Thirty thousand dollars. A lot of money? Not for an electric car, not one with a real-world 200-mile range anyway. But at CES, Mary Barra, CEO of GM, stood up on stage and introduced the worst kept secret of the show, that GM’s Chevrolet division was following up its technically impressive but slow selling Volt range-extender EV with a fully electric small crossover called the Bolt.
Slightly daft name aside (what will the next car in the series be called – colt, wolt, solt?), the combination of the range the car offers, the price it’s going to be offered at and its format – a small crossover, with space for five and (in European terms at least) – decent cabin and boot space means the Bolt ought to find a lot of friends and buyers because it’s in a class of one.
A BMW i3 is smaller, much more expensive and has less range. Its sister car Volt isn’t fully electric, costs more and despite a larger footprint has less useable interior space and just four seats. A Nissan Leaf is its closest competitor right now and although it costs a chunk less, its 125-mile maximum range and hatchback form limit its appeal.
With its 94.4 cubic feet of cabin space and seating for five the Bolt doesn’t ask you to compromise on practicality like some EVs do. Chevrolet is – much to everyone’s frustration – not letting people into the interior of the Bolt on the stand at CES. But that didn’t prevent us being able to see through the window that this is an open and airy cabin.
The big tech news inside is that every Bolt – even base spec – will come with a 10-inch touchscreen running Chevy’s MyLink services, have On-Star connected car and an internet connectivity option, and you’ll be able to use Apple CarPlay and Android Auto too.
A safety pack with autonomous braking and collision mitigation systems will be available – likely standard on higher grade models. And given Chevrolet’s value play, expect plenty of other tech and equipment goodies – cruise control, heated seats, powered everything to largely come as standard. You’ll be able to remotely control charging, pre-heating and cooling and check status via an OnStar phone app, too.
As it’s all electric, expect the Bolt to offer decent performance due to the motor characteristics. It’s a compelling play that we’re sure will appeal to buyers; there’s only Chevrolet’s brand image and the prospect of GM’s sometimes bizarre marketing in the US likely to hinder its success.
But what about for Europe – wouldn’t a car like this appeal to us? Yes, we suspect it would – particularly if that $30k price translated to a £20k/€25k. However, Chevrolet’s been pulled out of Europe by mother brand GM who says it can do all it needs to serve customers in Europe with the Opel and Vauxhall sister brands.
Does that mean we’ll see this car badged as a Vauxhall in the UK soon? Don’t bank on it – not immediately anyway. GM has been burned by the lack of success of the Volt and its sister Ampera in Europe. In fact you can’t buy an Ampera in the UK any more – Vauxhall took it off sale because it sold so slowly. Expect GM to wait and see how the Bolt does in the US first.
But we can’t believe it’ll restrict this powertrain technology to just one car, so don’t give up hope entirely. Meanwhile, on the Vegas side of the pond, the Bolt will go on sale later in 2016.
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