2012 Chevrolet Volt Test Drive - Power to the Commuter

2012 Chevrolet Volt

The Chevrolet Volt is a range-extended electric car capable of taking most of its owners on their daily commute without using a drop of gasoline. When more distance is needed, the gasoline engine acts as a generator to allow nearly 400 miles of total range.

The manufacturer says

"The Chevrolet Volt is a practical electric vehicle for today with a total range of about 379 miles on a full battery charge and tank of gas."

Specs:

  • Manufacturer: General Motors
  • Year, Model: 2012 Volt
  • Class, Type: Mid-sized Sedan
  • Propulsion system: Plug-in range-extended electric
  • Vehicle range: 35 miles electric, 379 miles total
  • Fuel(s): Electricity, premium unleaded
  • Time to refuel: 11 hour recharge at 110V
  • Base Price: $39,145.00
  • MSRP as tested: $45,170.00
  • Availability: Now in dealerships

Overview

The Chevrolet Volt is as much as political statement as it is a vehicle. It's become the hackey sack of choice for politicians and pundits hoping to use General Motors as a knock around for government waste. Whatever you perceptions of the car politically, it is a vehicle that fits a specific, though relatively small and new, niche of car buyers.

The Volt is powered by a capable 149 horsepower electric motor driving the front wheels. A 16 kilowatt hour (kwh) battery pack provides the fuel to move the electric motor for about 35 miles per charge. After that, the capable 1.4-liter gasoline engine extends the range another 344 miles in relative quiet. Unless you're standing right at the hood, the engine makes little noise and is not audible at all inside the car.

The Volt seats four, with bucket seats at both front and rear. The console is uniquely futuristic without going too overboard. The buttons on the center console take some getting used to, as they aren't "buttons" so much as they are labels you push, but most things become intuitive once you've used them a little.

The seating is comfortable, even for someone large, and spacious, but limited as there is no bench in the rear. The luggage compartment is open to the rest of the car in a hatchback style, but storage is limited to a checked bag and a couple of carry-ons unless the rear seats are folded.

The car's drive is smooth and handling is good for the segment. Others in this segment, such as the Volkswagen Passat, are more adept on the road, but the Volt has a smooth ride. One caveat is its very low clearance, which regularly scrapes the front dam on driveway entrances and transitions.

The Chevy Volt is meant for the commuting suburbanite of middle income. For those who live near and drive into and out of the city for relatively short distances, the Volt is an excellent fuel sipper and money saver. It is not a versatile car, however, so most who own it will likely own or have access to another car for more utilitarian purposes.

What we like

The look: The Volt is a "regular car" in looks, but has a distinctive style that lets everyone know that it's a Volt and nothing else. Driving down the street, everyone ogles the car because it's decidedly not like any other car on the road. This unique look doesn't jump so far off the page that it's weird or goofy, however.

The drive at low speeds: Around town at low speeds and in full electric mode, the Volt is a great drive. Window down or up, it's silent and easy to settle into and just glide.

What we don't

Not a cruiser: At speed, the Volt is noisy. Being so low to the ground and because of its body shape, the car has a lot of interior noise and with the windows down, there is a horrible helicoptering of air that starts at about 30mph, drowning out all other sound.

Impractical for the family: Families will find the Volt cramped. Despite being a "mid-sized sedan," the Volt is very deficient in space for both passengers (seats only four) and luggage room. Definitely not a family car.

Conclusions

For the market it's meant for, the Chevrolet Volt is a great vehicle. If you can afford it, spend most of your drive time and commute in traffic, and don't need to cart around children or a lot of people and luggage, then the Volt is a good choice. If you are not a suburbanite or need a car that can double as a family cruiser, then this is not a good match for you.

Test Period Length and Limitations
The Volt was in our possession for 3 days and driven in both sunshine and rain. We put about 240 miles on the test car.

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