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Capitol Chevrolet (in San Jose, CA) got a nice orange Bolt in for test rides, in time with the Fremont dealers getting their first three for customers. My actual car won't arrive for "1 to 2 weeks" sayeth the salesperson.

As the #1 reservation at that dealer he invited me down to take the first test ride. I only took it about 10 miles around but had a blast with it. I'll write up what I thought when I get home in a few.

For now, the one bit of video I did take: I finally got to see the rear-camera-mirror in action! https://twitter.com/tugrik/status/808819812877012992
 

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Can't wait to hear more!
 

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I just got back from a test drive on an orange Bolt in San Leandro. Wow!!!

I have had a Leaf for 3 1/2 years and the Bolt is at a completely different level. As we've read in the reviews, the interior is surprisingly spacious considering its exterior dimensions. I found the seats- both front and back- very comfortable and the visibility all around is superb, at least compared to the Leaf. The rear view mirror camera worked as advertised. I found the acceleration in normal mode brisk, in sport mode VERY brisk and in "low" it was way more than adequate. The regen braking is amazing- much more pronounced than in the Leaf and after a couple of tries I found it easy to use the paddle for additional regen braking effect. It comes to a stop quite smoothly and easily, so I don't expect to be using my brakes often when I get my vehicle. It took on sharp curves much better than the Leaf (which was decent, but not much more). As a former sports car afficianado, I can say its low center of gravity almost ensures good handling performance. The two very large LCD screens have dozens of options in terms of what they show- that'll take me a while to master.

All in all, my one word summary is "Wow!" This car will be an EV game changer. I can't wait until vehicles actually available for sale start arriving! My dealer said they still expect some before Xmas.
 

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For now, the one bit of video I did take: I finally got to see the rear-camera-mirror in action! https://twitter.com/tugrik/status/808819812877012992
Huh... Neat back up camera display, but there seems to be no reference to the car itself, so you can't see how far away from things like other car's bumpers, or posts, or walls. The main use for a back up camera for me is precision parking without hitting anything. That seems only a little better than the old fashion mirror... unless I'm missing something.
 

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Huh... Neat back up camera display, but there seems to be no reference to the car itself, so you can't see how far away from things like other car's bumpers, or posts, or walls. The main use for a back up camera for me is precision parking without hitting anything. That seems only a little better than the old fashion mirror... unless I'm missing something.
That's not the back up camera, it's the rear view mirror.
Back up camera is part of the surround view display on the premier.


http://video.chevrolet.com/corporate/video/b-roll-360-parking/a/be3d63a9-720c-42c1-8294-e7b6a5fedce5
 

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That's not the back up camera, it's the rear view mirror.
Back up camera is part of the surround view display on the premier.
Correct! This was on a premier, and when you shifted into reverse the backup cam on the main display was much more helpful for actually backing up. It had the bird's-eye surround view, the rear view, and you could optionally toggle on or off the line-guides. The line guides turn with the wheel just like they did on my Leaf (but don't on my Kia Soul EV or my Ford Flex).

I obviously didn't get to try it after dark so I have no idea how good a night camera either the backup display or mirror display is, but for a cloudy day they did quite well. The mirror camera appeared to be a much nicer image than the backup camera, but I could not honestly tell if that was a function of the camera quality or the display quality.

And yes, there are actually two lenses on the back tailgate for the two different cameras.
 

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Test drive notes

Not sure how to order this, so it'll just be a quick list of things noticed while test driving.


  • Fat man seat check: I am bigger than the bottom seat (as is true for many cars I sit in). Yet it was quite drivable and not too uncomfortable. It should be just fine for the daily commute and EV-style duties. The jury is out for long-road-trip comfort; I suspect some pinching would occur along the outer left side. The seats _are_ quite firm, as suspected, but are still OK in my book. I could see if I was just a little smaller (or otherwise precisely put the edge of the seat in the wrong spot) how this could be different. Since dealers are getting test-drive models in it's best to go do your own butt-check.
  • Rear mirror camera: Very nifty! Better resolution/contrast than the main backup camera, IMHO. Not sure if that's due to the different display or different camera. (as mentioned before, there are indeed two cameras on the tailgate.) But just as I suspected, there is no focus-distance compensation; no funky lenses or other tricks. This makes it very hard to actually use the mirror like a normal mirror while in motion. Your eyes have to re-focus even closer than the dashboard -- more true for me due to my height, probably -- making it more of a use-in-parking-lots kind of tool, not a full rear-view mirror replacement. Alas. I suspect the proper lensing to do that just doesn't exist yet; it'd be a serious optical trick to pull off.
  • Infotainment system: Solid, easy to pick through without the manual. Bonds well with the iPhone. CarPlay will be nice to use (didn't have a cable with me so didn't explicitly test it, but I use CarPlay in my Kia Soul EV). However it's somewhat odd to not have a 'native' map; made it feel like there was a big chunk missing in the system, somehow. Apple Maps will be fine (and if they'd ever get their heads out of their backsides at both Waze and Apple and allow Waze on carplay, that'd rock). But still, it would have been nice to have a native navi app in the car, IMHO. Maybe that's just because it's what I'm used to. By comparison the Kia has the most amazing mapping I've used from an OEM, and my Ford has one of the worst. This will be in the middle, using Apple's.
  • Climate controls: pretty intuitive, no worries. Neat location for the rear-seat heater switches (near the rear window controls). Wish more manufacturers would do that. Rear window defroster has more lines than I would have expected; probably good for you cold-weather types. It's kind of lost on this NorCali'an.
  • "One pedal driving". Far better regen feel than the Leaf's "B" and "Eco" mode setup. Slightly better regen feel than the Kia's "B" mode. The "L" mode doesn't seem to nerf the top end, at least not like the Leaf's "B" mode does. Being able to regen to a full stop is wonderful! I've always wanted that but could never afford a Tesla. The ability to go without 'creep' is also hugely appreciated and is another punch to the Leaf's midsection, competition-wise.
  • The regen paddle: Oddly, it isn't proportional; it's a simple on-off switch. Somehow I expected something that would regen more the harder I squeezed, but instead it's a basic switch that just jumps the regen rate to a higher setting while held down. It works in both L (one-pedal-driving) and regular mode just fine, though it feels a bit more aggressive in L. Even as a binary input I still really, really like it, and suspect it'll become one of my favorite features of the car.
  • Legroom: For me it was wonderful. I could even fully stretch out my left leg without whanging the brake pedal when I needed to. I have a short inseam though (I'm all torso), so YMMV.
  • Cockpit space: Cupholders are a little small and a little oddly positioned, but workable. Drink bottle (tilted) holder in the door. Armrest slides forwards and backwards for more support, but not sure how I like that. Only one 12V socket dangling against the firewall, which is going to lead to a weird arrangement of wires thanks to the huge 'open bucket' space (the salesman called it the 'wife's purse spot') in front of the center console. I think Chevy really missed out not putting a spare 12V socket inside the center console bin itself. There are divots to run cables into console, but again, only after it dangles across the open gap. And huge disappointment: the 'built in wireless charging' pocket will NOT fit an iPhone 7+ or the larger Android phablets. The odd front-pocket will, but that really keeps the phone out of reach. Maybe that's their point, to encourage less potential driving-use. I'm going to buy a ProClipUSA holder once they release their Bolt version anyways; I have those in every one of my vehicles so I can use Waze properly.
  • Trunk space was nice. IMHO I'll probably take out the rear floor divider and leave it in my garage until lease-end, since I don't need flat-floor loading but I do need more cargo space. The dangling "hammock" cargo cover is a bit of a letdown aesthetically once the trunk is open but it's perfectly functional.
  • The chrome trim lines on the Orange model the dealer had is pretty, well, "in your face". I kind of like it. But it's definitely a "look at this! No, LOOK!" type of aesthetic. Dunno if that's only a Premier thing or if it's on all the bolts, but it's going to end up being a bit of a defining external feature.
  • The taillights are on the lifting door of the back instead of the body. This is neither bad nor good IMHO; it's just not what I expected somehow.
  • The 'access button' on the shifter, required to do any shifting other than going between D and L, is a minimalist little button. I kept forgetting it was there and getting alerted by the car about how it won't shift until I press it. A minor thing, but it did catch notice.
Performance-wise it was definitely better than the Leaf and slightly better than the Kia Soul EV. It likes to leap off the line plenty fine, thankyouverymuch. :)
The acceleration in normal mode is great for aggressive highway merging, tested on 87 South during rush-hour. The full-regen (L mode plus paddle) is just about perfect; you can use it in almost any normal braking situation, and you only have to hit the real brake pedal if something surprises you. U-turns were on par with the Leaf and the Kia Soul EV, radius- and effort-wise. It felt just about as 'planted' as the Leaf, moreso than the taller Kia, and only barely more heavy. It hides the weight of its larger battery pack quite well.

Other than that... it was a car. A nice normal semi-compact little commuter car. Nothing that screams "OMG freaky EV car!", nothing luxo-barge, nothing too weird or too compromised. For people who just want a nice, accessible, capable commute vehicle this will work quite perfectly. By the time I was done with my test drive loops I was left feeling how nicely normal the car was. Maybe just a tiiiiny bit disappointed at the lack of whiz-bang, but I couldn't tell you what would fixed that. This is probably for the best; the world needs a solid, long-range, affordable daily driver, and the Bolt is definitely that.
 

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When you pick up your car and settle with Capitol Chevrolet, I would be interested in how it all came out with respect to cost, additional charges etc. I read a number of Yelp reviews on bay area Chevy dealers and it was not so promising. It could be that many who were unhappy came in unprepared and got worked over by the good guy (salesman), bad guy (salesmanager), finisher (finance guy). Of course with the Bolt being in short supply, I recognize the customer is not is a strong bargaining position and it may be MSRP or else.

Anyway, great review above, thanks.
 

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When you pick up your car and settle with Capitol Chevrolet, I would be interested in how it all came out with respect to cost, additional charges etc. I read a number of Yelp reviews on bay area Chevy dealers and it was not so promising. It could be that many who were unhappy came in unprepared and got worked over by the good guy (salesman), bad guy (salesmanager), finisher (finance guy). Of course with the Bolt being in short supply, I recognize the customer is not is a strong bargaining position and it may be MSRP or else.

Anyway, great review above, thanks.
Was that reviews on people buying a Bolt or just general bitching? Some folk on Yelp are interesting to say the least?
 

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I will add a tall guy addition to this thread.

I am about 6'3" with longish legs. The Bolt's driver side surprised me in that it had more travel than I needed to comfortably drive. Every car that I can remember required me to grab the seat adjuster and slam back to the farthest seat position, but in the Bolt, I nudged it up an inch or so from full to get into a comfortable seating position.

Once the drivers seat was adjusted for my driving position, I got out and tried to sit behind "myself" and was pleasantly surprised to see that while my knees did hit the back of my seat, they were not wedged in there, and my headroom was acceptable in the back seat behind the driver seat.

This is different from most cars, and all of the current EV's I have looked at.

In the BMW i3, my wife 5'5" had to straddle the seat when sitting behind me, and in the Volt, my dad had to tilt his head at a 45 degree angle due to height restrictions when sitting behind me. The Fiat of course had my seat touching the rear seat behind the drivers side(or maybe 1 inch of clearance)
 

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I will add a tall guy addition to this thread.

I am about 6'3" with longish legs. The Bolt's driver side surprised me in that it had more travel than I needed to comfortably drive. Every car that I can remember required me to grab the seat adjuster and slam back to the farthest seat position, but in the Bolt, I nudged it up an inch or so from full to get into a comfortable seating position.

Once the drivers seat was adjusted for my driving position, I got out and tried to sit behind "myself" and was pleasantly surprised to see that while my knees did hit the back of my seat, they were not wedged in there, and my headroom was acceptable in the back seat behind the driver seat.

This is different from most cars, and all of the current EV's I have looked at.

In the BMW i3, my wife 5'5" had to straddle the seat when sitting behind me, and in the Volt, my dad had to tilt his head at a 45 degree angle due to height restrictions when sitting behind me. The Fiat of course had my seat touching the rear seat behind the drivers side(or maybe 1 inch of clearance)
Thanks for the insight. Not to sound like a perv, but do you have a "long" torso? Or are you more "legs" than torso? Or an even split? Sorry, trying not to sound like some AOL chatroom predator. LOL
 

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I will add a tall guy addition to this thread.

I am about 6'3" with longish legs. The Bolt's driver side surprised me in that it had more travel than I needed to comfortably drive. Every car that I can remember required me to grab the seat adjuster and slam back to the farthest seat position, but in the Bolt, I nudged it up an inch or so from full to get into a comfortable seating position.

Once the drivers seat was adjusted for my driving position, I got out and tried to sit behind "myself" and was pleasantly surprised to see that while my knees did hit the back of my seat, they were not wedged in there, and my headroom was acceptable in the back seat behind the driver seat.

This is different from most cars, and all of the current EV's I have looked at.

In the BMW i3, my wife 5'5" had to straddle the seat when sitting behind me, and in the Volt, my dad had to tilt his head at a 45 degree angle due to height restrictions when sitting behind me. The Fiat of course had my seat touching the rear seat behind the drivers side(or maybe 1 inch of clearance)
Like I mentioned before, space is a big one with the Bolt. Somewhere I read they designed it for ride sharing in mind so thankfully things like that influenced its design.

What's really helping them is the Volt's interior is smaller, that's their product to appeal to those that have little space requirements.
 

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I have really long legs and typically have the seat fairly far back, and for me the Volt felt really cramped. Sitting in the Bolt's rear seat behind the drivers seat set to my driving position, I still had a decent amount of legroom. Maybe not so much legroom that i'd like to take a road trip back there, but enough that i'd be happy on a 1-2 hour trip.

Given the size of the car, I was really shocked/impressed.
 

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I have a 34" inseam in Levi's, and have always been considered to have Long longs, but I guess after doing the math, I am 50/50?

Sitting in an airplane seat, my knees always touch the seat in front of me.
 

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Lol, good to know that the bolt is wide and tall people friendly. I don't like crushing my rear seat passengers, but what can you do if you need that space for your legs as a driver? Good to know that won't be an issue here.

And great review Tugrik!
 

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I have a 34" inseam in Levi's, and have always been considered to have Long longs, but I guess after doing the math, I am 50/50?

Sitting in an airplane seat, my knees always touch the seat in front of me.
Ok, I am 6' and have a 32" inseam, so sounds like I would fit just fine in a Bolt. Who'd a thunk there would be a discussion about comparing inseam sizes on an EV forum. Lol
 

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I test drove a Bolt last night. If I wasn't sure about buying it before, I'm certainly convinced now to get it.

It was raining, plus it was almost 8pm, so I didn't get an extensive amount of time to test things out. However, here is what I did notice:

1) You can make the daytime display use nite mode which uses a black background with outlines for objects instead of the white/blue or white/orange motif which has bright solid objects. I will definitely be doing that once I get mine.

2) Regen paddle in Low does seem to be effective.

3) Shifting from L back to D is counter intuitive. Once you have the car in D, you can just push down on the gear selector to change to L. If you want to get back to D, you press down again. No need to press the side button to change between L and D. It's basically just a toggle between those two modes at that point. I kept trying to press the button on the side and move the selector up to get back into D and ended up in N more than once.

4) Very peppy pickup. I found myself doing 55 very easily. Lots and lots of acceleration available at all speeds. We didn't go on the freeway, so I really couldn't open it up, as it were.

5) One-pedal driving takes some getting used to. I still want to cover the brake pedal with my foot.

6) The cargo area seem to be more than adequate. The cargo cover is a bit flimsy, but no worse than what my wife's MINI Countryman is like. It can easily be removed or stowed in the car. The false floor reminds me of the Prius' hidden under floor storage, but now more accessible. False floor can be laid flat in the bottom of the cargo area, or also entirely removed.

7) The rear-camera mirror display is kinda pointless in the dark, especially when it's raining.

8) I didn't get to use the surround camera system initially on the test drive, but later when we came back and we were just sitting in the dealer's parking lot, I was able to play with it. I can see it being very useful.

My Bolt is still in status 4B00 (Bayed). Unclear if it's on a truck, train, or stuck in Quality Control. My salesman said he'd find out. Allegedly it's not still at the factory. Still hope to have the car by end of the year, but it could get pushed out until January. I don't necessarily need the tax credit this year, but it would've been nice to have. I'll just have to adjust my withholding of next year so that ~350 less a month is taken out of my paycheck and instead thrown at the loan's principal to pay down the loan faster. Not as good as a lump sum payment, but it will definitely help.

And speaking of things financial, I had the salesman run the numbers on a lease. It looks like buying (taking out a loan) is still the best option for me. I drive 24K miles a year. I'd have to buy an extra 27,000 miles at 20 cents a mile for the entire lease, which adds a minimum of $150 per month for the lease, plus taxes. At that point I'm within spitting distance of a regular loan. And since I expect to keep the car after the lease, it makes sense to buy it outright and get the full tax benefits, which I can use to pay down the loan principal to a reasonable amount.

There's no doubt in my mind that this car will work very well for me.
 
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