Chevrolet's Bolt EV is now officially available across the US and Canada, and is currently being introduced in Europe as the Opel Ampera-e. At a relatively low price of US$37,495 before rebates, and with an EPA-estimated range of 238 miles (383 km) per charge of its 60-kWh lithium-ion battery pack, it certainly has the potential to become one of the more popular electric vehicles. With that in mind, General Motors recently invited New Atlas out to Detroit, to put the surprisingly speedy little car through its paces on an autocross course.

Along with its price and range, some of the Bolt EV's other selling features include a peppy 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) acceleration time of 6.5 seconds, and a respectable 266 lb-ft (361 Nm) of torque – both of which I certainly noticed when behind the wheel. For a more complete list of its specs, check out our previous coverage.

The event

Autocross, for those who don't know, is a type of racing in which competitors have to make their way around a marked course in the shortest time possible. In this case, those competitors were all journalists, and the course was marked with safety cones in the parking lot of Livonia, Michigan's Schoolcraft College.

We could make as many runs as we wished, and had our choice of three Bolt EVs – two with performance tires, and one with all-seasons. There was also a Volkswagen GTI Sport available, so that we could see how an internal combustion-engined car compared. Short answer: we definitely noticed that the Bolt had significantly more torque.

One of the interesting things about the event was how quiet it was – no whining engines (except for the GTI), just the near-constant sound of screeching tires.

Driving impressions

There's nothing "weird" about driving the Bolt EV. It's just like a regular gas-powered car except for its somewhat quirky electronic shift lever, which I soon got used to.

The cockpit is comfortable and roomy, even for someone a little over six feet tall. Handling is quick and responsive, and the acceleration – well, we didn't measure it, but it sure felt like 0 to 60 in 6.5 seconds. This car really does get up and go, that's for sure.

It's also worth noting that even after a morning of being driven hard, the three demo cars had each used less than half of their battery life.

While it would have been nice to have had a Bolt EV to myself for a few days of real-world driving, my "day at the races" certainly gave me a feel for its capabilities. Not only is it a lot of fun to drive, but it also seems like it would be a very good around-town car, with seating for five plus a decent amount of rear cargo space.

And as for how I placed in what was, after all, a race? Well, let's just say that I won't be making room on my trophy shelf anytime soon, and leave it at that.

Product page: Bolt EV

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