2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV: Unexpected Family Car
General Motors' new all-electric Chevrolet Bolt EV is impressive for many reasons. The compact hatchback is EPA-rated at 238 miles of electric-only range, can be fully charged after 9.5 hours with a 240-volt outlet and costs $37,495 before tax credits (including destination). This is an electric car for the masses, with real-world range and a real-people price tag. Also impressive — and more than a little surprising — is that it's also a car for families.
The Bolt EV fits two car seats better than two other compact SUVs I checked during a recent Car Seat Check: the redesigned 2017 Mazda CX-5 and new 2017 Jeep Compass. Even when installing the space-hogging rear-facing infant and convertible seats, the Bolt EV had more room than the compact SUVs, the more traditional choice for small families. The Bolt EV is roughly 10 inches shorter than these SUVs; how is that possible? Creative packaging.
According to GM spokesman Fred Ligouri, the Bolt EV has the footprint of a compact car with the interior space of a mid-size sedan. A few thoughtfully designed features combine to create more passenger space than you'd expect from something so tiny. In front, the large multimedia screen swoops down into the middle of the dash, freeing up space for the front passenger's knees. The seat design and the battery pack placement also go a long way toward carving out a couple of extra inches.
"A flat pack battery design, mounted underneath the occupant cabin, helps free up space for passengers," Ligouri said. "And the thin seat design, a first for Chevrolet, offers a unique suspension within the seatback that allows for reduced foam use without compromising back support or comfort. The space savings result in an additional inch of legroom for rear-seat occupants."
At 5-feet 6-inches tall, I had ample legroom in the front passenger seat after installing our rear-facing convertible; in the other compact SUVs, I didn't have as much space and wasn't as comfortable. What they have that the Bolt EV doesn't however, is cargo space: With just 16.9 cubit feet of space behind the backseat, the Bolt EV falls well short of the Compass (27.2) and CX-5 (30.9).
As a mom of three kids in car seats, this pint-sizer won't work for my family in terms of both people room and cargo space, but smaller families concerned about their carbon footprint shouldn't discount it because of its tiny footprint.