2017 Chevrolet Volt Premier Review

This is the best plugin hybrid for the money


Wade Thiel, Senior Staff Writer



Positives: Prodigious electric range, tight steering, surprising acceleration, little body roll, comfortable seats and a great infotainment system.
Negatives: Can feel a little cramped (especially in the back seats), Chevy claims passenger capacity of five but four is more realistic, still some hard plastics in the interior, gasoline engine sounds like a lawnmower.
Bottom Line: The Chevrolet Volt is a very good plugin hybrid and probably the best option out there if you want the cost savings and clean operation of an electric car but still need to take long trips. It's an affordable option with plenty of technology and some seriously nice seats, amenities and road manners. Having said all that, Chevrolet did cheap out on some of the interior materials and larger drivers might feel a little claustrophobic due to the Volt's tight interior. For the right person, this is a perfect car.
 View Our 2017 Chevrolet Volt Overview
We’ve come to realize that Chevrolet makes excellent cars. The Malibu and the Cruze are two of the best examples. They surprise most people who haven’t driven a Chevy in a while. The Volt is cut from the same cloth. While it’s a drastically different vehicle than the Malibu and Cruze it features similar build quality and what feels like a focused mission. The Volt puts most other plug-in hybrids to shame. It boasts longer electric range, doesn’t look like a weird space car and drives wonderfully.

Earlier in the year, we got to take the Volt for a short spin and really liked the experience. We could recognize that Chevrolet has something in the Volt. Recently, we were able to borrow a 2017 Volt for a full week to see what the car is really all about. Here’s what we found.
 

Driving Experience

8.9

 

We were surprised by how much we enjoyed driving the Chevrolet Volt. It’s a solid car with good, well-weighted steering and a firm ride with little body roll. We didn’t expect it to feel as sporty as it did, and the drive modes seriously alter how the car handles itself on the road. Sport mode is genuinely sporty and normal mode is focused on comfort and smoothness.

One of the best features of the Volt is its hold mode. This allows you to save the battery charge for situations where you’ll get the most out of it, like in the city. That means you don’t have to burn up all your battery as soon as you unplug the car and leave your garage. It’s a simple concept that makes a lot of sense for a plugin hybrid.

Ride Quality: The surprisingly stiff ride of the car reminds us more of a European car than a Chevy. It’s stiff without being jarring and even large bumps don’t rattle the car much at all.

Acceleration: There’s good acceleration in normal driving mode. In sport mode the car shoots off the line a lot faster than you’d expect. This isn’t a tepid hybrid car. You can actually have a little fun with it.

Braking: The brakes feel a little mushy thanks to the regenerative braking function but, once you learn to push on them hard enough, you realize they’re pretty powerful. They do a good job of bringing the Volt to a halt without feeling grabby.

Steering: Well-weighted and precise. The small diameter steering wheel and the tight steering make the Volt feel almost go-kart like at times. It is genuinely fun to drive at any speed.

Handling: We didn’t expect the Volt to handle nearly as good as it did. There’s minimal body roll and the car feels remarkably well balanced. It’s fun to drive hard, but just as enjoyable when you’re not.

Technology

8.8

 

While the powertrain technology is what’s most impressive about the Volt, there’s plenty of additional technology in the interior of the car. The infotainment system, digital speedometer and vehicle information display and all of the additional controls are well integrated into the steering wheel and dash. There’s a lot of features and they all feel easily accessible and controllable.

The car has automatic climate control, efficiency displays, cruise control, Bluetooth wireless connectivity, 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot capability, a couple of USB ports, OnStar, and a plethora of safety features. Chevy really went full hog on the tech in this vehicle and they’ve made it so nothing is difficult to use.

Infotainment System:The 8-inch infotainment system functioned flawlessly and features Chevrolet MyLink radio and Apple CarPlay. Screen resolution was high and plenty large enough for the cabin.

Controls: Apart from the dial/joystick controls found in some premium brands and Mazdas, the Volt’s controls are some of the best we’ve seen. There’s a near perfect mix of buttons and touchscreen controls and everything is intuitive and simple.

Bluetooth Pairing: Pairing a phone via Bluetooth was simple and reconnecting automatic upon re-entry.

Voice Call Quality: Call quality was clear and loud. Both sides could hear the other without any issues.

Styling

7.6

 

We like the Volt’s styling because it actually looks like a car, not some weird lozenge thing or some dumb space car that so many electric or hybrid cars appear to be. We don’t get why automakers think they have to make an electric or hybrid car look so different and ugly *cough* Prius *cough*. The Volt may have its rear end sticking up a little high and an odd kind of hatchback shape when compared with other, more conventional cars, but for the most part, it fits right in with the rest of Chevrolet’s lineup.

Front: The Volt’s fascia resembles a cross between the Cruze and the Malibu. It has similarly shaped headlights, hood and grille, without looking too derivative. It’s attractive and unique and not too sporty or too pedestrian.

Rear: The rear is more polarizing. The top of the hatchback sitting up high and some angles and layers making the back a little too busy for our taste, but it’s still attractive and far from anything as vomitous as the Prius’s hind parts.

Profile: In profile, your eye tracks along the smooth roofline and down to the abrupt end on the rear. The few character lines on the side of the car make it a bit more interesting without doing too much.

Cabin: The inside of the first generation Volt looked like some old Mac computer that was controlled by a steering wheel. It was ugly and the touch-based controls poorly executed. The new interior of the Volt is handsome and makes perfect sense. There’s a lot of leather and soft-touch materials, technology is integrated in a smart and attractive way.

Comfort

7.9

 

From a comfort standpoint, the Volt receives high marks. Ergonomically, everything is where it should be and the oddness of the previous generation is gone. There’s leather or soft-touch material on most of the surfaces you’ll usually touch, and the seats are clad in softer leather than we expected. There’s still hard plastic on many surfaces, but overall Chevrolet has done a good job of padding the things that matter.

Large drivers and passengers may feel cramped. There’s enough leg room, but not tons and hip room is likely tight for wider individuals. We’d describe the cabin of the Volt as cozy. The seats are nice and everything’s easy to reach, but it can feel tight at times.

Front Seats: The front seats feature nice cushioning and plenty of bolstering and adjustment. They’re comfortable for long drives and offer enough leg room.

Rear Seats: The rear seats are well-padded and bolstered and comfortable for two people. Leg room is limited. Cramming three passengers in the rear seat isn’t comfortable and we really only see this as a four person car.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): Chevy has built a solid vehicle. We never felt unwanted vibrations or noises and it’s extremely smooth when operating solely on battery power. When the gas engine kicks in, it can be a little annoying, but it’s never jarring. It’s no more annoying than any other hybrid car.

Visibility: Visibility is good out of the front and sides, but the rear visibility is difficult. Luckily the rear-view camera and sensors help a lot in parking situations.

Climate: Climate controls in the Volt are easy to reach and operate and quickly cool off or heat up the cabin as needed.

Safety

8

 

The NHTSA and the IIHS have not yet rated the 2017 or 2016 Chevrolet Volt for safety yet. The 2015 model year received high ratings from both organizations, with the NHTSA awarding the car five-stars overall and the IIHS giving the vehicle a Top Safety Pick rating. Since that time Chevrolet has only improved the safety technology available for the car, so we would expect ratings to be high for the 2017 model.

IIHS Rating: The IIHS has not yet rated this vehicle.

Standard Tech: Several airbags, ABS, stability control, traction control, pedestrian safety signal, rear vision camera, tire pressure monitor and automatic parking assist.

Optional Tech: Lane keep assist, low-speed front automatic braking, forward collision alert, rear cross traffic alert and side blind zone alert with lane change alert.

Storage/Cargo

7.3

 

Storage space in the Volt is adequate. The tight nature of the interior doesn’t lend itself to cavernous storage spaces, but the trunk area of the hatchback, door pockets, center console and glovebox all provide room to stow away items. The Volt isn’t the perfect ride for a packrat, but it’s fine for most people.

Storage Space: The center console offers a reasonable amount of storage space for your phone and other items you might not want to keep in your pockets or need to reach quickly. For other things, the glove box and door pockets work just fine.

Cargo Room: The cargo space is larger than we thought it’d be, though other cars will put the Volt’s modest cargo area of 10.6 cubic feet to shame.

Fuel Economy

9.4

 

One of the main reasons many people will purchase the Volt is fuel economy. The Volt offers an excellent package for those who are interested in an efficient vehicle. The EPA estimates the total range of the plugin hybrid to be around 420 miles. That’s if you started with a full battery and full gas tank and drove until empty. However, few will do this, and Chevy expects most people who purchase the Volt will get over 1,000 miles between gas tank fill-ups because they can recharge the battery every night. After a weeks’ worth of driving the Volt, we think that’s definitely possible, especially if you don’t go beyond the 53 miles the battery is rated at very often.

Observed: We managed to get 66.3 miles out of the fully charged battery. After that, we observed an average fuel efficiency of about 31 mpg.

Driving Factors: When in electric mode we drove only in the city at speeds under 45 miles per hour. The outside temperature was not extremely hot or cold and we left the regenerative braking on. Basically, the conditions were nearly perfect to maximize our electric range. We drove in similar conditions once the battery was fully depleted but pushed the car harder, especially on twisty roads.

Audio

8

 

The Bose premium 8-speaker audio system in our test vehicle is available on the LT trim level of the Volt but comes standard in the Premier trim level. The system functions wonderfully, providing powerful sound, both high and low, with clarity. While we haven’t experienced the standard 6-speaker system in the LT trim level version of this car, we expect that the Bose system is far superior.



Overall the Chevrolet Volt is a truly impressive vehicle and a smart way to reduce the amount of money you spend on gas, in spite of the fact that gas prices are pretty stinkin' low right now. While the vehicle’s cost can seem rather high for a car of this size, its price is warranted due to its excellent driving characteristics and the technology equipped. The Volt probably isn’t for everyone, but for the right person, it could be perfect.
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