The 2017 version of the General Motors Volt hybrid will not turn heads at the mall and the neighbors will pay little notice save for the charge cord on the driveway if it’s not parked in the garage. But it is getting more attractive with age. It’s actually been 6 model years now with the Volt and it received its first makeover for the second generation 2016 model year. Hybrids and EV’s have always had design challenges that show up in some pretty clumsy and awkward looking ways but those unsightly compromises have largely disappeared with the new Volt.
The real beauty to the Volt is under the skin. It’s easy to fall in love with this car in one drive. It’s a car with a surprisingly smooth and obviously quiet ride in ev mode. The handling is great and you won’t have any issues with acceleration. Best of al, its electric range has increased to up to 85 kilometers on a charge. That kind of range falls within or covers a good portion of the daily commute for many customers without the ‘range anxiety’ experienced by full electric vehicle owners on longer trips.
The market share for pure EV’s is still low single digits but it’s clear that’s the way we’re heading. We’re just not there yet with both consumers and infrastructure which makes the Volt a very compelling option for the present.
How Does it Work?
The fossil fuel half of this car has more horsepower than the original 1, 4 litre and takes regular gas. GM calls the 1.5-liter engine a “range extender. How does it all work? You plug into the Volt’s charging port with the standard charging cable into your garage 120 volt outlet. In 12 hours you’re fully charged but if you invest in a l240 volt Level 2 charging station it will fully charge in 90 minutes. However this also requires the cost of a professional install in your garage. As mentioned, depending on your driving habits you can drive green for up to 85 kilometers.
When the battery is done the gas engine smoothly takes over in Normal mode. That’s one of four different modes which can be changed with the Mode button below the shifter. Sport mode is just that giving you better performance but not so green. Mountain mode is supposed to be more efficient in hilly terrain while Hold mode switches to gas operation if you want to save what battery charge you have. I found this mode was great for highway driving when the gas engine is at its most efficient and then switching to electric when driving in town. Behind the steering wheel you will also find a ‘regen’ paddle that will slow you down like you are engine braking. This is a great little feature that provides aggressive regenerative braking to send energy/charge back to the battery. With your foot off the brake, squeezing this will bring you to almost a complete stop. It adds efficiency and saves your brakes! If you have passengers though give them a heads up because it slows you a lot faster than normal braking.
The Volt’s two electric motors work together to optimize that efficiency while providing great electric car torque. The gas engine is never driving the wheels – instead it’s generating electricity for the electric motors. You can monitor that process in the centre console screen.
Will Driving it Give You a Charge?
The handling is very confident as well. The big lithium ion battery keeps the centre of gravity nice and low on this car. It may compromise cargo space in this hatchback but it gives the Volt lots of stability.
While the base LT interior trim is quite average the cockpit is cozy and comfortable. Up front that is. There is not a lot of legroom in the back. This is one of the design compromises for hybrids forced to lug a big battery and engine. The raked design also limits rearview with a high trunk and an oversized pillar at the mirrors creating a bit of a blind spot. Blind spot monitoring is not a standard feature and should be. Still on the safety front, Volt does come with 10 airbags and a high res back up camera. In September the American Insurance Institute for Highway Safety announced the 2017 Volt qualifies for their highest award, the Top Safety Pick.
I mentioned earlier the on screen animations where you can monitor the powertrain. This is part of a the 8-inch MyLink infotainment touch screen. It’s beautiful to look at and easy to navigate. It supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Chevrolet’s own On Star based navigation system is only available as an option with the Premier edition but there are plenty of workarounds including On Star or the aforementioned Apple or Android auto apps. The LT still has lots of nifty tech on board including OnStar 4G LTE so the Volt can serve as a WiFi hotspot for several devices. The Volt also has GPS location based charging. A programmable ‘home’ setting takes advantage of off peak hydro rates when your home but starts charging immediately if you’re somewhere else.
No Price Shock with Electric Volt
With a base price $38,390.00 cdn the only option on my tester was the Siren Red Tintcoat for $455.00. After destination charges it checked out at $40545.00 but Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia have announced incentive programs. Ontario actually rewards Volt owners through its Electric Vehicle Incentive Program with a maximum rebate of $11,877.00 making this hybrid start to look really attractive. The program also offers an extra $1000,00 towards the installation of a home 240-volt charging station.
Yes, the Volt is a car you can fall in love with. Its shortcomings are few and the comfort, ride and EV capability of this car sans ‘range anxiety’ not to mention government incentives make it a great choice.
2017 Chevrolet Volt LT
As tested $40,545.00
Mileage Electricity/Gas combined 2.2 L/100km