From the outside, this car looks like a tall hatchback, not all that remarkable, maybe a bit bigger than some of the smallest cars around.

But from the moment you open the door and get behind the wheel, it's clear that this is no ordinary Chevrolet.

In fact, it's Chevrolet's first-ever mass-market electric car: the 2017 Chevy Bolt EV.

The Bolt has an EPA-rated range of 238 miles, or three times that of a Nissan Leaf electric car just six years ago. Its starting price is $37,500.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

The Bolt EV is the culmination of a promise GM made two years ago, and it'll go on sale before the end of 2016 at selected dealers, probably in California first.

So what's it like to live with?

From the outside, the Bolt EV's designers have used accents, chrome trim, and a variety of recent design trends to minimize its height and its square shape.

It's not unappealing--but it's definitely out there on the styling spectrum.

DON'T MISS: LG Chem: GM to sell 'more than 30,000' Chevy Bolt EVs next year

The interior has a pair of high-resolution displays, one behind the wheel and the second in the usual center-dash location.

Their graphics, including lots of vehicle operating information, are different than any other Chevy's. We found them bright, crisp, and easy to understand.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

The Bolt EV sits on the footprint of a compact car, and that means lots of space.

Passengers might be startled at the thin, upright seats, but they're comfortable, and the Bolt EV has plenty of headroom.

Four adults fit easily into the electric Chevrolet, and five can fit in a pinch. Cargo space is good, helped by the flat floor in the rear compartment.

CHECK OUT: Green Car Reports 2017 Best Car To Buy nominee: Chevy Bolt EV

The 60-kilowatt-hour battery sits under the floorpan and the rear seats, with all the electric gear up front, including the 150-kilowatt (200-horsepower) motor that powers the front wheels.

On the road, the Bolt EV is liveliest from a dead stop—0 to 30 mph in less than 3 seconds, Chevy says—but responsive up to 60 mph, which takes about 7 seconds from a stop.

We'd judge the 238-mile range to be accurate.

Driving to keep up with sometimes aggressive traffic, at speeds up to 75 mph, we got the car's rated range. It's possible to baby it along and get another 10 or more miles out of it.

At any of those distances, Bolt EV drivers will treasure what so far only buyers of Tesla cars—at $70,000 and up—have been able to have in an electric car.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

That would be complete freedom from range anxiety.

Assuming you don't plan to drive cross-country, you can hop in and get several hours of varied driving in a Chevy Bolt without even thinking about how much range is left.

Recharging a completely discharged battery—something owners will rarely do—takes roughly nine hours with a 240-volt Level 2 charging station.

Or you could simply plug the car into a standard 120-volt outlet every night and top up more slowly.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

A DC fast-charging port is a $750 option on the Bolt EV, even at the highest trim levels.

Two basic trim levels, the base LS and the higher Bolt EV Premier, start at $37,495 including delivery, and rise into the low $40,000s for a top model.

The electric Chevy qualifies for a $7,500 federal income-tax credit, as well as a variety of state, local, and corporate incentives.

OUR FIRST DRIVE: 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV first drive: 240 miles in an electric car

Those include single-occupant access to the carpool lanes on California's notoriously crowded freeways, a huge incentive for that state's commuters.

In other words, the 2017 Chevy Bolt EV provides a combination of qualities we haven't seen before.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV

You can use it for commuting, family-car duty, or a variety of other driving patterns.

It gives you long range, the smooth and quiet operation of an electric car, and per-mile running costs cheaper than gasoline (depending on what you pay for electricity).

READ THIS: How many Chevy Bolt EVs will be sold in first 12 months? Poll results

Earlier this year, that package would cost you a luxury-car price. Now, it's available at your Chevy dealer for less than $40,000.

That's remarkable.

And it shows how far electric cars have come in less than a decade—and how serious Chevrolet is about being a major player in that world..


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