Here’s all you really need to know about the Chevy Volt: it’s a car that you want to drive.
I used to have Prius envy, pretty much ever since my father got his in 2004. I rented them from Hertz at every available opportunity. There was something about the Prius that soothed my inner do-gooder while simultaneously getting rockin’ mileage on our long road trips. The Prius was not, however, a driver’s car. It wasn’t exciting or even particularly enjoyable. Its value came from the mileage alone, and in certain cases, that was enough.
The Volt is a completely different beast. It looks sleek. The doors are heavy. The seats feel substantial. It’s not the kind of car that was assembled with tissue paper and plastic to keep the weight down. It’s a solid, real car. My husband test drove and ordered the Volt without any involvement from me. The first time I sat in one was the day we picked it up from the dealership, so I really, truly had no idea what to expect. I’ve been pleasantly surprised.
Needless to say, I hadn’t had much chance to drive the new toy, so I was delighted when my husband left it behind while he headed east on a business trip. Three whole days of driving!
If you’re not familiar with the Volt, it operates exclusively on battery for approximately 40 miles before the gasoline backup kicks in. I say “approximately” because different factors apply to battery economy in the same way they apply to fuel economy. Heading uphill? That uses more power, just as it would with a gasoline engine. Using the air conditioner? More power. But for ordinary commuting and around-town driving, that battery has been more than enough.
In the week and a half that we’ve owned the car, total gasoline consumption has been… 0.7 gallons. There are close to 400 miles on the odometer.
On Monday, I took it out for my first real test drive, shuttling around on an array of errands. I drove short-haul trips all over the tri-valley area in unseasonable heat (the car’s thermostat said 107 mid-afternoon, but official reports were closer to 99) with the AC cranking all day. I drove a total of 34.5 miles and just drained the last of the battery as I was pulling into the driveway that evening. Zero gasoline consumption. Not bad at all.
Interesting and unusual features? The pedestrian horn. Because this car operates in complete silence, it comes equipped with a pedestrian horn mounted on the turn signal, enabling the driver to warn pedestrians with a little chirp-chirp of the horn. It sounds silly, but it’s extremely valuable in parking lots.
I also can’t overemphasize the importance of the rearview camera. Again, no one in a parking lot can hear the Volt start up. Being able to see what’s behind the car could literally save lives.
And, because the kiddo made me include this: “It’s super awesome that I can plug it in at the end of the day. I’m not allowed to play with the gasoline pump, but I can plug in the electrons.”
The drawbacks? Because the battery runs along the middle of the car, it’s a four-seater (two bucket seats in the back, just like the front). If you need that fifth seat, you’re out of luck. The kiddo loves it, however, because he can turn around and look out the back window; we get constant reports about the traffic behind us.
The only other drawback is the learning curve. The car is full of buttons; I’ve seen cockpits with fewer controls. Granted, you don’t really need most of them in normal everyday operations, but if you’re cruising along in traffic you’ll have a hard time figuring out how to change your climate controls or finding the navigation button. Obviously, that familiarity comes with time, but holy cow, it can be overwhelming.
Has anyone else driven the Volt? Let me know what you think.