Give me an honest-to-goodness 6.6-litre V8 that chugs down Super 98 octane via a four-barrel Holley over an overly complex electric motor that uses a magnetic field any day of the week. I enjoy auditory stimulus in patterns such as the rhythm of an internal combustion engine and that deep throb from a muscle car is automotive music to my ears. I will always defend the honour of the more than 140-year-old fuel burning motor. My 1980 Firebird is fast. It’s loud. When I crank it, startled birds fly off of tree tops. People jump. It get smiles rather than miles to the gallon. It’s the most fun car to drive ever — as long as I don’t have to go anywhere. It isn’t practical and isn’t supposed to be. I don’t care if an electric drivetrain is better in every measurable way, it lacks in one critical area for us enthusiasts — it lacks soul. My Pontiac has more of that than James Brown. I have a severe dislike for this electric revolution, but then I met the 2019 Bolt EV...

Most of the major carmakers either already have or soon will move towards electrification. Volvo has gone on record to say it’ll stop designing new oil sapping motors as early as next year and Audi plans on flooding its line-up with 10 EVs by 2025. We know China’s stance on this brave new dawn; this market alone has the power to reset the entire automotive industry as it accounts for half the world’s production and sales of EVs.

Everything points towards an electric car future and I was of the view this would mean rather dull commutes for those who haven’t the financial clout to deploy Ludicrous Mode on the Model X — until last week when I got to drive the Chevy.
Tesla gave electric cars some much needed sex appeal and a whole lot of speed but General Motors deserves a pat on the back for making them affordable enough, relatively, for the masses at Dh164,000 — and better yet, surprisingly nippy. This really is a fun little car to drive.

 

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Photos: Stefan Lindeque

Its drive system uses a single, high-capacity electric motor and gear set for propulsion which produces 204 horses and 360Nm of torque. Floor the throttle and it darts for the horizon like you won’t believe; it gets to 50kph from rest in just 3.2 seconds and will go on to 100kph in 7.3 and has a top speed of an electronically limited 150kph. Turn traction control off and the front wheels sure do squeal! This is all very impressive given that it tips the scales at 1,624kg. It’s hardly a feather weight but with an independent MacPherson strut-type suspension (with direct-acting solid stabiliser bar) at the front and compound crank (torsion beam) with coil springs at the back, it handles well.

Better than the sprightly performance is its range, and it blows other EVs away in this department; it’s the first electric vehicle ever to offer an NEDC-estimated 520km range on a single charge (the Nissan Leaf has 250km, and 300km for the Renault Zoe) which is more than enough to nullify any ‘range anxiety’ you might suffer from. Its 60kWh lithium ion battery pack features five sections, 10 modules and 96 cell groups and the flat battery pack spans the entire length of the vehicle’s floor which lowers the centre of gravity. How long does it take to charge, you might wonder? Er, nine hours. That’s not quick in anyone’s book — but a DC Fast Charging system which uses the industry standard SAE Combo connector, enables the battery to be charged for a range of up to 145km in just 30 minutes. You also get an eight years / 160,000km warranty on it.

Aesthetically, it reflects a blend of current Chevy design cues with some adventurous flourishes to give it a smart yet clean look. The sweeping windshield and large greenhouse helps to bathe the cabin with light which in turn makes it feel bigger and thanks to its 2,600mm wheelbase, it affords those in the back with 927mm legroom and 1,340mm shoulder room. Up front, it boasts 1,056mm legroom and 1,387mm shoulder room and has a plethora of kit as standard including a rear-vision camera and parking sensors, a programmable Charge Control system, Chevy MyLink Radio, dual USB ports, and six airbags. Our tester also had a huge 10.2in colour touch-screen display with “flip-board” operation, a “Floating” instrument panel and remote keyless entry.

 

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Photos: Stefan Lindeque

I love spending the afternoon tuning the carburettor, changing the plugs and cleaning the air filter on my 403 — a tune-up isn’t something you’ll need to do with an electric car — but the policy makers around the world will ensure I’ll need one if I’m to get myself to the parts store. Well, if that is the case, I know I will enjoy that journey if most of the upcoming EVs are as jaunty as this Chevy.

If price and range were the negating factors in you buying something like a Tesla, well then the Bolt solves both of those issues. Special incentives are also being offered in Dubai to potential buyers of EVs from free charging, free designated green parking, and free Salik tags. All of these will entice them — but to ensure that they sign on the dotted line and make that switch to green motoring, just put them behind the wheel of the Bolt. It’s cute, well equipped, and your eco-friendly friends will love you. More than anything else, you’ll love zipping around town in this.

 

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