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With its extremely impressive 259 miles of pure electric range when driven on a full charge, the 2021 Chevrolet Bolt EV is one of the more fuel-efficient vehicles on the market. And the best part about the Bolt? It is available nationwide. That's right, there is no exclusivity here! Buyers in any state across the United States can get their hands on the 2021 Chevrolet Bolt EV.
There is more to the Bolt than just its massive electric range. it is actually more spacious than you might imagine from just looking at its pictures. On the inside, Chevy designs the Bolt with enough head, hip, and leg for everyone - those in the front as well as rear seat occupants. In 2020, the Bolt's battery pack was upgraded for more power output without actually having to increase its size, so it doesn't take up any precious cargo space. The cargo area is smaller than much of the competition, but it still has enough utility. The Premier's floor panel opens up to an underfloor storage area that can also be removed when you need to fit bulkier items into the cargo area. Clever, yes. Handy, definitely.
For being an EV, the acceleration is swift and handling nimble. Located beneath the floor, the standard 66-kWh lithium-ion battery pack delivers power to a single electric motor to generate 200 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque. This gets paired up with a single-speed transmission. And, of course, this all works together to yield that spectacular 259 miles of all-electric range. The throttle pedal has more punch than you might expect coming from an EV, getting it up to speed on the highway and able to pass other vehicles with ease. The easy-to-modulate friction brakes work well in D Mode, and in L Mode, the lift-throttle regenerative brakes work to boost your EV range. And, as far as handling goes, it really cannot get much better than this. The system responds quickly to inputs without coming off as being overly responsive. A curvy road is something that the Bolt EV can handle with ease.
The downsides? The interior of the Bolt EV is left looking and feeling a bit cheaper than desired. Sinking over $35,000 into a vehicle should result in you getting something that feels at least moderately expensive. The carpets just seem a bit too thin, as though they will easily wear down over a shorter period of years than most. Among other cost-cutting methods, you will find more hard plastic surfaces than what you are paying for. More soft touch surfaces should be included at this price level.
And that's not to mention the ride quality. Gliding over smooth pavement is easy-breezy, but rougher surfaces make for a busy, choppy ride. The suspension just is not tuned to absorb these flaws in the pavement, and potholes are something you will want to do your best to avoid.
Aside from those flaws, though, the Bolt EV carries a lot of value in either of its two trim levels: the base LT and the line-topping Premier. You will have to spend some time carefully considering which trim level has the right features for you. Buyers who opted for the Premier trim level a few years ago were able to take advantage of the $7,500 federal tax credit that was being offered on new vehicle purchases at that time. However, since that is now a thing of the past, the Premier trim (which tends to price about $6,000 above the LT to start with) might not look as alluring as it once did. Still, that is up to you to decide.
It is time for us to break down both of the 2021 Chevrolet Bolt's trim levels, comparing them side-by-side in this review. We will go over interior features, exterior details, and - of course - what's under the hood. In the end, we will let you know whether we think the LT is worth sticking with or if this year's Premier trim level might be worth upgrading to. Read on through to find out more.
Compare the 2021 Chevrolet Bolt EV LT vs Premier - What is the Difference?
Let's kick things off by discussing the mechanical elements of the 2021 Chevrolet Bolt EV, which are predominantly the same across its two trim level, the base LT and the line-topping Premier. Both come with 12-volt battery run-down protection, which protects the battery from draining by turning off interior lights that get left on after the vehicle has been turned off. 4-wheel antilock disc brakes come equipped and help to reduce how much the wheels lock up and to keep steering in control during hard braking on slippery surfaces.
The 7.2 kW onboard charging module, a portable 120-volt charge cord, an electric drive unit, an electronic parking brake, and an Electronic transmission selector for One Pedal Driving (L) come standard. With One Pedal Driving, you can increase the regenerative braking effects to capture energy and return it to the battery. When you want to speed up, you press your foot down like normal. Then, when you want to slow down, you just take your foot off the accelerator. Instead of wasting energy with two pedals, you just use the one pedal in tandem.
Other standard mechanical features include a push button start with the remote keyless entry system, front wheel drive, a lithium-ion propulsion battery, power steering, a front independent suspension, a rear semi-independent suspension, electronic stability control, and a Regen on Demand steering wheel paddle. The one big difference with the Premier is that you get a standard DC Fast Charging capability. This lets you charge the Bolt EV at any of the available public DC Fast Charging stations. In just half an hour, you can get the battery charged for 100 miles of electric range.
The exteriors do have a few more variances that help to distinguish the LT from the Premier. Standard features that come on the bodies of both the LT and the Premier trim levels include automatic on/off headlights, front intermittent windshield wipers, solar absorbing glass, a High Gloss Black grille, High-Intensity Discharge (HID) headlamps, LED daytime running lights, LED taillights, and an intermittent wiper for the rear glass. Both have the option for adding IntelliBeam, which automatically turns the high beams on and off according to surrounding traffic conditions.
Now, for the exterior differences. On the LT, 17-inch painted aluminum wheels come standard. However, on the Premier, you get upgraded to 17-inch Ultra-Bright machined aluminum with painted pockets. Also, the Premier's side mirrors are done in black and have power adjustability and heating along with built-in turn indicators. A chrome strip gets added to the body-colored door handles, and there are also roof-mounted side rails on the Premier.
Inside of their cabins, the LT and Premier have some things in common. The LT starts you off with a 12-volt power outlet, 4G LTE WiFi Hot Spot connectivity, a 6-speaker sound system, 6-way manually adjustable front seats, and a 60/40-split folding rear seat. Automatic climate control comes standard as does capability for utilizing Chevrolet Connected Access. A 10.2" diagonal color touchscreen infotainment system comes equipped, providing you with Bluetooth audio streaming, voice command, and smartphone app integration for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Cruise control comes standard, as do two cupholders in the front and two in the rear (plus two more in the Premier's fold-down center arm rest in the rear). Drive mode selector lets you select between Normal and Sport mode. Covered mirrors come on the sun visors up front.
Moreover, the LT offers front bucket seats, a sliding armrest with the center console up front, an HD rear vision camera, a day/night rear-view mirror, Keyless Open and Start, a leather-trimmed gear shift knob with chrome and satin silver accents, and location-based charging which works with the use of a GPS locator. This lets you program your home charging schedule based on your lowest lowest off-peak electricity rates. When you are away from home, it will default back to Charge Immediately mode. Power door locks, power windows, a rear cargo cover, a rear heat duct, a defogger for the rear window, remote keyless entry, remote start, a remote panic alarm, 3-month All Access Trial Subscription to SiriusXM Satellite Radio, steering wheel mounted controls for the cruise control and audio settings, dual USB ports with one auxiliary input jack, a tire pressure monitoring system, and a vehicle engine immobilizer.
What does the Premier add to this already generous-sounding list? The Premier gives you an automatic heated steering wheel, the false cargo floor that adds versatility to the cargo area, a seatback map pocket on the front passenger seat, HD Surround Vision (which uses multiple cameras including the HD Rear Vision Camera to see all around the vehicle), and standard heating on both front seats. There is also a leather-wrapped steering wheel, rear camera mirror, a rear center arm rest, and perforated leather seat upholstery.
More options open up on the Premier too. Inside, you can opt for the Bose premium 7-speaker audio system, dual charge-only USB ports on the back of the center console, perforated dark galvanized gray leather upholstery, perforated dark galvanized/sky cool gray leather upholstery, and the Infotainment Package (which adds a 7-speaker Bose sound system, two USB charging-only ports for rear passengers, and a wireless device charger).
As far as safety features go, both trim levels possess 10 airbags, the LATCH system for child safety seats, OnStar and Chevrolet Connected Services capabilities, a Pedestrian Safety Signal, rear child safety door locks, electronic stability control, traction control, Teen Driver, a tire fill alert, and a tire pressure monitoring system. Both leave options open for Lane Keep Assist with Lane Departure Warning, Front Pedestrian Braking, Forward Collison Alert, Following Distance Indicator, and Automatic Emergency Braking. The Premier adds Lane Change Alert with Side Blind Zone Alert, which gently turns the wheel to alert you when you might be accidentally drifting out of your lane. It might issue you a Lane Departure Alert if you aren't using your turn indicator or aren't giving any detection that you are intentionally leaving your lane.
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Which Trim to Choose?
As you can see, both the LT and Premier trim levels come with quite a few features, but a few are inconveniently missing from both trims. Forward collision alert is something we would expect to see come standard on both trim levels, so it is a bit odd that this and several other driver aids have been left as options. Also, you might have noticed that an infotainment system with an integrated navigation system is nowhere to be found. Yes, that means you will have to rely on your smartphone or added GPS unit to do the legwork for you.
That being said, we don't think that the Premier really adds enough to make it worth the extra cost. The base LT trim packs in just enough features to be able to justify the price tag. You still get enough optional packages and stand-alones left over to be able to pick from and customize. But, truthfully, we know that you're really here for that 259 miles of electric range, and we cannot say that we blame you.
• Compare the 2020 Chevrolet Bolt Trim Levels