The Chevy Volt, which made its debut in 2010, came to the market suffering from a Princess Complex: It got all the best GM could give it–money, design, government bail out money–but with such high expectations, the critics were not impressed. But as they say in the theater, don’t listen to the critics. This is a really cool car.
As eco cars go, it does not fit the mold: Its shape is more muscle car than electric or hybrid; it’s interior feel is more sporty and roomy than most in the compact or subcompact category. In fact, it is not far off from the feel of sitting in a ’70’s era Camaro: you see the car’s hood and feel the wheels hug the road as you drive (this can take some getting used to). And, as a money-saver at the gas pump, it does well: If you drive less than 35 miles between 10-hour charges you’ll only need gas to accelerate onto the highway: if you regularly charge the Volt, you could potentially drive 9,000 miles a year on electricity. But the gas engine isn’t bad, either. It’s EPA rating claims 37 miles to the gallon in the city and 40 MPG on the highway. With gas and electric combined, the Volt averages 94 miles to the gallon (It’s estimated that the average Volt driver drives 600 miles between fillups; battery-plus-gas-tank range is about 360 miles). Wow.
Chevrolet clearly had a lot of fun designing the Volt: Since the car doesn’t start with a guttural kick of the engine, they added a space-age swooshing sound as the electronics start up; they reinterpreted the Volt’s instrument panel so that nearly every detail is in the driver’s field of vision and instruments are digitally animations rather than dials or numbers (and they included a tutorial dial so you can easily see what each icon represents); and they included a touch screen media console that manages the audio, radio, phone and more.
Then, they gave the car’s interior a wish-list design: It has comfortable, cradling leather bucket seats–four of them! It has center consoles in front and back that hold cups and small items, it has three charge ports and a USB port. And its hatchback design creates an open feel to the cabin. The load floor is ample, and with the center seats folded down, it’s quite large; it can fit any number of things you might need to haul home.
Priced at $39,000, incentives and discounts have reduced the price by 25%
Why to Buy: Great mileage range for the plug-in charge; great gas mileage; muscle car appeal; fabulous interior cabin–sporty and sublime.
Best feature: We can’t decide between the awesome bucket seats and the animated instrument panel as the car powers up–it’s a very cool, futuristic feel.