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