From £34,940
If the Volt does suit your lifestyle then it’s a no brainer. Ultimately, it makes the electric car viable for the masses

Our Verdict

Chevrolet Volt
The handsome Volt uses a petrol engine to charge the car's battery once it is flat

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

  • First Drive

    Chevrolet Volt

    If the Volt does suit your lifestyle then it’s a no brainer. Ultimately, it makes the electric car viable for the masses
  • First Drive

    Chevrolet Volt

    The much-hyped Volt is finally here. Is it GM's future? Or even the future of motoring?

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.

Chevrolet Volt

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

Join the debate

Comments
28

17 October 2011

[quote Autocar] This is our first drive in a proper UK-spec car, though not yet on UK roads[/quote]

Are Chevy actually launching the Volt in Europe alongside the Vauxhall Ampera?

Anonymous

17 October 2011

Toyota Prius - eat your heart out.

I really like this car, and I believe for now this is the future until fully electric or hydrogen cars are becoming more popular. Most people will only travel 50 miles per day anyway so you'd probably save a huge amount on fuel costs, but you'd have to travel a fair amount of miles before the savings in fuel economy offset the extra cost of the car.

Oh, and what's with the buttons on the dash?! I'd think that the mash of buttons would be very confusing.

17 October 2011

[quote Orangewheels]Are Chevy actually launching the Volt in Europe alongside the Vauxhall Ampera?[/quote] according to their UK site - yes.

17 October 2011

Does this car require charging? Or does it charge itself like the Prius et al?

17 October 2011

[quote Autocar] though not yet on UK roads[/quote]

They are certainly to be seen in Britain. One went past my house on Saturday.

Anonymous

17 October 2011

[quote julianphillips]Does this car require charging? Or does it charge itself like the Prius et al?[/quote] I'm pretty sure you need to charge it.

17 October 2011

[quote julianphillips]Does this car require charging?[/quote] There are charging cables shown in the picture. I'd always understood you could plug it in. The ICE engine range extender is used to produce electricity to drive the electric motors. I guess only using the ICE to provide electricity wouldn't provide the best economical solution. Not sure what the sums would look like if you was given this free as a company car ie no TAX but couldn't plug it in.

17 October 2011

Probably the best hybrid out there . I think it needs plugging in to get those 50 petrol free miles . What I would like to know is if you got one as a company car could you get your company to shell out about £1000 for a charging point at home . A 3 phase one at work would be even better .

Interesting times for company user choosers huh .

17 October 2011

[quote julianphillips]Does this car require charging? Or does it charge itself like the Prius et al?[/quote]

Yes, and that's the whole point of it. In theory, you could run it on electricity only, by charging it overnight then keeping your daily range less than 50 miles (or whatever it is). If you do that - and GM reckon most owners will - you will see spectacular mpg as the engine will hardly ever be in use, like the 235mpg in Vicki's report.

However, run the vehicle in extreme conditions or for long distances and the engine will need to kick in and recharge the batteries, thus reducing 'range-anxiety'. If you run the Volt continually over long distances and rely solely on the engine to charge it you'll only ever see economy only slightly above Astra-like figures. (Interestingly - and I don't know why - but nearly every motor magazine review of the Volt I have read have run the Volt over long distances!)

Unlike the Toyota Pious and Honda Insight, the Volt is an electric car in the sense that the engine does not drive the wheels, it only charges the battery. Whereas in the Toyota and the Honda the engine drives the wheels and the electric motor provides boost. The Toyota can run on electricity only for short distances; the Honda cannot.

17 October 2011

the real proof that this is the immediate future of motoring will come not from a short test drive but in a full road test in the UK.

And better still, from a long term test. When is Autocar getting a Chevy Volt or an Ampera on their fleet

But it sounds promising, if still a little expensive to justify overall from a pure financial perspective compared with a typical advanced turbo-diesel alternative.

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