The Chevrolet Volt is an extended-range vehicle with an electric motor and a 1.4-litre petrol engine, and it makes the electric car viable for the masses
What is it?
You’ll be familiar with the Chevrolet Volt by now - there’s nothing else offering quite the same no-compromise eco-heroism out there at the moment. After all, this is a car that will cover up to 50 miles on electric power alone before the 1.4-litre petrol engine kicks in, eliminating the range-anxiety element that cripples the potential of electric-only options.
What’s it like?
This is our first drive in a proper UK-spec car, though not yet on UK roads; rather on the smoother tarmac of Switzerland, and even this highlighted some ride quality quibbles. On the standard 17-inch alloys the Volt thumps over bigger intrusions and fidgets over ridged or eroded surfaces, regardless of which of the drive modes you choose (slightly firmer damping is provided in sport or softer in normal). It’s unlikely to be a deal breaker given that it does settle over smoother roads and more often than not compromises body control with passenger isolation well enough – just not as well as the best conventional rivals.
The drive modes also affect throttle response. In ‘normal’ pure electric mode the Volt picks up with impressive verve, offering a predictable step-off, whilst in sport the throttle response is sharper still. Given the generally inoffensive and stable but uninspiring handling we see little point to the latter.
It’s a shame that with the petrol engine in action the Volt suddenly becomes a less enjoyable and more strained drive, but this is forgivable given the abundant advantages. Otherwise the steering is nicely weighted, throttle response good and there is none of the dramatic engine-braking that you can experience in some other electric cars.
The interior is intriguingly futuristic. A bright white, touch-sensitive centre consol makes for a very ‘i-generation’ friendly look and works well with the interesting if slightly distracting read-outs that dominate the driver’s display and infotainment screen.
Unfortunately due to the car’s spine of lithium-ion batteries – the Volt can only be had with two seats in the rear, but they are comfortable enough for average-height passengers. A sizeable boot finishes the utilitarian box-ticking, whilst a standard full leather interior adds a touch of luxury.
Should I buy one?
Given that the Volt will set you back nearly £29k (even after a £5k government discount) you’ll want to give some serious thought to how much you’re saving in running costs by having the electric capacity. Still, that price becomes more justifiable in light of the cost of the more limited pure-electric options, and though benefit in kind details are yet to be confirmed, it’s likely that the Volt will be free to company car users.
If the Volt does suit your lifestyle then it’s a no brainer. Ultimately, it makes the electric car viable for the masses. More than that, it ensures that electric travel need no longer be something taken on as an obligation to the environment – you can actually enjoy the experience, too.
Price: £28,545; Top speed: 99mph; 0-62mph: 9.0sec; Economy: 235mpg; Co2: 27g/km; Kerb weight: 1732kg; Engine type: electric motor plus 1398cc 4cyl petrol; Power: 149bhp at 4800rpm; Torque: 273lb ft; Gearbox: Two ratio, planetary