by Adam Lynton
Plug-in hybrids are nothing new in 2018, and even the contentious Toyota Prius that's been the butt of many jokes in popular culture has been accepted into the general motoring fraternity. The second-generation Volt is the most accomplished plug-in hybrid to come from the Chevrolet house and boasts the longest all-electric range in its class. When the Chevrolet Volt runs out of electric juice, it can switch over to an efficient gas engine to give it the same range as a traditional gas-powered car. Chevrolet has shied away from overtly futuristic styling, which has helped the Volt assimilate into the mainstream, and with a well laid out interior, useful tech features and nippy acceleration, the Volt might be the first affordable plug-in hybrid to crack the mainstream market - or at least, it deserves to.
The second-generation Volt has been with us since 2016 and Chevrolet had sold 152,144 of them since its launch back in 2010. For 2018 the Volt has received minor updates in the form of new color options, namely Green Mist Metallic and Cajun Red Tintcoat, and an additional Driver Confidence Package, which includes rear cross-traffic alert, rear parking sensors, and blind-spot monitoring. In keeping with the sustainable and environmentally friendly theme of the Volt, Chevrolet has replaced the leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear knob with vinyl-wrapped, polyurethane items that should appease the meat-free market (although a leather interior is still optionally available for those otherwise inclined).
The first thing you notice about the 2018 Chevrolet Volt's exterior is that it's not really noticeable - at least not from the front. Chevrolet has opted for subdued styling with an almost generic profile from all angles; the Volt looks ready for the rental-car parking lot, or any other parking lot for that matter. The front is characterized by a slanting hood and windshield, tied together with an angular grille reminiscent of modern muscle hero, the Cadillac CTS-V. For 2018, the Volt rolls on a set of 17-inch alloy wheels with LED headlights standard across the range. Keeping with the theme of maximum efficiency, the glass used on the Volt is solar absorbing. Small exterior appearance tweaks include body-colored side mirrors and an illuminated charge port for quick and hassle-free nighttime docking. The top-of-the-line Premium Volt gets unique wheels and heated outside mirrors.
The 2018 Volt slots into the compact sedan class, and is comparable to the 2018 Toyota Prius Prime in terms of overall size. The Volt measures 180.4 inches in length, is 56.4 inches in height, and 71.2 inches wide. It rolls on a 106.1-inch wheelbase. Chevrolet's other electric offering, the Bolt, is noticeably smaller, measuring in at only 164 inches in length with a shorter wheelbase of 102.4 inches. The Volt, like so many other electric and hybrid vehicles, suffers from a slight gain in weight thanks to the batteries it needs to carry in order to power the electric drivetrain. So, it tips the scales at 3,563 lbs, 178 pounds heavier than Toyota's Prius, but a whole 20 pounds lighter than the all-electric Bolt.
In total, there are eight exterior colors to choose from. Chevrolet has added two new colors to the lineup for this year, and they help add an exotic touch to an otherwise dull pallet; however, don't expect Plum Crazy or Hugger Orange - the 2018 Volt is a serious hybrid, for people that are serious about driving such cars. New owners can choose from the following sophisticated options at no additional charge: Summit White, Silver Ice Metallic, Satin Steel Metallic, and Mosaic Black Metallic. Extra-cost colors are Iridescent Pearl Tricoat, Cajun Red Tintcoat, Green Mist Metallic, and Kinetic Blue Metallic. The Volt looks best in colors that accentuate its angular design, so Cajun Red or Kinetic Blue should be a good choice, but for those that don't like to draw too much attention, Satin Steel Metallic will have you fitting in.
The Volt lends itself to urban driving, and it will probably spend most of its time commuting in cities and suburbs, which means stop-start traffic, plenty of lane changes, and numerous overtaking maneuvers. This works in favor of cars such as the Volt that are excellent at picking up the pace from low-speed driving; and, when need be, there's a traditional gas-powered engine that can take over when the Volt's battery is depleted. The Volt feels spritely at low speeds, thanks to an almost instantaneous response and flow of torque from the electric motor, giving the Volt a nimble and responsive feeling around town. With a zero to sixty time of around 7.5 seconds, the Volt definitely feels faster than the numbers would suggest, and will even out-do big pickups with their big engines and heavy-bodied, sluggish acceleration. This acceleration time is pretty impressive for a plug-in.
The hybrid classification means the Volt is powered by two sources; a 101 hp, 103 lb-ft 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine, and a 149 hp, 294 lb-ft electric motor. Power is sent to the front wheels via a smooth CVT that does an excellent job of consistently channeling all that electric torque, without feeling overwhelmed or strained. The electric motor provides excellent low speed pulling power thanks to a serious dose of all-electric torque that is available from the very bottom of the rev range. The electric motor prefers to be driven as efficiently as possible, but in real-life situations, that low down punch will come in handy more often than not. The 1.5-liter gas engine has been tuned for economical driving, so don't expect much verve to come from there. What it does well is complement the electric motor, and when the electric juice runs out, it will still return excellent gas mileage. The combination of these two power plants feels seamless, but the star of the show is definitely the smooth, quiet, and potent electric motor.
The Volt has a double-sided personality: it was designed, built and marketed as a fuel-efficient hybrid that champions environmental preservation and green thinking, but on the other hand, there is no denying that its electric torque curve and central weight balance make it fun to drive. Straight-line stability is impressive and helps make the Volt an accomplished highway cruiser. In the corners, the Volt shows off its playful side, although those economical tires are a serious limiting factor; they do suit the purpose of the car in terms of economic driving much better.
Driving around town reveals a supple ride that's not overly stiff. Steering is light but will be appreciated by buyers who navigate the urban jungle on a daily basis. Overall the Volt delivers a neutrally balanced drive that might come across as boring to some, but in the greater scheme of things, is near perfect for what the majority of Volt owners will need.
Electric range and gas mileage numbers are the Chevrolet Volt's most significant selling point, as it is for most hybrid vehicles unless you're driving a McLaren P1. Potential buyers are in for some good news: the Volt has a class-topping all-electric range of 53 miles, which means that for most urban drivers, that range will be enough to do the school run, work commute, and grocery shop in one charge. The 1.5-liter four-cylinder petrol engine has been tuned for maximum efficiency, and the low power figures suggest that this engine is under-stressed and ready to sip less gas than your average lawnmower. Switch over to the gas engine, and you'll see 43/42/42 mpg city/highway/combined, and with an 8.8-gallon fuel tank, the Volt should be good for a combined range of 420 miles, while a full charge of the battery on a level two charge system takes approximately 4.5 hours.
The interior of the 2018 Volt is refreshingly simple and laid out in a way that is logical but stylish at the same time. The central theme of the interior layout is a continuous, sweeping line that starts from the door panels and continues onto the dashboard, meeting above the infotainment display. This gives a sense of uniformity to the interior, and ties in the door handles and side-mounted controls. The button layout makes sense, and new drivers will be able to get the hang of the controls without any major headaches. Fit and finish is good, and Chev has done a good job of keeping hard plastics to a minimum, which adds a premium feel to the Volt's interior. Standard interior features include USB charging ports, single-zone automatic climate control, bucket seats, 4G LTE WiFi hotspot technology, and remote keyless entry. Getting in and out of the Volt is simple enough in the front thanks to a pair of wide-opening doors, but a sloping roofline and smaller doors make getting entry to the rear more difficult, especially for taller passengers. Visibility out the front is average, and the hood isn't visible from the driver's seat making parking tricky. At least blind spots are minimal, thanks to the sizeable rear glass panel.
One disappointing feature of the Volt is its cramped interior, and although Chevrolet advertises the Volt as a five-seater sedan, in reality, you'll only be able to fit four adults with ease. The seats offer good support and should prove to be comfortable even on longer trips. The perfect driving position is easily found thanks to a wide range of adjustability; the only catch is that it has to be done manually, as there is no power seat option. Front legroom comes in at 42.1 inches, just about an inch less than the Toyota Prius Prime, but half an inch more than the Chev Bolt. The headroom in the front is measured at 37.8 inches, which is an indication of the cramped space inside the Volt. Rear seat legroom is average for the class, and measures 34.7 inches, while backseat headroom is 35.8 inches - it's honestly not enough for the average adult.
Chevrolet offers a tasteful selection of interior materials and colors that suit the Volt's more mature demeanor. The base model is available in two styles; Light Ash and Dark Ash Gray contrasting cloth, or all Jet Black cloth, while the range-topping model gets upmarket Jet Black and Brandy leather/fabric contrast seating. Leather seats feature twin-needle stitching that gives it a premium almost-German feel. Still, the cloth seats in the Volt feel robust and should stand up to the daily abuse any family car can expect during its lifetime. Light Ash and Dark Gray leather seating options are also available when selecting the optional Comfort Package. While Chevrolet has shied away from hard plastics, the faux-chrome inserts are not convincing and cheapen an otherwise well put together interior.
Where the Volt falls short of other practical daily commuters is in the cargo department. The Trunk of the 2018 Chevrolet Volt offers a mediocre 10.6 cubic feet of space, which is tiny, even by compact car standards. The Toyota Prius provides almost double the area at 19.8 cubic feet, and the Bolt manages at least 16.9 cubic feet. The only redeeming feature is the Volt's hatchback-style liftgate, which makes loading larger objects such as a stroller much easier. The rear offers extra cargo space thanks to a 60/40 split-folding rear seat.
Personal storage space is adequate: the driver and front-seat passenger get two cup holders that will comfortably accommodate most cup sizes, and small-item storage in front of the gear selector is big enough for a cellphone and wallet. The center storage bin is adequate, and back seat passengers also get two cup holders, but not much else.
Cruise control is a standard feature across the range, as are a selection of drive mode controls which allow the Volt to switch between Eco and Sport driving setups. This changes up throttle responses and battery longevity to suit your driving needs. The single-zone climate control works well and reaches back seat passengers within seconds. Keyless entry and start-stop technology, as well useful twin USB ports and two 12-volt power outlets, round out the standard features list on the 2018 Chevrolet Volt from the base model. The Premium model is upgraded to have an auto-dimming rearview mirror and heated and power-adjustable wing mirrors; it is also the only trim level that has heated leather seats equipped. Additional driver assists in the form of rear cross-traffic alert, rear parking sensors, and blind-spot monitoring are available as part of the optional Driver Confidence Package, while other available assists include adaptive cruise control and low-speed forward automatic braking.
As is to be expected from a modern-day hybrid, the Volt delivers on in-car technology. The eight-inch infotainment screen provides smooth visuals and responds effortlessly to inputs. The angle of the display could've been tipped more towards the driver for ease of use, but this is a minor complaint. The infotainment system in the Volt offers all the amenities you'd expect; you get standard SiriusXM satellite radio, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto as standard. Connecting to the Volt's infotainment system is an effortless affair. Sound is provided by a six-speaker system in the base model, while the Premium trim benefits from a Bose eight-speaker sound system that produces incredible audio, especially when cruising in the near-silent all-electric mode. The Chevrolet MyLink voice recognition system works well and picks up on simple voice commands even in noisy traffic - command prompts are clear and easy to understand. All in all, Chevrolet has packaged a robust infotainment system that does everything relatively well.
Since the introduction of the second-generation Chevrolet Volt back in 2016, there have been three recalls issued. The first recall was released in May of 2017 for potential overinflation of airbags, the second issued in August 2018 for potentially reduced rear braking performance and the final recall in September of 2018 for rear seatbelts that could potentially not lock in place in an accident. Chevrolet backs the Volt with a standard three-year/36,000 mile warranty that includes corrosion protection, a five-year/60,000 mile drivetrain, and roadside assistance warranty, as well as an impressive eight-year/unlimited mile hybrid component warranty and six-year/ 100,000 rust-through protection.
Safety was high on the priority list when Chevrolet put the second-generation Volt together - and not without reason; building a safe car and promoting it as such always helps in the sales department, especially when you can pick up a few safety awards on the way. Also, as a vehicle aimed at families or those who will undoubtedly face daily traffic slogs, safety would naturally be a high priority. The 2018 Volt was awarded a Top Safety Pick title by the IIHS and scored a full five out of five stars on the NHTSA rating scale.
Being awarded a Top Safety Pick accolade by the IIHS underscores the long list of serious safety features available. Automated safety technologies abound, but some are reserved for the range-topping Premium model. Adaptive cruise control with automated stop and go is not only good for winning safety awards but is a boon for daily driving and overall comfort. Low-speed automatic braking and frontal collision alert are contemporary tech safety features, as is lane-keep assistance, rear cross-traffic alert, and blind-spot monitoring. Parking the Volt could literally not be any easier - a rearview camera, rear and optional front parking sensors, as well as auto parking assist, will squeeze the Volt into the tightest spots without breaking a sweat. The Volt also offers innovative safety features such as Teen Driver mode which keeps the car at predetermined speed limits and switches off any music streaming if any of the occupant's seatbelts are not engaged. This will undoubtedly be a huge drawcard for the over-protective mom buyer.
The Chevrolet Volt has made a significant impression on the American car market since its launch nearly a decade ago, and in the past two years since the second-generation debuted, it has been refined and sculpted into one of the best hybrid vehicles on sale today. The mild-mannered exterior styling might be polarizing to some, but it looks tidy and modern, and not quite as jarring as the Prius' profile. Inside, the Volt does a commendable job of keeping its occupants comfortable, although a few cheap plastics and tight back seat dimensions keep it from being class-leading. Cargo space is substandard for its class and is one of the few significant negatives, although the hatchback liftgate makes the small trunk space a little more practical. The infotainment system is spot on and delivers what it says on the box, but the optional Bose system is a worthwhile upgrade. In terms of performance, the Volt provides a well-balanced ride that borders on sporty but is held back by those fuel-saver tires. The electric motor manages to provide peppy performance, and the gas powerplant is tied in beautifully by that CVT gearbox. The Volt's big draw-card must be its class-leading electric range of 53 miles or the fact that it's one of the safest cars on the road. It might be on the pricey side for this segment, but the Volt is a great all-rounder and is worth every cent.
The Chevrolet Volt is available in two trims with the base model starting at an MSRP of $33,220, while the top of the range model will cost you $37,570. The Toyota Prius Prime in base trim will cost you $5,900 less at $27,300, while a top-spec Advanced Prius comes in at $33,300. These prices exclude an $875 destination fee, optional extras, tax and title, as well as dealer fees. As a plug-in hybrid, the Volt is also eligible for federal tax credits of up to $3,750 and state-specific incentives like HOV usage and rebates available at purchase.
Chevrolet has kept things simple by offering only two models. The base model goes by the moniker LT and features the exact same drivetrain setup as the Premium.
The LT's standard exterior features list includes 17-inch alloy wheels, LED lighting, keyless entry and start as well as solar absorbing glass. On the inside, the LT gets a premium cloth interior, an eight-inch infotainment display with two USB ports, Bluetooth connectivity and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. Sound gets routed through a six-speaker system, and a 4G LTE Wi-Fi router keeps everything connected.
The Premier offers slightly more, with remote vehicle start, a leather interior, heated seats, and some notable interior tech upgrades in the form of a wireless charging pad for your smartphone, and a premium Bose sound system with eight speakers.
The base model can be optioned with a number of handy packages that are reasonably priced. The Comfort Package costs $460 and will heat the front seats and leather-wrapped steering wheel.
A Driver Confidence Package will set you back $790 and consists of a basket of safety tech upgrades, including rear parking assistance, rear cross-traffic alert, and lane change assist with blind-spot monitoring.
The most expensive optional package is the Blackout Package, which costs $1,995 and throws a lot of black styling accessories at the exterior of the Volt.
While both models can be equipped with the Driver Confidence Package, only the Premier trim has exclusive rights to the more advanced Driver Confidence 2 Package, which consists of a following distance indicator, forward collision warning, lane-keep assistance, and auto-dimming headlights.
The Volt is a comfortable daily commuter that will get over 40 mpg consistently and, if you live close to your place of work or school, there will never be a need to use the gas engine at all; the brilliance of the Volt is in its versatility, and with a fully charged battery, can commute 53 miles without even tapping into the gas power on hand. As a daily-use family car, it would make sense to fork out the extra $4,285 for the Premier model. Although the base model does everything just as well as the Premier mechanically, the range-topping Volt makes the daily commute a much more relaxed affair with a few key convenience factors and advanced driver aids available. Small interior touches and added safety goes a long way when you have to live with a car on a day to day basis, especially when carrying precious human cargo.
The Chevrolet Bolt feels like the weird crossover cousin of the Volt, and a lot of people want to know which one is the better car. First off, the Bolt is fully electric, meaning there is no gas engine for backup. This puts it at a slight disadvantage on the open road, but in and around town, the Bolt will outlast the Volt on a single charge and make living that all-electric life so much easier. The Bolt has a range of about 240 miles, nearly five times the electric reach of the Volt. The Bolt is shorter and higher than the Volt and offers better levels of headroom and cargo space. Although both Chevrolet vehicles share many of their standard features, the overall styling of the Bolt will attract a younger market, while the understated Volt should appeal to more mature folk who want a down to earth commuter that's easy on the pocket, and the environment.
The Prius must be one of, if not the most, popular hybrid cars on the market today. It might not be as glamorous as a Tesla, but people know that it's efficient, reliable, and is one of the best virtue-signaling weapons out there. The Prius Prime starts at a relatively low $27,300, and the range-topper will set you back $33,300; a slight problem for the Volt, which only starts at $32,220. Despite weighing more or less the same, the Prius, with a larger gas engine and a 121 hp electric motor, manages to decimate the Volt in terms of gas mileage figures, returning 55/53/54 mpg city/highway/combined. Summarised, though, the Prius just doesn't feel as grown-up as the Volt, nor is it as enjoyable to drive. Still, both are as safe as houses. The Prius remains the king of efficiency with segment-dominating gas mileage, but the Volt is streets ahead in terms of being the more comfortable car for the daily grind.