Let’s get one thing out of the way: The 2022 Chevrolet Bolt EUV is not a “utility vehicle” by any stretch of the imagination. It is, however, a roomier version of the long-range Bolt EV hatchback that’s been on sale since 2017.
(Full Disclosure: John Voelcker was invited to drive GM’s new Bolt EUV in a sanitized environment on behalf of Jalopnik.)
It’s easy to drive and feels surprisingly quick, not only off the line (as most EVs are) but also in highway passing. Not Tesla-quick, to be fair, but faster than many small hatches and crossovers on sale. It’s also the first GM car outside Cadillac to offer Super Cruise, the hands-free automated cruise control system that makes highway driving even more restful than plain old adaptive cruise.
The Bolt EUV has two essential differences from the Bolt EV—oh, that name—which remains on sale with a new nose, new interior, and a much lower price. The new EUV itself starts at $33,995 including destination, a few thousand lower than the smaller car’s starting price last year.
First, the EUV is 6.3 inches longer than the Bolt EV. The wheelbase gets three inches of that, meaning it has a rear seat usable even for a pair of large, American-size, six-foot-plus occupants.
Second, it has squarer lines and a blunter, less angled hood and “grille,” all intended to give it the tougher, truckier looks of a crossover. The two Bolts, in fact, don’t share a single piece of sheetmetal, according to Chevy execs, though its sibling too gets a version of the same nose. I’d prefer the grille blanking panel silver or black on most of them, but that’s fixable.
The 2022 Bolt EUV is far from the first compact hatchback to be marketed as a “crossover” or a “utility vehicle” by its makers. (Hyundai Venue, Nissan Kicks, we’re lookin’ at you.) What all these vehicles lack is available all-wheel drive, which happens to be one of the things NHTSA uses to separate “light trucks” from “passenger cars.”
AWD may not matter to buyers in LA or Miami, but it does to the 70 percent of Americans who live in places where it snows. (Spare me the lectures on how proper drivers don’t need AWD if they have winter tires on a front-wheel-drive car. Most Americans don’t, and won’t.) So the Bolt EUV will be crossed off the list by some percentage of buyers — the hundreds of thousands, say, who’ve bought a Subaru Crosstrek or Impreza for its standard AWD.
That said, what’s the Bolt EUV like to drive? It’s pretty fun, actually. I liked it more than I expected, and would happily tool around in one all day without worrying about range. Unless, of course, I had a road trip planned. More about that later.
In person, the Bolt EUV is somewhat better looking than the photos usually taken from about knee height. It’s hardly a looker like a Tesla Model 3 or a Porsche Taycan, but it’s inoffensive and can pass for some kind of mini-ute if you squint.
Behind the wheel, it has a fully digital instrument cluster with clear, easy-to-understand graphics, plus the usual central touchscreen. It uses Chevrolet’s new drive-control buttons (replacing a “shift lever” in a regular car), which are easy to learn if not visually appealing. There’s also a button to provide so-called one-pedal driving, which persists even when the car is turned off then on again. That’s an important feature customers asked for from day one.
One-pedal driving uses strong regenerative braking to slow the car, right down to zero mph. For someone who’s never driven an EV, this may not make a lot of sense, but most EV drivers prefer it. It means they can modulate speed almost entirely with the right pedal — and rarely need to lift their foot.
The motor output is 150 kilowatts (200 horsepower) and, like all EVs, you get maximum torque from zero rpm. That means you’ll win way more stoplight drag races than anyone will expect. Because all the battery weight is in the floor, the Bolt EUV holds the road in a way most cars won’t, particularly cars this tall. The body rolls a bit, but it can be tossed through corners more confidently than mini-utes the same size. It’ll also accelerate smartly out of them if you choose.
The control feel is softer than a Tesla Model 3 we drove the same day. The EUV’s steering needs less effort and the accelerator isn’t as stiff. Overall, it just feels gentler and more mainstream. Commuters and suburban families will instantly feel at home. I’d have preferred larger door mirrors; what’s there has been trimmed to reduce drag, and they’re pretty small.
The optional Super Cruise works well. It lane-centers tidily and maintains safe distances from the car ahead. A lit green band at the top of the steering wheel indicates when it’s on (the fallback is standard adaptive cruise control), and the camera on top of the steering-wheel housing watches you to ensure you’re keeping your eyes more or less on the road in case of emergencies.
Regrettably, this version of Super Cruise doesn’t offer the automated lane changes found in newer Cadillacs and the Tesla Autopilot system. That would require a newer electrical architecture than the Bolt has. It’s another indication that this car is now using underpinnings from the middle of the 2010s rather than the start of the 2020s.
Along with the lack of AWD, the Bolt EUV’s other major drawback from the aged drivetrain is its “fast” charging capability, which is among the slowest on the market today. Like the smaller Bolt EV, it’s capped at about 55 kilowatts, and that can only be reached when the battery has below half its capacity.
This means that, at best, you can add 100 miles in 30 minutes — but only if you start with an almost entirely depleted battery. For a car with an estimated range of 250 miles, that’s just not practical for road trips.
Most of the compact EVs now on the market, or coming this year, offer peak charging rates of 85 to 150 kw. That still requires stops of 20 to 40 minutes to go from, say, 15 percent to 80 percent of capacity, but that means adding 200 miles in half an hour, not 100.
All future electric vehicles from GM, starting with the 2022 GMC Hummer EV this fall, will use the newer Ultium battery architecture. It can charge at 150 kw and, in some versions, up to 350 kw. The two Bolts are stuck with a 2017 system that’s now uncompetitive.
In 2017, the Bolt EV went on sale and immediately reset the bar for EVs that weren’t Teslas. New entries, from the Hyundai Ioniq Electric to the Volkswagen e-Golf, hit the market at roughly the same price as the first Bolt—but they offered 124 and 125 miles of EPA-rated range. The Bolt EV came in at 238 miles. (As of 2020, it’s 259 miles.) For a while, it was the hot EV to have. Well, it was the hot EV that wasn’t a Tesla.
But five years is a long time in EV world. The original Bolt and its larger EUV sibling offer ranges that compete well with other mass-market offerings. They do not, however, offer fast charging adequate for road trips.
Chevrolet has new Ultium EVs coming, two of which — a compact crossover and an Avalanche-like pickup truck — have already been teased. Those will likely have even longer ranges, and will certainly offer all-wheel drive and faster fast charging.
That relegates the two Bolts, which will be Chevy’s sole EV offerings for 2021 and much of 2022, to a less-exalted role than the 2017 Bolt EV. They’re now value leaders, showing the biggest maker in the U.S. can offer inexpensive EVs with 250-ish miles of rated range.
GM remains at a disadvantage here, because it and Tesla have already sold the 200,000 vehicles each for which buyers could claim a $7,500 federal income-tax credit. So while competitors can tout effective prices $7,500 lower than sticker, Chevy can’t.
That may change if the Biden administration comes through on its pledge to expand the EV tax incentive. But details of that change remain hazy, and as of March 1, it’s far from a done deal. If it does come through, though, the combination of the federal credit and purchase rebates in some states could lower the EUV’s effective cost by almost $10,000—but it’s still hypothetical.
In the end, the 2022 Chevy Bolt EUV gives Bolt drivers what they wanted: a nicer interior with more soft-touch surfaces, expanded automated safety features like Super Cruise, and more rear-seat room. It’s a great package, and will go for less than the average price of new vehicles sold in the U.S. today — which is now within spitting distance of $40,000.
It’s just not so great for road trips. That makes it a second car for many households, which is a shame, because otherwise it’s a good smaller car that’s rewarding to toss around. GM desperately needs that kind of long-range, road-trip-capable EV—or about a dozen of them. By 2025, they will all have arrived.
Meanwhile, we have the Bolt EUV. It’s good as far as it goes, but it could have been better.
John Voelcker is a freelance auto writer and analyst. He edited Green Car Reports for nine years, publishing more than 12,000 articles on hybrids, electric cars, and the energy ecosystem around them. His work has appeared in print, online, and radio outlets that include Car and Driver, The Drive, Wired, Popular Science, Tech Review, and NPR’s “All Things Considered.”