2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV Review: Android Auto Goes Electric

June 1, 2017 - Written By Alexander Maxham

Chevy’s first attempt at an electric vehicle checks basically every box.

Electric vehicles or EV’s, are the future. It’s something that just about every auto maker is striving towards right now, and that’s because an electric car is much better for the environment than a gas-powered vehicle. It’s also cheaper in the long run. But for the most part, EV’s don’t have much in terms of range. However, Chevrolet’s Bolt is said to get around 238 miles on a single charge and cost under $30,000. Giving it one of the largest ranges on a single charge, and being one of the cheapest in its class. But the real question is just how well does this vehicle stack up? How well does it run? We’ve been driving the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV for a few days, and have plenty of thoughts, and that includes Android Auto.

Pricing

The Chevy Bolt EV is usually listed as “$29,995*” and the asterisk is because you get a government rebate for buying an electric vehicle. It is a bit different in each State (in the US), but for most people, it’s around $6,000. Which brings the cost of the Bolt EV – which starts at around $36,000 – to below $30,000 and that’s what GM promised with the Bolt EV when it was announced. Chevrolet has two trims available for the Bolt EV, there’s the LT and the Premier. The Premier starts at $41,780, and can go up from there, depending on what else you add to the car when you’re building it.

The model that we are testing here is the Chevy Bolt EV Premier. The final sticker price on this model is $43,510, which is a fair amount higher than the starting price of this vehicle, and also quite a bit more than Chevy’s other sedans like the Spark, Malibu and Impala. Now added on here we have the DC Fast Charging Provisions for $750, Driver Confidence II Package for $495, and the Infotainment Package for $485. For those that might be wondering, the color on this model is the Nightfall Gray Metallic, with the inside using the Dark Galvanized Gray. Of course, if you are interested in the colors, it’s better to test drive the Bolt EV at your local Chevy dealer, as pictures can’t really do the colors justice in most cases.

Exterior

Chevrolet went with the hatchback look on the Bolt EV, which may not be everyone’s favorite, but it does help keep the car nice and lightweight. And when we’re talking about getting more mileage out of that battery, lightweight is a good thing. There isn’t much of a grille on the front (which is something I miss actually), the hood is pretty small compared to a regular vehicle, but the front does look nice. It looks modern. It doesn’t look like a cheap car, but it also doesn’t look like a luxury car – and that’s because it’s neither. The Bolt EV does sit somewhere close to the ground, that’s not necessarily a good thing when driving on Michigan’s roads (or anywhere in the North that gets plenty of snow and a cold winter). But it means that the driver doesn’t have to climb as much when getting into the car, which is a good thing.

The lift gate on the back doesn’t open automatically, that’s something you’d see on more expensive vehicles though, but not available on the Bolt EV. That’s not a huge deal, as you can simply touch the button and open it normally. The lift gate doesn’t open up that high, so taller people will need to duck a bit to get into the back of the car. The doors on the side are pretty standard. They have some subtle lines and curves that give the Bolt EV a tiny bit of a sporty look, but nothing too sporty, unfortunately. The back of the car is actually higher than the front, and that’s because there is more of the battery towards the back, so there needs to be space for that battery. The battery does sit underneath the seats.

The Chevy Bolt EV definitely is not Chevy’s best looking car out there – my vote still goes to the Malibu – but it does what it needs to do. It stays lightweight while also looking pretty good. The curb weight of the Bolt EV is 3563 pounds, which is pretty decent for a car this size, and having it light means that battery will get you even further. The Nightfall Gray Metallic color on our test car here is not the best color for making the Bolt EV stand out. They do offer some other brighter colors that definitely help it stand out and look even sharper.

Interior

While the Bolt EV does look a tad small from the outside, it’s actually quite roomy. Now part of that is due to the fact that the engine is smaller, since it’s electric instead of gas. This means you get more space in the cabin without making the car any larger. In the front, you have plenty of space, even if you are a bit on the heavy side. Now the front seats do not have a motor to adjust the seat, so you do have to do it the old-fashioned way. Again, not a big deal, but a bit surprising to see that on a vehicle coming out in 2017. You do get two USB ports in the front console, which are between the driver and passengers seats. There’s also a regular charging port beneath the massive 10.2-inch display.

Moving to the back, there’s also plenty of space back there, there is room for three, technically. But it likely won’t be as comfortable. It’s a 40-20-40 backseat so as usual, whoever is in the backseat will get squished a bit. In the back seat, there are two USB ports as well, but no car charger port. So you are able to charge your phone, but you won’t need a regular car charger – which is actually a good thing. The back seats do fold down, so you can have even more cargo room.

Speaking of cargo room, it’s actually pretty limited. There’s not a whole lot of space back there, but it’s still good for doing the usual grocery shopping, putting luggage and such back there. However, don’t expect to take this to IKEA and pick up some new furniture – unless it’s small furniture, as the cargo area is only about 38 inches wide. There is a false floor back there, which is good for putting your groceries, as they won’t be moving around while you’re driving home. It’s also a great place to store some things like a snow brush to clean off the car in the winter.

Now let’s move back to the front, before we jump into infotainment, and talk about that dashboard. It truly looks like it is just hovering in the front. There is a ton of leg room up there, and not a lot of support holding it up there. For example, in the Chevy Malibu, there console was much higher, but in the Bolt EV, the console is basically on the floor, until you get to where the front seats are. There are two screens in the front. One there for all your instruments – which, as you’d expect, does look different on the Bolt EV, compared to other cars – and then the large 10.2-inch touch screen for infotainment. The screen is pretty large, and doesn’t use the same operating system as other Chevy vehicles. Instead of MyLink, there’s an operating system here built specifically for the Bolt EV. That’s expected, since there are quite a few electric vehicle features here, including giving you tips on how to get better mileage out of your Bolt EV.

Infotainment

As we mentioned already, the Bolt EV doesn’t use the same infotainment system as the rest of Chevy’s lineup – the rest of their vehicles use the MyLink system. This system was built specifically for the Bolt EV, and it’s actually one of the better looking infotainment systems out there. Not to mention, it’s not as clunky as some of the others. On the home screen (pictured above), you’ll see a slew of information. The biggest box shows what media is playing. Then on the right side you’ll see a break down of what’s using the battery in the Bolt EV. Whether that’s the engine, the climate settings or the accessories. The two boxes at the bottom are about your phone. You can connect your phone via Bluetooth and/or USB. With Bluetooth you can make calls over the car’s speakers, and it’ll also tell you who’s calls you missed. Of course, at the bottom you get climate controls and a shortcut to Energy settings.

The middle button, in the top left corner, brings you to all of the screens in the Bolt EV. This includes Phone, Android Auto (or Apple CarPlay), OnStar, Settings and more. This screen I didn’t use that much during the review. Since everything I needed was on the home screen, and Android Auto automatically popped on the screen when the phone is plugged in. Then the third button is for music. From there you can change up the source that the music comes from. Whether that’s the radio, Sirius XM Satellite radio, USB or even Bluetooth.

As is the case with most vehicles from GM’s brands, there is OnStar 4G LTE available on the Bolt EV. It’s powered by AT&T, and the speeds we got during the test drive were about what we got from other vehicles that we reviewed recently. They were decent, but not blazing fast. Typically around 8-9Mbps download and upload. It’s enough to stream Netflix, but keep in mind these speeds will fluctuate and there may be areas where there’s no signal from AT&T.

One of the more interesting things about the Chevy Bolt EV’s infotainment system was actually the fact that it did not have maps built in. Now you could still navigate somewhere using OnStar, but there were no Maps that you can have on the screen to see where you are, where you’re going etc. That’s not a huge disappointment since we do have Android Auto and Google Maps available for mapping. But still an interesting tidbit.

Android Auto

Now onto the real reason why we are reviewing the Chevy Bolt EV, other than the fact that EV’s are pretty cool. And that’s Android Auto. As expected, the Android Auto experience isn’t much different in the Bolt EV compared to other vehicles, even Chevy’s other vehicles. However, one of the things I did notice is that it doesn’t take up the entire display. As you can see in the image above, it doesn’t go all the way to the left and right edges. I believe that is because of the climate controls at the bottom messing with the aspect ratio for Android Auto. Now it’s not a big deal, but that does effectively make Android Auto a bit smaller than Chevy’s regular infotainment system.

Google Maps works as you’d expect on the Bolt EV. We used it to travel to a few destinations and it worked great. The GPS signal in the Bolt EV is pretty accurate, which is always important. You can also make calls through Android Auto, as well as receive calls, and that worked fine as well. The few people we called over the speakers in the car said that we sounded pretty clear, and they didn’t know they were on speakers in the car.

When it comes to music, everything was pretty good. Although Spotify doesn’t work with the Verizon Galaxy S8 on Android Auto. That’s a bit of a weird thing there, and we were using the Verizon Galaxy S8 Plus in the review, so we had to switch over to Google Play Music to fully test out the system. With Google Play Music, the Bolt EV performed well. With the Bose speakers inside the car, the Bolt EV delivered some incredible sounding music to our ears.

Now what’s a bit surprising here, and this isn’t just Chevrolet, but no one has used that final pane for adding things like roadside assistance and such. Instead, it’s just a shortcut to Chevrolet’s system. That’s not a bad thing, but it would be nice to see car makers taking advantage of that real estate, instead of just forcing people back to their system. Android Auto worked great in the Bolt EV. It didn’t use up much of the car’s battery either. In fact according to the car, the accessories (including Android Auto, radio, etc) used 0% of the battery. Which is pretty interesting to be able to see.

Driving the Bolt EV

The Bolt EV did take a bit to get used too. The Brake and Gas pedals are a bit more aggressive than in other cars. Additionally, when you step off of the gas, the Bolt EV begins to brake automatically and regenerate some energy back to the battery. Which helps you get even more out of each charge. It works pretty well, but it did take a bit to get used too. Speaking of the battery, Chevrolet does note that the Bolt EV will get around 238 miles on a charge, but you can likely get a bit more than that. Depending on how you’re driving, you can get nearly 300 miles on a charge. The Bolt EV gets the best mileage when traveling around 40-50 MPH. When traveling on the freeway, around 70MPH, it uses more battery for less distance. Which is different compared to gas-powered vehicles. When it comes to charging, it takes quite a while to charge up. Again, that’s to be expected, it is a pretty large battery in here. To go from completely empty to full, it’ll take around 10 hours. So you’ll want to charge overnight.

Acceleration on the Bolt EV is pretty good too. You can go from 0 to 60 in just under 7 seconds. Which is a bit slower than most gas-powered vehicles, especially sedans, but it’s still pretty fast. The Bolt EV does have the same safety features as you see in most other vehicles, but there aren’t many bells and whistles here. You do get lane keeping, to keep you in the lane when you start to drift off. There’s also forward collision alert, which you can actually adjust to be aggressive or a bit more relaxed. To have the car warn you when you are very close, or just somewhat close, to the car in front of you. Chevy also has rear cross traffic alert for when you are backing out of a parking spot. Chevy has cameras all around the vehicle, which give you a birds eye view of everything around you. Now it took me a little while to figure out where all these cameras are, but there’s basically one camera on the back, just above the license plate, one in the front and then one under each of the side view mirrors. Chevy stitches these together to give you a top-down view around the vehicle. It takes the rear-camera to a whole new level, and it’s actually really nice. This isn’t new on the Bolt EV, GM is actually putting this in a lot of their newer vehicles.

Chevrolet was one of the first car makers (really all of GM’s brands) to add wireless charging into their vehicles. They are still one of the only ones to do this. What this means is, if you have a smartphone that supports wireless charging, you can set it down in this slot in the center console and have it charge wirelessly while you’re driving. Now this may not sound all that cool, but think about it. You get in the car, put your phone down and it automatically starts charging. No cables or wires needed. That is pretty convenient. It does support Qi wireless charging, as well as PMA. The Galaxy S8 Plus that we were using during the review actually supports both, which left us with a great experience during our test drive.

The Chevy Bolt EV was a joy to drive, and it might be one of the best EV’s currently on the market. It’s tough to say anything bad about this car, especially since it is Chevy’s first in this model line. There was no 2016 Bolt EV, so this is the first-generation, basically. And in the tech world, we generally say to skip the first-generation of anything, so that the company can work out the bugs and such. But that might not be the case with the Bolt EV. While we did have it for a relatively short period of time, it’s still a great car that performed great, and it’s definitely good for the environment.

Wrap Up

The 2017 Chevy Bolt EV is a great vehicle from Chevrolet. It builds on their rich heritage of creating great cars in Michigan. The Bolt EV was actually manufactured in Lake Orion, MI (for those that might have been wondering). When the Bolt EV was first announced a few years ago, GM set a goal of creating a 200+ mile range electric vehicle that would cost under $30,000. And that’s exactly what they did with the Bolt EV. They created a car that gets 238 miles on average, and it costs just a hair under $30,000 after the government credits. Now the only question is, what will Chevrolet do for the 2018 model year?

Should you Buy/Lease the 2017 Chevy Bolt EV?

If you’re looking for an electric car, then yes, you should buy the Bolt EV. While it’s not the sexiest looking vehicle on the road today, it does work and it works well. Right now, there aren’t many choices for an EV, that isn’t a hybrid. Especially since Tesla’s Model 3 is not yet available for most people. And that means that the Chevy Bolt EV is going to be your best bet. Now it’ll be a better idea to lease this rather than buy it. That way you can trade it in about two or three years from now and pick up the 2019 or 2020 Chevy Bolt EV. And yes, Chevy will be making Bolts 2-3 years and even further into the future. This is the future for most car makers, an all-electric car. Especially with autonomous cars becoming a big deal.