2022 Chevrolet Bolt EV review: A little bit better, a lot more affordable
It's got a new look and some new tech, but not much else has changed for the 2022 Chevrolet Bolt EV. However, combine these smaller quality-of-life tweaks with a more enticing price tag -- starting around $5,500 cheaper than last year -- and the little Bolt begins to look like a pretty big value.
New look, new attitude
The most obvious change to the 2022 Bolt EV is the new front fascia, which trades the playful, toy-like look of its predecessor for something more grown-up and premium in appearance. Narrow LED signature lights sit where the Bolt's wide eyes used to live. Meanwhile, the actual LED headlamps have been moved down to the space formerly occupied by the foglights. This flip-flop -- which the Chevrolet Trailblazer also pulls off -- gives the appearance of super-slim, concept car headlights during the day while still offering adequate illumination at night.
The two light clusters are connected by an angular slash of gloss black trim that helps to frame the Bolt's grille. Around back, the taillights are narrower; gone are last year's 3D squiggles, replaced with a simpler oval outline that better blends in with the hatchback's rear glass. The bumper is also updated with a thinner reflector bar, a repositioned single reverse light and a larger area of black plastic that helps visually raise the rear end.
The changes to the cabin are perhaps even more extensive. The 2022 Bolt features an all-new center console that connects more naturally to the dashboard than the previous floating design. The shift lever is replaced with a vertical bank of PRND buttons and a dedicated button for the one-pedal driving mode. The new shifter also sits ahead of the cupholders, which are now much easier to access.
Throughout the cabin, you'll find more premium feeling materials. While I'm a little sad to see the crazy, high-contrast white theme go, the new look is much less obnoxious and likely appeals to a broader set of drivers.
Front and center is a 10.8-inch screen now home to Chevrolet's Infotainment 3 software. This interface is much easier to navigate than the old, Bolt-specific setup, and is less reliant on standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay for basic functionality -- though both phone connectivity suites are still supported and can now be connected wirelessly.
The cabin tech features Chevrolet's user profile system which accommodates for the preferences of multiple drivers. Chevy Infotainment 3 also features onboard apps that can be downloaded and powered by the Bolt's 4G LTE connection and has a number of bespoke EV features. This includes menus for monitoring the energy impact of various vehicle systems, charge scheduling and the ability to limit the charge level to maximize battery health over time.
Charging and range
The Bolt excels as a commuter car, boasting 259 miles per charge according to the EPA's estimates. That range estimate is unchanged from last year despite an ever-so-slightly smaller 65-kilowatt-hour battery (a 1-kWh reduction). This range is still enough to edge out the competition from Hyundai, Kia and Nissan, but continues to fall behind the Tesla Model 3.
Home charging is potentially faster with this year's upgrade to up to 11.5-kW Level 2 charging -- though you'll need to make sure that your home can support the extra current and install a 48-amp wall charging unit to take full advantage. This reduces the charge time to around 7 hours versus the 10-hour estimate if you plug the dual-level charging cord straight into a NEMA 14-50 outlet. Of course, you can also trickle charge at almost any standard 110-volt wall outlet, but that only adds around 4 miles of range per hour.
Having been spoiled by newer, more upmarket EVs, I was a touch disappointed to learn that the Bolt can still only DC fast charge at around 55 kW max. That means getting a boost to 80% capacity at a rapid charge station takes about an hour. That's not a dealbreaker -- especially considering the Bolt's price and its range between those charges -- and at the very least, DC fast charging is now a standard feature, so at least you're not paying more to get it.
During a week and 201.9 miles of testing, commuting and running various urban errands, I averaged a calculated 124 miles per gallon equivalent -- actually a touch higher than the EPA's 118 mpge estimate. I didn't hypermile or treat the accelerator like an eggshell, either. In fact, I spent an entire afternoon testing the Bolt's Sport mode in the hills and still ended up with better-than-decent efficiency for the week.
Speaking of Sport mode, the Bolt features a few different driving programs. There's Normal and Sport, the latter adjusting the accelerator sensitivity for more responsive driving. Then again, with 200 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of instant electric torque, the Bolt feels great off the line in either mode.
There are also two regenerative braking modes. The standard setting coasts when you lift the accelerator and creeps forward a bit at low speeds. The one-pedal mode instantly decelerates proportionately as you lift, eventually bringing the car to a complete stop without having to tap the brake pedal. Now accessed with a button -- rather than the old Bolt's poorly labeled L shifter position -- drivers can select one-pedal mode as the default setting, which makes getting used to this unique EV option even easier and more predictable.
Of course, the Bolt's regen paddle returns for 2022, allowing the driver to instantly access full regenerative braking by pulling a paddle on the left spoke of the steering wheel. Personally, I find this feature too difficult to modulate and much less natural feeling than just one-pedal driving.
It's a good thing the Bolt is so torquey because the handling is still pretty underwhelming. The Bolt corners well enough, but its hefty weight and low-rolling-resistance tires can be a handful when driving quickly on a twisty mountain pass. Fortunately, the low center of mass, light steering and responsive right pedal keep the Bolt feeling lively on the freeways and urban environments where it'll spend the majority of its time.
Adaptive, but not Super cruise control
The 2022 model year update sees the addition of adaptive cruise control to the Bolt's bag of optional tricks -- a sore omission in previous model years that's now a $375 upgrade for the highest 2LT trim level and the most compelling reason to upgrade from the 1LT base model. The system operates smoothly in stop-and-go traffic and compliments the standard lane-keeping steering assist on the highway.
All 2022 Bolts come standard with a rear-view camera, forward pre-collision alerts with pedestrian detection, lane-departure alerts and automatic high beams. Stepping up to the 2LT spec upgrades to a surround-view camera and blind-spot monitoring with lane-change pre-collision alerts.
Sadly, the Bolt EV still doesn't offer General Motors' hands-free Super Cruise highway driving assist. For that, you'll need to upgrade to the newer, larger 2022 Bolt EUV.
The price is right
The 2022 Chevy Bolt EV builds atop an already solid affordable EV formula with improved aesthetics and a more upmarket interior. New infotainment and the option for adaptive cruise fill gaps in the cabin and safety tech that help to keep this EV competitive. And while I'd like faster DC charging, the slight speed improvements to home charging -- where you should get most of your juice anyway -- shouldn't be overlooked.
However, the best new feature on the 2022 Chevrolet Bolt EV is the lower price. Starting at $31,995 (including a $995 destination charge and before any EV tax incentives), the Bolt is $5,500 cheaper than last year and is now the most affordable long-range electric car in its class. Only the 40-kWh Nissan Leaf and the Mini Cooper SE are cheaper -- and you'll get at least 100 fewer miles with both. As tested, this 2LT spec with premium audio ($595) and the adaptive cruise control upgrade ($375) has a pre-incentive sticker price of $36,165 -- nearly $10K less than any other current member of the 250-mile electric compact club.
The Bolt was already, in many ways, the just-right everyday EV. Now, less expensive than some competing gasoline cars, it's more compelling than ever.