2012 Chevrolet Volt new car reviews

There are two fuel doors on the Volt: One for gas, one for electrons.

Better than: Toyota Prius
But not as good as: Saturn EV1
GRM Bang For The Buck Index: 54.28

For about a hundred years, pretty much every mass-produced automobile was powered by fossil fuels. You could take your pick: gas or diesel? More options joined the list in the last decade, however, including gas-electric hybrid propulsion, compressed natural gas, all-electric and even hydrogen.

Chevy's much-publicized Volt is another alternative to burning dead dinosaurs, and this one adds another option: It can cover up to 35 or so miles as a pure electric vehicle or go into a gas-electric hybrid mode and travel more than 300 miles before needing a fill-up.

The swap from electric to gas power, as we found, is seamless. Basically you just drive it like a normal car.

Also, a word about pricing: Base MSRP on the Volt is $40,280, but that's not including the federal tax savings of up to $7500. Only a few options are available, including floor mats ($99), a cargo net ($45) and a car cover ($350). While 17-inch forged wheels are standard, they can come in a polished finish for an additional $595.

Note: We need to change our online form to get the specs for the Volt to match up exactly. Much like our now-antiquated HTML code, the Volt's new technology is a wild card in EPA test procedures. Using current methods, the Volt is rated for the equivalent of 93 mpg in electric mode and 37 mpg in gas-only mode. Those numbers don't really tell the story, though, so make sure to check out the video to get our take on what these numbers mean in the real world.

Other staff views

Tom Heath Tom Heath
UberDork

Okay, so it isn't the Mini or VW Beetle for a new age, but it's a very important car in any case. I anticipate seeing more products in this category as time and technology move forward, because the Volt does represent a viable transportation alternative for many commuters. Hopefully the price point for this technology trickles down to the point where plebeians like me can afford them as well. I'm also not afraid to admit that the decidedly American Volt pushes my "patriot" button. Keep 'em coming, Detroit!

Where the Volt really impressed me is in it's driving manners. Like the commercials say, it's more car than electric, especially from the driver's seat. Even with the newer, more innovative technology the Volt feels more comfortable and better suited to my needs than a Prius. On the other hand, a economy car from present day like the Honda Fit, Mazda2, Hyundai Accent or Ford Fiesta will cost a fraction of what you'd pay for a Volt and be more fun to drive at the same time. For me, a plug-in automotive future is still some time away—but it's gotten much, much closer after driving the Volt.

David S. Wallens David S. Wallens
Editorial Director

Today's modern automobile follows more than a century of innovation and evolution. I don't expect the GM Volt to nail every single detail right out of the gate. However, if this is the future for the masses, then this might be a viable alternative--and a glimpse towards the future. Why? Some thoughts:

Being able to drive to and from work on just electricity definitely interests me, especially once we have the ability to generate power from wind, waves, sun, etc. I know that day isn't here just yet for most of us, but I can't blame GM for the fact that our powerplants largely still rely on fossil fuels.

I covered an entire day's travel--to and from work, going out to lunch, and even a trip to a ball game--without using a drop of fuel. I went about 20 miles on a little more than half of a battery charge. Now, what if we lived in a world where the electricity needed to power the Volt didn't come from coal? Progress, huh?

However, I definitely like the fact that the Volt can also run on gasoline. Why? Because I'm realistic and don't want to be tethered to home. While I only live six miles from the office--well within the Volt's comfort zone--I do like to travel.

We took the Volt up to my parents' house--about 300 miles in each direction. We covered the first 35 miles of the trip on straight electricity, and when the batteries were done the car seamlessly switched to gas power. On gas power we saw 43.9 mpg without really trying.

Considering this is a people-moving appliance, the driving experience isn't that bad. No, we're not going to ignore our Miatas and Corvettes for the Volt, but the Volt drives better than I figured.

When using straight electricity, it's smooth and quiet. The hybrid drive is smoother than other cars on the market and, again, we have made huge strides in just the last 10 years. What will the 2020 Volt be like? The brakes seemed a bit grabby at first, but I got used to it.

I think it looks good, too, especially in that metallic red. Thanks, GM, for not making it look too futurey.

If I have one gripe, it's the center controls. I wish it had regular buttons vs. the control panel-type thing. There's little to no sensory imputs as you move your fingers across the HVAC and sound system controls. As a result, it's way too easy to change the radio station when you simply wanted more air conditioning. Give it real controls, please.

I know there has been plenty of enthusiast backlash against the Volt, and here's my take: So far, no one has forced me to buy one. Too expensive? Fine, let's see what the free market dictates.

Alan Cesar FartSmeller69
SuperDork

While it's comfortable, has good visibility, and drives like a regular car, I take issue with its center control stack. That its buttons are all touch-sensitive is a neat high-tech touch, but it's practically impossible to feel your way to the right controls. Scanning your hand across the button panel means you touch every single button on your way to the right one. I don't know how well this arrangement would work with gloves on, either.

A smaller gripe is that the brakes are very touchy at low speeds. Maneuvering it carefully into a parking spot is a herky-jerky proposition, though I imagine owners would get used to its sensitivity rather quickly.

Those things said, the car packs a lot of technology in a seamless package. The world was skeptical that General Motors could even make this vehicle when they proposed it; many were afraid it would forever taint the image of electric and hybrid cars if it was a buggy, unreliable failure. It's too early to measure its real-world reliability, but the Volt's future looks promising indeed.

Tim Suddard Tim Suddard
Publisher

I drove it only briefly, but was surprised how much it felt like a regular car. To me, it didn’t feel like a great, engaging car, but it didn’t feel like other hybrids either. There was none of the jerkiness I typically associate with hybrids on the Volt. I think this is a major step forward in modern automobiles.

Joe Gearin Joe Gearin
Associate Publisher

The Volt seems to stir emotions more than any car in recent memory.

"The Volt is the most important car in the history of GM!"

"The Volt is a pretentious car that only makes sense if you want to smugly look down on others!"

As usual, the truth lies somewhere in between.

I enjoyed my short time with the Volt. It looks sharp, has a very comfortable (and eerily quiet) interior, and operates like a regular car. Although it isn't a race car, it is as pleasant to drive as a petrol-powered appliance. It isn't slow, it isn't a wallowing pig in the corners, and it goes about its business in a completely acceptable way.

The kicker about this appliance is that if you have a relatively short commute, you can transport yourself without using any gas. Some states offer huge subsidies for wind and solar power. This makes it feasible that with a home wind generator, you could go "off the grid" for your transportation needs. While this may not make sense to everyone, it is amazing to consider.

Although critics claim that a Volt is less "green" than other cars because plugging it in makes it a "coal-powered" car, these attacks are shortsighted. What the Volt represents is a start, the first step in a transportation alternative.

Critics say cars like the Volt would crash the power grid and create more pollution than they save, as coal-powered plants are still the norm. This may be true if everyone in the U.S. was driving a Volt and plugging it in every night. No, the Volt isn't the answer for 100 percent of Americans. It may be the answer for 15 percent of Americans, though.

We may not be able to wean ourselves completely off oil, but by using cars like this Volt, a future with 5 percent or 10 percent less dependance on foreign oil is pretty appealing.

GM is on a roll, and this Volt is proof that there are still some pretty smart folks up there in Detroit.

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David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/10/13 12:00 a.m.

For about a hundred years, pretty much every mass-produced automobile was powered by fossil fuels. You could take your pick: gas or diesel? More options joined the list in the last decade, however, including gas-electric hybrid propulsion, compressed natural gas, all-electric and even hydrogen.

Chevy's much-publicized Volt is another alternative to burning dead dinosaurs, and this one adds another option: It can cover up to 35 or so miles as a pure electric vehicle or go into a gas-electric hybrid mode and travel more than 300 miles before needing a fill-up.

The swap from electric to gas power, as we found, is seamless. Basically you just drive it like a normal car.

Also, a word about pricing: Base MSRP on the Volt is $40,280, but that's not including the federal tax savings of up to $7500. Only a few options are available, including floor mats ($99), a cargo net ($45) and a car cover ($350). While 17-inch forged wheels are standard, they can come in a polished finish for an additional $595.

Note: We need to change our online form to get the specs for the Volt to match up exactly. Much like our now-antiquated HTML code, the Volt's new technology is a wild card in EPA test procedures. Using current methods, the Volt is rated for the equivalent of 93 mpg in electric mode and 37 mpg in gas-only mode. Those numbers don't really tell the story, though, so make sure to check out the video to get our take on what these numbers mean in the real world.

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