The Chevrolet Volt is, alongside its European brother the Vauxhall Ampera, the 2012 Car of the Year and has been the subject of a huge amount of Internet speculation, hyperbole, and rumour.
carwow is one of the first UK motoring outlets to actually drive the Volt and can cut through the waffle to bring you an unbiased, factual verdict. Read on to find out what we thought!
Whilst looks are inevitably subjective, I cant help thinking that the Volt is disappointingly bland to look at. Its not that it is an ugly car, its just a bit plain and the few attempts to liven it up the chrome-look wheels and the black strip along the top of the doors look a bit awkward and misplaced.
It is aerodynamic though, thanks to that slippery shape, rear spoiler, and blanked-off front grille. Low-rolling resistance tyres help to eek out the batterys power while still providing plenty of grip.
The interior is dominated by the extensive use of white plastic a la early iPod. The clean, modern look grew on me, as did the funky touch-control buttons on the centre console, which are tactile and intuitive.
The top of the dash swoops into the door trims, with a swath of white plastic linking the two; someone has thought long and hard about how best to use texture and colour, and the end result is very attractive.
Some might argue that it looks a bit cheap but then there are two approaches to saving money when designing a car: by trying to disguise the fact that you are doing so or by embracing the need to do so and coming up with innovative ways to achieve it – and Chevrolet has done the latter.
As an example, the rear parcel shelf is attached with elastic bungee cords and they look terrific. If this is cost cutting Id like to see more of it.
Its practical as well as striking. The driver and front-seat passenger enjoy comfortable, supportive seats and have plenty of leg, head, and shoulder room.
The Volt seats four, rather than the more usual five, people and a centre console containing cup holders and a power point separates the two rear seats. Legroom is tight back there if the driver is tall.
Lets cut to the chase, shall we? The Volt is terrific to drive, and has that delightful electric-motor-surge that makes it feel much faster than the figures suggest. The top speed is a fraction under one hundred miles an hour and the industry-standard 0-62mph sprint takes 9.0 seconds; neither sounds especially impressive but both are more than adequate in real-world use. How it achieves those figures is so much more important than the numbers themselves.
The handling is generic front-wheel drive hatchback, which is to say that it is neat, fuss-free, and foolproof with initial understeer, albeit with sharp turn-in thanks to the accurate and light steering. It retains its poise under provocation too, which bodes well for those frightening mid-bend moments when you suspect that youve entered a little bit faster than you should have done
The brakes are powerful and reassuring, using regenerative charging technology to convert wasted motion back into electricity, an action that is reflected in a neat dashboard graphic.
The biggest compliment that I can pay is to tell you that the Volt drives like any number of top-notch hatchbacks, with no sign of the ponderous handling that a stack of heavy batteries often induces.
The Volt has a 1.4-litre engine under the bonnet – but it isnt an engine as we know it. Chevy only use it as a giant alternator; the range on the initial battery charge is about 38 miles and when that power is exhausted the engine kicks in to top the battery up keeping you mobile and eliminating range anxiety in one seamless, hard-to-detect moment.
If you listen very closely you can just about detect a faint hum when the engine is running but if the radio is on, or youre chatting to a passenger, then you wont hear it at all. Refinement is the Volts strong suit and the engine plays its part in maintaining that ethereal driving experience.
The driver can select one of three modes: Normal, which is the standard, default mode that will suit most drivers; Sport, which gives more responsive acceleration at the cost of battery range; Mountain, which maintains a power reserve for climbing steep hills; and Hold, designed for European drivers, which allows you to drive in extended range mode, holding the full battery charge until you want to run emissions-free.
Sport worked very well for me, but most drivers will and should just leave it in Normal, which provides a very good balance between performance and range.Over 60-odd miles of driving we averaged the equivalent of 76.3mpg, although this figure will rise and fall depending on how much you have to rely on the engine for propulsive energy: more city miles will equal a lower fuel consumption, whereas frequent long journeys will mean that this could drop to below 50mpg.
Reassuringly, the batteries come with a 100,000-mile or eight-year warranty, while the rest of the car is backed by a three-year or 60,000 mile guarantee.
Value for Money
The Chevrolet Volt costs 34,995 (or 29,995 after the UK governments 5k has been deducted), which is a lot of money for a medium-sized hatchback – but if you are thinking of buying an electric car you know that they cost a fortune already, dont you?
All-electric cars dont come any better than the Volt, mainly because it allows you to order a huge slice of cake, eat it, and then go back for more.
If you use it for commuting and local journeys then youll be able to rely on battery power alone, topping it up in the evenings at home. If you then have to use the Volt for longer journeys youve got the on-board generator to keep you moving.
But the really interesting thing about the Volt is I forgot about the power source very quickly and concentrated on just driving it and its really rather good.
Chevrolet has produced the first all-electric car that doesnt force you to adapt your lifestyle to suit it; thanks to that clever charging system the Volt provides a driving and ownership experience that genuinely cant be found anywhere else.