Many automotive journalists like to open a review one way and then suddenly flip the script and end it in a completely different tone.
We could easily do that with the Volt. We could tell you how when we first learned of the Volt, we figured it was simply snake oil – a vehicle to recapture the attention of the world.
Instead, we’ll keep it plain. We love the Volt and virtually everything about it. Below, we’ll explain why.
If you’ve been living under a rock and don’t know what the Chevy Volt is, we’ll give you the basics. Essentially, the Volt is an electric car with an electric motor and a battery pack. It has a finite 38-mile range. Although its electric motor allows it to be quiet and peppy, the Volt takes several hours to recharge.
To make the Volt a bit more viable as an everyday car, Chevy included a 1.4-liter inline four-cylinder gasoline engine under the hood that acts like a generator. As soon as the 38-mile electric range is depleted, the gas engine fires up and creates the energy to propel the Volt forward.
“That sounds like a hybrid to me.” You might be saying. And you’re kind of right. It’s essentially a plug-in hybrid. Chevy, however, prefers to call it a range-extended electric vehicle. The reason behind that is that most Americans commute fewer than 40 miles each day. So on most any given day, the Volt will be used as an electric car. It’s only on longer drives that owners will ever use the gas engine.
Now that we’ve gotten the basic bits out of the way, we’d like to focus on the details.
The interior of the Volt is absolutely stunning. Not necessarily compared with other alternative energy vehicles but mostly compared with other General Motors products.
Until the Volt, General Motors interiors have been pretty lame. GM interior designers really seemed like they just didn’t “get it,” as if they’d never driven a car from any other global automaker – ever. The Volt – for the first time ever –meets or exceeds the standards set by other global automakers.
The plastics that make up the vast majority of the interior look great. They fit together; they’re well formed, and distinctively sculpted. Both the infotainment screen and the instrument cluster are high-def screens with graphics on par with Apple. Once you dig into the various screens and settings, even those are well laid out and intuitive. It is just an extremely impressive place to be, the interior of the Volt.
Driving dynamics, too, have never been a GM strong suit. Float-y and disconnected was its bread and butter so long, we weren’t convinced they could make anything else. With the Volt, GM did.
Arguably most drivers will spend most of his or her driving time focused on keeping the green graphical ball centered in the screen, indicating eco-friendly driving. Should they snap out of it, however, they’ll discover a very pleasant and responsive little hatchback. The steering is sharp, the handling is crisp, and while rarely used, the throttle can turn the Volt into a very peppy little rig. We honestly believe there is virtually nothing for a potential buyer to find as a deal-breaker with the Volt.
Surely you’re aware the biggest competitor of the Volt is the Nissan LEAF. Frankly, we’re not quite sure why. The two vehicles do have electric components, similar statures, and are comparably priced. The Volt, however, can travel 382 miles on a single combined charge and tank of gas. The LEAF tops out at 73 miles. Say you want to go visit some relatives the other state over. You won’t be able to take your LEAF. Your Volt, however, could easily make the trip. To us, it feels like a no-brainer.
Ultimately, we were skeptical of the Volt, not sure that GM could pull a true knockout punch. It did, however, and we’re proud it did.
Now we just need more people to lease one. And lease you should. Even Chevy suggests leasing because as one of the GM reps put it, “when your lease is up, you’ll be ready for the next generation Volt.”