2012 Chevrolet Volt Review

Chevy Goes Electric with their innovative hybrid.

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September 8, 2012

2012 Chevrolet Volt Review

The Volt gives the advantages of both hybrids and EVs without the sacrifices.

The Basics
We love electric cars, in theory. If they made an electric car that got the same range as any other car, we'd be all over it. But they don't, so we're not. And so far, the hybrids we've driven haven't quite cut it. They're too slow and they don't get enough extra gas mileage to justify their high sticker prices. Enter the Chevy Volt, a half-electric half-hybrid that aims to offer the best of both worlds.

The Chevy Volt intrigued us, because it's a different kind of hybrid; Chevy calls it a 'range-extended electric car.' Rather than alternating between gas and electric motors the way the Prius and most other hybrids do. The Volt is basically an electric car with an internal combustion engine to use as a backup. This solves the range problem that plagues most electric cars because when the Volt's battery runs down, the gas engine kicks in, ensuring that you can get home, or to the nearest charging station, without getting stranded.

2012 Chevrolet Volt Fuel Economy As an electric car, the Volt is on par with every other electric car out there, offering a range between 25 and 45 miles, which covers most people's daily commute, but not much else. But add the internal combustion engine into the mix and the Volt's range jumps up to an impressive 300 miles. The gas engine alone gets a respectable 37 mpg and the combined gas/electric mileage is 94 mpge (miles per gallon equivalent, based on 36 kW-hrs per 100 miles).
2012 Chevrolet Volt Exterior One of the other advantages the Volt has over other electrics and hybrids is its stealth. It doesn't look like a hybrid, which is to say it's not short, squat, or vaguely futuristic looking. It may seem counterintuitive, since one might assume that hybrid drivers want people to know that they're driving a hybrid, but most hybrids and electric cars are seriously lacking in the style department, and one way to make alternative fuel vehicles more popular with the masses is to make them look more like other cars. The Volt does this beautifully, and its styling blends in nicely with Chevy's current esthetic.
2012 Chevrolet Volt Interior The interior is the one place where the Volt succumbs to the trend of making hybrids look futuristic, but this mostly applies to the center stack and instrument cluster, and we like the way the exterior styling carries into the cabin. We're not overly fond of the haptic touch controls, but the 7-inch touch screen is easy to use and we think GM has one of the better entertainment system controls out there (the not-ready-for-primetime CUE notwithstanding). The Volt seats four comfortably and has trunk room that's comparable with any other four-door sedan.
2012 Chevrolet Volt On the Road With most alternative-fuel vehicles, performance is sacrificed in the name of longer range (in EVs) or better gas mileage (in hybrids). But the Volt never feels sluggish. The electric engine offers 273 lb-ft. of torque, and the 1.4-liter four-cylinder gas engine makes a respectable 149 horsepower. The Volt is far from sporty in its handling, but the steering is assured and the ride is smooth. The transition from electric to gas engine is seemless. We drove down the battery to experience this and could not feel-or hear-any difference when the car switched over.
2012 Chevrolet Volt Features & Prices Like all EVs and hybrids, the Volt doesn't come cheap. With a $39,145 base price the Volt is not within everyone's budget, but at least it doesn't feel cheap like other cars in this segment. Our tester came with the upgraded audio system with navigation, perforated leather heated seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, park assist, and polished aluminum wheels. All of that bling, plus the $850 destination charge brings the price way up to $46,315.
2012 Chevrolet Volt Final Thoughts Until the range of EVs is greatly extended their appeal will remain limited. That's why for us, the Chevy Volt is the best of the bunch. If you choose to, and are able to, you can drive it on electric-only all the time (if you do this the Volt will make sure you sue the gas engine some of the time, to keep it in working order, and will burn through a tank of gas a year to keep it from going bad), but if you need to drive beyond the range of the battery, you never have to worry. The Volt gives the advantages of both hybrids and EVs without the sacrifices.

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