The Chevrolet Volt is considered by many as one of the most important developments in the automotive market since the Toyota Prius. The Volt, like the Prius, has its engine as the heart of this innovation. The Chevy Volt uses a regular 1.4-liter inline-4 gasoline engine coupled with an electric motor to move about, a basic description of most hybrids as well. However, unlike full hybrids such as the Prius, which alternates between a gasoline engine and an electric motor, or "mild" hybrids which move primarily by their gasoline engine with a boost now and then from the electric motor, the Chevrolet Volt reverses the paradigm and moves primarily via its electric motor with the gasoline engine acting as a recharger for the batteries. The Volt can also draw upon standard electric current via a plug with the entire set-up making it, essentially, a plug-in hybrid, though General Motors prefers the term, "range extender."
Fuel economy of the Chevrolet Volt relies heavily on the driver's regular range and driving habits. The Volt can travel up to 50 miles on battery power alone before the gasoline engine kicks in to recharge, so theoretically anyone whose round trip is within those miles will never need a fill up as long as they recharge the battery nightly. The EPA estimates the Volt has a total range of around 375 miles between fillips with a combined city/highway fuel economy of 93 mpg under pure electric power, or an estimated 60 mpg using both motors.
The Chevrolet Volt debut in late 2010 as a 2011 model, and won Motor Trend's Car of the Year.
Body style: Hatchback
Engine: 1.4-liter inline-4, 16 kWh Li-Ion battery pack
Transmission: Single reduction ratio
The Chevrolet Volt debuted last year so expect few changes for 2012. New standard features include keyless entry, OnStar, and Chevrolet's new MyLink connectivity system. The Chevy Volt gets two new exterior colors -- Blue Topaz Metallic and Summit White -- and two additional interior color accents (spiced red and white). Finally, 17-inch wheels are available as an option.
Though it looks like a compact sedan, the 2012 Chevrolet Volt is actually a hatchback, its fifth door blending seamlessly with the rear. The Volt is built lower to the ground compared to other sedans, almost like a sports car, but it improves the Volt's aerodynamics, which is one of the best in this class. Except for the availability of the two new additional exterior colors and new (optional) wheels, the Chevrolet Volt carries over into the new model year essentially unchanged.
The Chevrolet Volt carries over into the new model year essentially unchanged. Interior space of the 2012 Chevrolet Volt is on the tight side and the bucket seats in the front and rear maximize room for driver and up to three passengers. Interior space is further reduced due to the batteries and the Volt's swoopy design: rear seat adults will feel cramped and cargo capacity is scarcely more than 10 cubic feet. Design-wise, the Volt's instrument cluster and center stack are as unique as its engine though we found it easy enough to see and use the controls under normal conditions.
Performance & Handling
Engine noise is nil under the 2012 Chevrolet Volt's electric motor, and the changeover when the gasoline engine kicks in to recharge the batteries is nearly imperceptible. Road and wind noise are well controlled, though not luxury-car quiet, and handling is competent. The brakes, on the other hand, can sometimes be touchy. Finally, the 2012 Chevy Volt feels substantial due to its lowered design and battery weight.
Standard safety features include front, side, and side curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes (ABS); GM's StabiliTrak electronic stability control system; and traction control. Optional safety equipment includes a rearview backup camera.
EPA Fuel Economy
Chevrolet Volt: Combined city/highway: 93 mpg electric only; 37 mpg gas engine only; 60 mpg combined
You Won't Like
- Interior design
- Strictly four-seater
A glimpse of things to come
If You Like This Vehicle
- Ford Focus Electric
- Mitsubishi i
- Nissan Leaf
- Toyota Prius