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Bissell Bolt Ion 2-in-1 Lightweight Cordless Vacuum review:

Negativity surrounds the Bissell Bolt Ion

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The Good The Bissell Bolt Ion has a unique edge-cleaning feature that works pretty well.

The Bad That's really the only part of the vacuum that works well. It performed poorly on every test and is a tremendous pain to use.

The Bottom Line The Bissell Bolt Ion is a bad vacuum. It costs a reasonable $180, but it's such an ineffective pain that I wouldn't recommend it at any price point.

CNET Editors' Rating

4.8 Overall
  • Performance 4.0
  • Features 7.0
  • Design 6.0
  • Usability 3.0

Sisyphus would bond with anyone who uses the Bissell Bolt Ion 2-in-1 Lightweight Cordless Vacuum. The Greek mythological figure was condemned to forever roll a boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down each time. The Bissell Bolt Ion adds a lot of unnecessary tedium to the chore of vacuuming, and because it spreads and tangles as much mess as it picks up, owners will be forever stuck in a futile quest for cleanliness.

The point of a stick vacuum is to provide a quick and easy method of spot cleaning between more thorough runs with a full-size upright. The Bissell Bolt Ion fails in every aspect of that mission. It has a powerful battery, nice maneuverability, and an effective method for cleaning edges, but its features only briefly hide its incompetence at all of the basics. For the same $180 price point, I recommend the excellent Hoover Linx .

The appealing facade

The Bissell Bolt Ion actually makes a great first impression. It's the simplest assembly I've encountered while testing vacuum cleaners. Snap the handle into the vacuum head and you're done. Within a few seconds of getting all of the pieces out of the box, the Bissell Bolt Ion stood ready and waiting.

The thin frame and orange coloring reminded me of the Nerf guns I played with when I was younger. It looks fine, but there's no subtlety here and I can see how some people might be put off by using a vacuum cleaner that looks like a toy.

It stands on its own when resting, converts into a hand vac for those hard to reach areas, comes with two attachments for added versatility, and includes a charging stand and a port on the back of the vac so if you don't want to use the stand, you can plug in the vacuum directly.

The orange plastic lowers and the blue lights turn on with the EdgeReach feature. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The Bissell Bolt Ion provides plenty of features for its reasonable $180 cost. In addition to the above, four buttons on the handle let you turn the vac on and off, change from normal suction to high suction, spin or stop the brush roll, and activate EdgeReach.

Press the last button, and a plastic lip on the front of the vacuum head lowers to help focus suction to the very edge of the cavity. It works surprisingly well at letting you push the vacuum all the way up to a wall and get the dirt along the side of your floor. For corners, three bristles protrude from either side of the vacuum head to help you scrape them.

There's no suction out the side to help those bristles with corners. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

At first glance, dimples in the design above those side bristle look like holes, and I hoped the EdgeReach feature would actually divert some suction to the side of the head. Unfortunately, those dimples are cosmetic only. The side bristles help a little, but it's still quicker to use a separate tool to get the dirt out of corners.

At just over 5 pounds, the Bissell Bolt is light. The head swivels nicely for maneuverability, and the handle has a trigger on the back, letting you fold it behind the body for storage. Cleverly, you can also fold the handle forward, giving you an easy way to hold the vacuum as you push the rest of the flattened body under furniture. I thought that was a great, simple solution for getting your vacuum to limbo.

The pivoting handle makes it easy to clean under the furniture. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Finally, the 18V battery life lasted a great 38 minutes with normal suction and the brush roll on. With high suction, it still ran for 24 minutes. Comparatively, both the Hoover Linx and the $550 Dyson Motorhead last 15 to 20 on normal. The Motorhead offers a turbo mode to increase suction, but the battery dies after 6 minutes of high-powered run time.

The Hoover Air might offer the best battery solution by including two that each last 25 minutes, but the Bissell Bolt still vacuums for an impressively long time on a single charge.

The battery takes a long 4 hours to fill up from empty, but I'd call that forgivable given the run time. The Linx and Motorhead each take 3. An LED bar fills up to keep you posted on its progress.

The blue bar of LEDs gets shorter as the Bissell loses charge. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

You can purchase the Bissell Bolt Ion now on Bissell's website as well as from Amazon, Lowe's, Target and other vacuum retailers. You can get the 18V model I tested in a variety of colors depending on the retailer, and the Bolt series includes other colors on different model variations. The main difference among each model is the size of the battery, and pricing runs from $90 for 12V to $230 for 25V.

In Australia, you'll pay AU$229 for the 18V and AU$299 for the 25V. In the UK, the same series is sold as the Bissell MultiReach with the following price points -- £150 for the 12V, £220 for the 18V, £260 for the 25V.

The specs and features make the Bissell Bolt Ion seem like an appealing stick vacuum, and after assembling it and getting a feel for it, I liked it and was excited to start testing it.

The unpleasant experience

The Bissell Bolt Ion looks like a toy and feels like a toy. Perhaps that's why I found it fun at first glance. Vacuuming with it certainly isn't any fun at all. And once testing started, all good will I felt toward this vac vanished quickly.

A power button, suction levels, brush roll control and the EdgeReach button sit at the top of the handle. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Issues pop up constantly to undo just about every advantage this vac gains from its features. The vacuum head is very maneuverable, but poor wheels make pushing it sluggish on carpet. Try to stand it up between runs, and the joint that allows the vac head to swivel will cause the handle to tip over from one side to the other unless you carefully place it exactly in the middle. It'll lock upright front to back, but won't lock to the side. As a result, the Bissell Bolt took quite a few tumbles while I tested it.

Even front to back, it's not properly balanced. The whole machine tipped over backward more times than I could count as I used it. Remove the hand vac, and the balance issue gets worse. On carpet, I'd try as gingerly as I could to get the handle to stand, and it would just keep tipping.

Separating this from the main body of the vac takes a bit of strength. Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Removing the hand vac isn't an optional feature, either. You need to do so to empty the small dust bin. And getting the hand vac free from the handle is an unintuitive, arduous process. I had to look at the instruction manual to figure out what to do, and once I knew the answer, I asked every other editor in the office to see if they could figure it out just by looking at the machine.

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