait, what?

I haven't had a chance to test out the DCFC port yet (too much range!), but I'll probably eventually end up using it sometime soon.

Android Auto works pretty much like in my Gen 2 Volt....except the Bolt's display shows these 1 inch black margins on each side, which is sort of annoying. According to GM, this is an Android Auto/Google issue, not a GM one. I recommend peppering Google via the Android Auto app's feedback section to get this issue fixed!

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"Squeezed" Android Auto display....bleh
If I were to give the (loaded) Bolt EV Premier a grade, I would give it a 93/100. Room for some improvement in a couple of minor nit-picky areas, but the main things (range, performance, utility) meet or exceed my needs!

p.s. completely random, but the center display will actually display Korean characters if you are streaming some Korean music via an app or something. As LG (Korean company) supplies a lot of components of the car, it makes sense. :)


  1. This is a very helpful rundown... and I appreciate you continuing your blog!

  2. My 5.7" phone fits fine, but I suspect most phones 6" or bigger will not.

  3. Thanks for the review - very helpful. Does it have Adapitive Cruse Control ?

  4. Thanks for the info. Based on my experience driving the Leaf and now the Kia Soul EV, I had a couple questions:

    When you are charging and you lock the car, does the connector automatically lock on as well?

    When you turn on climate control from the phone app, does the Bolt need to be plugged in for it to come on? This is the most annoying characteristic of the Soul EV. The Leaf treats you like an adult, and doesn't need to be plugged in for the phone-activated CC to come on.

    Lastly, let's say you set the charge timer for 9pm. If you come home and plug in at 9:15pm, will it begin charging, as the Leaf did, or will it wait for the next 9pm to roll around, thus not charge, as the Soul does?

    Thanks, enjoy!

  5. Try to use L mode to stop going down a steep hill. Actually, it doesn't need to be that steep. My wife pointed out this issue and I didn't believe her (I believed she thought she had it in L, but I figured she must have had it in D, not that I thought she was intentionally dishonest). I drove down that same hill and stopped at that same light. Sure enough, it kept creeping. Even the paddle wouldn't hold it. I had to apply (gasp) the brake.

    Also of note, the mirror rear camera thing seems a bit wonky if someone is following you with their headlights on that have whatever headlights cycle at 60hz or whatever. At first I thought it was an emergency vehicle. Flipping to the standard mirror they looked like standard headlights although whiter. Flip BAK to camera and dang, they flash.

  6. The agressive regen sounds like how it operates in my i3. Love one pedal driving.

  7. How accurate is the speedometer on the Bolt?

  8. Thank you for informative & really needed post.
    Tim Hoff

  9. Did you put snow tires on your Bolt? I'm curious how much those would take away from the Bolt's range. Thanks!

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