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

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

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Sid Slim 19 October 2011

Re: Chevrolet Volt

SimonRH wrote:
If it did turn out to be correct that these cars are being considered as completely free for company car users (tax-wise) then you would probably see a big lift in sales.

My guess is that won't be the case. The Volt and Ampera are not zero rated for CO2 emissions, but more like 40ish g/km. At the moment only cars with no tailpipe emissions are exempt from company car tax. But with 40 g/km they will sit in the 5% band, so should cost business users around £350/£700 per year in tax.

TegTypeR 18 October 2011

Re: Chevrolet Volt

This car still comes across as an excellent concept that still needs some refining.

Again in this article I read that engine noise is an issue. If GM could get this licked with may be one of their new generation, super efficient, blown three pot engines and some better NHV insulation then this really could be special.

From my perspective, if the world has to have EV's then this is the way I'd go rather than the pure plug in route.

Also to the people that say why bother with the Vauxhall badge? At the moment both vehicles are produced / will be produced on the same production line. If Vauxhall (and Opel for that matter) sell enough of them, then there is the potential that we will get them built at the Ellesmere Port factory, making them a truly British produced Vauxhall product.

NiallOswald 18 October 2011

Re: Chevrolet Volt

" I'd like them to design one of these things without the generic hybrid rear (the 'Pri-arse')"