The Electric Chevy Volt

When the Chevy Volt hit the market in 2011, it threw down the gauntlet and ushered in an entire generation of electric cars. Now well into its second generation, the latest model is sleeker, more refined, and boasts even more features. As GM is looking to build an all-electric fleet within the next decade, the Volt is the centerpiece of what will be a brand-defining collection. It's smooth driving features help consumers make the switch to electric, as it's got just enough oomph to it to make them forget that they're not driving a traditional automobile. While innovation doesn't come cheap, there are local and federal credits to encourage buyers, and these rebates can chip off a substantial amount. Plus, Chevy is working hard to promote it's hybrid and electric models, so offers and incentives are expected to cut the price even more. With a smooth operating system and near stratospheric mileage, the Chevy Volt may just be the best of both worlds.


I'm confused- what's the difference between the Volt and the Bolt?

You would be forgiven for assuming that it was a typo, but indeed Chevy has two models with very similar sounding names, which are both parts of the electric vanguard of the company. However, the two models are quite different, in some important ways. The Volt is a sedan that runs on both electric and gas, while the Bolt is an entirely electric crossover/hatchback. Both compete for the federal tax credits that are on offer, but it's there that their market share ends. As a sedan, the Volt is much more likely to blend in with more traditional vehicles, where the Bolt's peppy upstart frame make it look like an enthusiastic teenager visiting their first round of prospective colleges. More than aesthetics separate these two, however. Because the Bolt has no gas engine, it won't perform as well on long-distance trips: Chevy charging stations are not nearly as diffuse as Tesla stations, for example, so its value is sometimes limited to the nearest plug. The Bolt is roomier, especially on 2018 models, but the Volt offers some standard safety features such as adaptive cruise control and parking assist, that make the driving experience on the whole more manageable. Think of the Volt as the older, more responsible sister dropping the Bolt off at their first Freshman keg party, if you will.


How is the driving experience?

The reason the Volt has done so much for non-traditional vehicles is the feeling of driving it: for those wanting to make the transition but who still want to feel like they're driving an actual car, the Chevy has long been the preferred choice. The second generation only improves that experience, with a revised engine that incorporates an electric powertrain with a gasoline range extender generator. The gasoline component is a 1.5-liter direct injection which powers the motor should the battery run down. Stretching the Volt's range to 420 miles, the transition is also seamless for the driver. Smaller electric motors connect to the front wheels, and they can be used separately or together. The low center of mass and centrally placed T-shaped battery helps keep the car moving swiftly and light on its feet. The Volt scores high marks on regenerative braking, which has been fine-tuned for the latest models: the system feels smooth and subtle, avoiding the spongy and intrusive reactions of other hybrids and EV's.


Does the Volt outperform other plug-in hybrids?

The Volt has never been as much a part of the zeitgeist as the Prius, which has become almost an interchangeable word to define all hybrids and EV's. However, the Volt does outperform the Prius and Prius Prime in some important ways, particularly in its electric range. The Volt racks up more than twice that of the Prius Prime, and while they may be a close call on hybrid performance, the driving feel of the Volt does give the Toyota family of hybrids a real run for their money. Aesthetically speaking, the Volt will likely convince some buyers who are still wary of the space age design of the Toyota, which is decidedly not for everyone. Moreover, the Voltec's powertrain components are used in other GM models like the Malibu hybrid and the soon to be released Cadillac plug-in, but the price tag on those might just give you pause. Against larger sedans like the Hyundai Sonata Plug-in and the Ford Fusion, the Volt wins in the more compact dimensions, which make it ideal for commuters looking to tuck into tight spaces.


What about the tech features?

With so much going on inside, the accompanying cabin tech needs to step up to the plate to give drivers the feeling that they are in for something completely different. Volt models come in two trims, and while they're not so amenable to customization, they have thought of most of the features that car owners want. The Volt LT features climate control, push-button start, and an 8-inch infotainment system with Apple Car Play, Android Auto, and OnStar with three months included in the purchase. That last feature gives you a 4G LTE hotspot and Bluetooth. On the downside, the leather steering wheel has been replaced by a polyethylene cover which doesn't feel as nice to the touch, but hey, if you're vegan it might be just the bit of socially conscious design you need. Upgrade to the Premier model, and you'll get the leather steering wheel and leather interior, Bose sound system, a wireless charging station, and an automated parking system for parallel and perpendicular parking. The Volt scored big on safety features down the line, and they come standard on both trims. The price point may be higher, but as far as safety goes, you'll get a lot for your money.


Is the interior cabin awesome?

If there's one place where the Volt lags behind its competitors it's the interior space, which claims room for 5 in the 2018 model but is a very loose interpretation of what 'five' might actually mean. The center rear seat is little more than a bench straddling the T-shaped battery, and for any long distance drives you're likely to hear fighting break out over who's got to sit in the middle. There's not much cargo space either, so don't look for that to settle any arguments. The front seats are a different story and provide lumbar support and ample legroom, so the hushed cabin becomes an immersive experience. Visibility is also a sticking point, for two reasons: first, the cabin sits quite low over the windows and second, the frame is quite thick around the windshield and can feel like you've got an obstructed view seat for a baseball game. It combines to give a bit too much insulation, and it may take a bit of getting used to before drivers feel comfortable with their visibility. But hey, with 52 miles per gallon and over 100 mpg-e, you've got plenty of time to get accustomed to the view.

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