Electric Vehicles Chevy Volt

Published on May 23rd, 2016 | by Steve Hanley

The 2017 Chevy Volt: Final Wrap Up

May 23rd, 2016 by  
 

My week with the 2017 Chevy Volt has come to an end. The lads from Chevrolet are coming to pick it up today. I will be sad to see it leave my driveway. Here’s my final assessment of the Volt:

This is a brilliant car. Chevrolet engineers have done an awesome job making a technologically advanced automobile that will appeal to mainstream drivers.

Chevy Volt

The Chevy Volt works beautifully. The power is plentiful, the transition from battery to generator mode is seamless, the handing is the equal of any 4 door production car on the market. The car is also a visual treat. The restyled exterior and interior got rave reviews from everyone while I had it. On Saturday, I drove by some prepubescent youths playing on a sidewalk. They turned to gawk at the Volt and one called out, “Hey, nice car, mister!” I don’t get comments like that when I drive my Honda Civic.

The Volt is the right car at the right time. We all know that electric cars are the wave of the future, but let’s be honest. The electric cars you can buy today are not precisely what mainstream shoppers want. Their range is too short. They cost too much money. Resale values are poor compared to the Honda Civics and Toyota Corollas that are the gold standard of the used car world.

Changes are coming. Breakthroughs in battery technology and cost are happening almost daily. Electric cars today are like personal computers in the 80s. Improvements are happening all the time, but the journey from Apple II to the MacBook Pro took several decades to complete. I think the same can be said about electric cars.

Will the Chevy Volt be the answer for car buyers in 2035? No. But it is the answer for car buyers in 2016. It looks like a normal car. It drives like a normal car. If you have an available 110 volt outlet in your garage, you can drive the car every day on battery power alone and recharge it overnight. No need to pay an electrician to hook up a high-power charger.

We all get excited about new technology, but we want our cars to feel familiar when we get behind the wheel. The Chevy Volt looks, acts, and drives like a normal car. That’s important for Mr. and Mrs. America and it’s an important milestone on the way to our electric car future.

The Chevy Volt eliminates range anxiety completely while empowering people to drive with no tailpipe emissions the majority of the time. As wonderful as the cars from Tesla are, they require drivers to take one extra step that drivers of ordinary cars do not. They need to plan when and where they will charge when away from home. For some, that adds a measure of engagement with the driving process that they find enjoyable. They feel like pioneers, out on the cutting edge of change.

For most of us, the thrill of being actively involved in driving has long since faded. We want to get in the car, go where we need to go, and get home when we want, with no drama, worries, or cares. That’s precisely where the Chevy Volt shines. It has one foot in the future and one foot in today. It cossets its passengers in comfort but demands nothing from them in return. There is no reason not to like this car. It opens up the world of electric cars to regular car buyers and that is its greatest strength.

Is the Chevy Volt perfect? No, it is not. I found some things to quibble about during my week with the car. The structural member that supports the rear hatch is too far forward. It intrudes into the headroom available for rear-seat passengers. The enormous hatch is great for carrying bulky items, but I would put a higher priority on passenger comfort than the ability to fit a major appliance into the back of the car. A smaller hatch would work just fine.

The power button on the dash is located in the wrong position. For me, it was totally blocked from my line of sight by the right side of the steering wheel. I found many of the buttons on the steering wheel of my fully loaded car confusing and not intuitive. I am not a big fan of touchscreens. I know they are all the rage today, thanks to the Tesla Model S, but I find they require me to take my eyes off the road more than is prudent. I think that can lead to distracted driving almost as much as texting does.

My biggest complaint is with the Chevrolet marketing department. In yesterday’s story about taking the Volt to an autocross, one person commented that I did more marketing for the Volt in one day than the company has done in 5 years. If it were up to me, I would have a Volt parked outside the front door of every Chevy dealer. That way, everyone who goes in or out could see it, touch it, and ask questions about it.

I would also introduce a YouTube channel exclusively for the Volt. A few well produced videos would help demystify the Volt for a lot of people. I went to YouTube this morning to see what was available. There is nothing from Chevrolet. Some of the videos from independent reviewers were up to 5 years old. The only good recent video I found was done by Burien Chevrolet in Washington state. After it, another video loaded by some clod named JiminiVids, who started off by listing several reasons why he hates the Volt. The video is actually quite useful, but most viewers will click out of it after the first 30 seconds of his negative diatribe.

Chevrolet seems to have some corporate ambivalence about the Volt. They spent tons of money making a great car but seem reluctant to tell anyone about it. They treat it like a brilliant but socially inept uncle who has to be kept locked in the attic. This is a great car, Chevrolet. You should be singing its praises from the highest mountain tops. Instead, you are hiding one of your brightest lights under a bushel. Why?





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About the Author

I have been a car nut since the days when Rob Walker and Henry N. Manney, III graced the pages of Road & Track. Today, I use my trusty Miata for TSD rallies and occasional track days at Lime Rock and Watkins Glen. If it moves on wheels, I'm interested in it. Please follow me on Google + and Twitter.



  • Ash45

    Nice review. Hope you plan to buy one in the near future. I think I might get one of them as well even though I already have a 2014 Volt.

  • Great review, I feel the same way about the Volt, it is a great electric car for 2016.

    The power button has a funny history. Gen 1 has it in a lot better spot, but combined with the mode change button, allowing switching between sport, mountain, and hold modes, people would sometimes switch without looking. This resulted in hitting the power button multiple times on accident, which turned off the car. The car couldn’t be restarted unless in neutral (or park), and it is hard to see the message when you are panicking trying to start the car again, so I think they moved it to eliminate that risk 😉

    • Steve Hanley

      Thanks for that background. Didn’t know that.

    • bioburner

      One button for Start/Stop and Mode change? That sounds like asking for trouble. Glad they changed it to 2 separate buttons!! I was wondering why the mode button was on the console and not the dash board.

      • They were separate, just right next to each other.

      • Andrew Doolittle

        Good point. Sorry about being negative about the review but driving is in fact “the chore” unlike what the author implies. This is what makes the Tesla brand a standout…meaning the automobile can literally and perhaps safely drive you. The Chevy Volt is not a standout in the looks department either. The author contradicts himself in his own review when he makes that claim actually…so this is a bad review.

        Period.

    • James

      Best position that I have encountered for the power button is in the Kia Soul EV. It is located to the upper left of the shift knob on the console. Easy to see and optionally press with the right index finger or thumb.

  • I really appreciate this series of articles about the 2017 Chevrolet Volt.

    Is it really any surprise that automobile corporations make alternative propulsion technology but don’t advertise them? The only thing that actually brings change is people-power, we have to purchase these types of vehicles.

  • Busan VeggieFest

    Why does everyone keep hassling brilliant but socially inept (unmarried) uncles these days?! If anyone, they’re the ones most likely to be open to the “step into the future” described here…

  • ViperMav

    Very nice series of articles, Steve – Road & Track, Autoweek and others should take notice – you did it right. You need to live with the Volt for awhile to truly appreciate the brilliance. Some get it immediately, for others it takes a few days. But there’s a reason the Volt has one of the highest satisfaction and net-promoter scores in history – it’s a car that you grow to love so much that you wonder what life was like before you had it.
    I’ve driven my Gen 1 Volt like a normal car every day for the last 2.5 years – the only difference is I charge whenever I can, mostly overnight in my garage. The net result is over 300 MPG average, which includes multiple 200+ mile road trips and even a 1500+ mile 1 week round trip. Oh, and I haven’t put gas in it since last July. But as you note, the beauty is that if I feel like driving to the West Coast tomorrow, I can just go. Electric when you want it, gas when you need it.
    I added a 2017 Volt to my garage a week ago – there’s no going back to pure gas-burners for us. It’s true what they say – once you go EV, you never go back!

    • Steve Hanley

      “the beauty is that if I feel like driving to the West Coast tomorrow, I can just go.”

      For those of us of a certain age, that thought has a powerful resonance. It was always the hallmark of a good car that it could take you to the Coast any time. It’s that Route 66 thing. Truly part of the American psyche.

  • Volt Owner

    As a early Volt adopter, IMO, the lack of advertising has everything to do with the Federal Tax Credit. GM does not want to be the only automaker that has run through their 200,000 (plus tapered extension) allotment of credits. Can you imagine if they had already sold 200.000 Volts and Spark EV’s? The price of the new Bolt would be way too high on it’s introduction, before the economies of scale had a chance to bring the initial costs down to reality.

    I think we should be badgering Congress to re-work the credit into a use-it-or-lose-it approach for the fence-sitters, and perhaps adding some incentives for those that get there first. Maybe double the allotment for the first companies to hit the original mark.

    Either way the Credit needs to be a point-of-sale rebate, instead of the way it’s structured now, since it is not all/not at all available to low income folks. The very ones we need to wean off the dirtiest old used vehicles.

    Next step is to come out with a pickup version. I’ve been waiting since ’97 when I was told that they would be available by 2000…

    • Amused Norn

      I utterly agree about the tax credits. Restructuring it so that there’s (for example) two million credits available and they’re all in one pot would change a lot of directions…

      • Volt Owner

        One pot sounds like a great idea, sort of the free market version of incentivizing manufacture of what we want/need to happen.

    • Radical Ignorant

      Disagree with your idea “they don’t sell it to leave credits”. In raw interpretation it’s like saying: “let’s not earn today what we can earn tomorrow”.
      But very well agree with your idea of “use it or loose it”. If this credit is to push innovation it should be like that.

  • guest

    Steve, thanks for the reviews. I drive a 2009 Civic EX-L (and considering the Volt for my next car). How would you compare the two just from a driving standpoint (I know about the saving energy standpoint); e.g., fun to drive, blindspot issues, etc?

    • Steve Hanley

      I can actually speak to that with some authority as my wife had a 2008 Civic EX-L for 6 years. Some impressions: Volt has less rear seat headroom and leg room. Outward visibility about the same. (Very good in both cases.) Volt has a HUGE hatchback

      Performance with the Volt is a notch above that from the Honda. Faster off the line. Need to speed up on the highway to get to an opening in traffic? The Volt does it in a blink of an eye — no waiting for downshifting and no engine roar. Just serene power when you need it. I would rate the Volt suspension a notch above the Civic as well.

      On balance, the Volt is every bit the equal of the Honda. Better at some things, not better at others. Going to the gas station much less frequently is a big plus.

      That being said, my bride recently acquired a lightly used 2013 Civic Si. That’s a whole different conversation!

  • Steven M. Baer

    Good article. You are correct about lack of marketing. My two local dealers do not have demo cars. I have registered my interest in the Volt there and told them to call me when they have a demo car. I will not order without a test drive. (I am about 250 miles from a dealer who can demo.) Why doesn’t GM have a rotating demo fleet that will come to an area to let users see and try it? We have a big car show here in November. Would GM consider bringing demo cars here, like BMW does? They need to hire some Lexus or BMW marketeers.

    • michaelnola

      My understanding is you can register with Chevy on line to test drive a Volt. I drove one at a dealer and the effortless, quiet power is pleasing.

      I’ll be buying one late in the year, since I want to wait as little as possible for the tax credit.

      • gd540

        Wait for the tax credit? Buy the car. Reduce your tax withholding. Voila, instant tax credit and cash in your pocket!

    • Steve Hanley

      Hello, Mary Barra? Can you answer this? Have tweeted a link to this story this morning. Stay tuned……..

  • Bill Harrison

    Great discussion of the car and the frustration of those of us in the “convert” class who would like to see the car marketed well. I’ve always been a Consumer Reports fan, but their Prius envy seems to trump their objectivity when looking at the Volt which is a superior vehicle to the Prius in virtually every way (except cars sold). Time for you to dump the civic and join the clan!

    • gd540

      Ten days ago I bought a Volt. My trade in was a Prius. The Volt is superior to the Prius in nearly every respect.
      “Prius envy”. LOL. Love it.

  • Blumbo

    Recently, I stopped by a Chevy dealership to inquire about the 2017 Volt and when it might be expected, and did they have any literature on the car. The 30 something year old salesman looked at me quizzically and informed me that the Volt would not come out until 2020 and it would be a “very economical diesel”.

    Need I say more? Why is this man working for a Chevy Dealer or any dealer. Might this person be better off working in the Jail Bond trade?

    • Radical Ignorant

      Because “this is America”. Chevy don’t control dealers. That’s small part of the story. Sure they could educate them. But this guy sounds from your description like he has no idea what he is doing. And this just resonate with Tesla vs dealership midel debate.

    • CoryStansbury

      Did you educate him? Or did you walk away in disgust? I think I would have spoken to the dealer owner and asked why he employs such imbeciles.

  • Radical Ignorant

    Thank you for this series of articles. I enjoyed it a lot. And you are right. It’s scare to read anything except Tesla in this area.
    Step 1 – Prius – gas + small help from electric motor
    Step 2 – Volt – electric + help from gas motor
    Step 3 – Tesla – full electric.
    I totaly agree that there is a decade or more great market opportunity for Volt like cars.

  • Fran

    Nice series Steve. I drive a 2014 Volt and only now hitting 11,000 miles. It is quite different from the car you drove but as has been said once you drive it for a few days you begin to understand the difference. My wife and I still smile when we get in. Never had that feeling before.
    On the Federal Credit debacle…We retired last year and will likely never be eligible for the credit again. That will keep us in our current model for a very long time! All they have to do is something along the lines of Colorado’s new regulations (if I’m understanding them correctly). It is still a “credit” but can be held by the dealer, applied to your purchase immediately. No wait for taxes or wondering if you can use it. The dealer can certainly use it, you get $7500 off the loan right there. That allows folks like me and many, many others who want in but don’t have the tax burden to offset. This is keeping thousands in rust buckets and ICE mobiles when they desire a step into the future.

  • Koenigsegg

    GM so dumb. Cant wait to own a Tesla once my Volt is done.

  • Lynne Whelden

    I want the Volt to be a roaring success, I really do.
    But this is why I’m leaning towards the Toyota plug-in Prius Prime.

    One–MAINTENANCE. At least my local, small town mechanic stands a fighting chance of fixing the gas side of a Prius. Not so with the Volt’s gas generator. You have to take it to a qualified GM dealer, which is an hour away from here. God forbid if you have problems on a long drive in the hinterlands of America.
    Two–COLD. Six months out of the year, it’s either cool or downright cold where I live in northcentral PA. To have to choose between being warm vs. eking out more electron-driven miles seems, well, so primitive, like something a caveman from a post-apocalypic world would have to deal with.
    Three–NUMBERS. My (limited) research shows that the gas side of the Volt tops out at 42 mpg with an onerous 15-minute warm-up period that begins in the mid-30 mpg range. My 2003 Toyota Echo (300K miles on the odometer), rated at 38 mpg, always delivers much better mileage, summer or winter. In fact, on a 900-mile trip to NH last week I got….get this….50 mpg. I have to believe the Toyota Prime’s gas numbers will also be in the amazing 60-70+ mpg range. (The battery will probably deliver more than 30 miles too.)
    Four, the JUST DRIVE factor. As Steve noted with the Volt, you’re presented with dials and menus and symbols that don’t make sense to the uninitiated (or to clueless sales people, as I found out.) You therefore have this uneasy feeling you could coax even better numbers out of the vehicle…if you are one of the chosen few who knows “the inside story, the mechanics, the engineering.” The Prime, heck, you just climb in and off you go.
    Someone, please tell me I’m wrong! I really do want to love (and buy) the Volt.

    • Steve Hanley

      Can’t tell you you’re wrong. No car will meet the needs of all drivers. You have to choose the one that works best for the your needs and those of your family.

      All I can say is that I am a former Prius owner — and want no part of another one. For me, a CVT is a deal breaker. Hated it from the first day I had my Prius. Hated it every day until I got rid of it three years later.

      Your mileage may vary. See dealer for details! ; – )

      • Lynne Whelden

        We have different philosophies about driving, I’m sure.
        To me a car is simply four wheels and a motor. I have no idea what people are talking about when they mention “driving experience.”
        My concern–maximum efficiency coupled with reliability at the least expense.
        So “CVT” doesn’t even register with me. (Don’t worry, I’m only visiting this planet!)
        For what it’s worth, the Prime’s projected MPGe is 120, they say the highest in its category.

    • Matt Hardy

      1. The gas side of the Volt is no more complex than the gas side of a Prius.
      2. Cold affects all cars. Gas cars get lower MPG and electric cars get lower miles per charge. Hybrids will burn more fuel when the weather is cold.
      3. I have no idea what you mean by a 15 minute warm up. My 2013 Volt returns 38 mpg in city traffic (in gas mode) with the AC blasting. It does better under ideal conditions, as all cars do.
      4. The Volt definitely is a “just get in and drive”, if you want it to be. Just drive and enjoy the silence and the savings. You can micro-manage the Volt if you want, but there’s really no need.

      • Lynne Whelden

        I’m only reporting what I read on chat rooms. Someone had gone to the trouble of measuring his Volt’s gas mpg in the cold. After 15 minutes it was up around 42 but it had started out at around 36.

        Because everything gets dragged down by cold, having high mpg numbers to begin with (50s) are a good thing for sure.

        I’m not a mechanic so I can’t comment on whether I would be confident in fixing a Volt vs. a Prius engine.

    • JD234

      If you aren’t aiming to drive the Volt mainly on battery, you definitely shouldn’t get one. It is primarily an electric car, that you can also seamlessly use on longer trips when needed. Given that it is mainly intended to be driven on battery, the mpg rating is largely irrelevant. If you are doing huge numbers of long-range trips, you’re better off with a pure hybrid; if not, then the efficiencies under pure electric for most PHEVs are pretty much the same. If you plan to drive 22 or fewer miles a day, then battery capacity doesn’t matter much between the cars. But if your daily commute plus side trips is more than 22 miles, that’s a big advantage for the Volt.

      Regarding drive, both encourage obsession, and both are best driven by ignoring all of that. I myself prefer the Volt because it has much better acceleration.

      Regarding cold, that affects both (and indeed all) cars about the same. Regarding maintenance, if you have folks who can repair one but no one who can repair the other, that’s a definite — if somewhat unusual — issue. That said, neither car seems to require much in the way of maintenance.

      • Lynne Whelden

        “Aye, there’s the rub.”
        Your pragmatism is appreciated.
        Yes, my “round-trips” are 90 miles, which doesn’t fit neatly into either the Prime (22) or the Volt (53) world.
        Such is the state of the art in the year 2016. (And no, I’m not ready for all-electric.)

        • Lynne Whelden

          A final thought….electric cars, like all cutting-edge technology, will become out-dated quickly. This year’s “large” battery will be tomorrow’s antique.
          Since I’ve always held onto my cars for ten years or more, it’s not likely I would be trading in a vehicle any time soon. Although the Prime’s battery is small in comparison to the Volt, the ICE is probably as good as it’s ever going to get. That thought will nurse me through the next few years with at least a tiny measure of “contentment.”
          Then again, are we ever contented with a car?

          • JD234

            Yeah, cars had been pretty stable for the last 20 years, pretty much since the Toyota reliability revolution. But now they’ve entered a period of rapid obsolescence as self-driving and battery tech simultaneously take off. Which is fun for personal gadgets, but a bit less fun for $30K vehicles that are supposed to last a decade. For us, obsolete or not the Volt battery will still do a work commute, which is the main goal; but it’s a bit unfun to watch the new ones already coming out with adaptive cruise control and the like. Ah well; the price of progress.

  • James

    Great review Steve.
    Please join the EV revolution soon with a PHEV or BEV. Every 100% ICE car is another “nail in the biosphere’s coffin”

  • Why do you think it never needs maintenance? LOL!!!!

  • WHR

    Steve: I am seriously considering buying a 2017 Volt in a few months. Did you get a chance to drive on at interstate speeds after the battery was discharged and the gas engine was doing most of the work. If so, how was the performance for passing, going up hills, etc.?

  • sme1974

    Love my 2013 Volt but the battery drainage in winter is too much (even for Georgia weather), they need to incorporate a heat pump into this car which would make it SUPER GREAT!!

  • Lito Tongson

    under what conditions does the gas engine drive the wheels?

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