Story and Photos by John Faulkner
We all know about hybrids, plug-in hybrids and pure, but please don’t lump them together. Doing so muddies the picture of the benefits and limitations of each technology and may result in some consumers giving up and retreating to the tried-and-true gasoline-only engine. Nothing wrong with gasoline-powered cars, but times are changing and the alternatives are becoming more prevalent and should be on your shopping list.
Case in point is the 2014which uses a plug-in battery and gasoline engine technology to deliver a smooth, quiet and comfortable driving experience that will most likely get you to work and back without buying any gasoline, but then can take you across the USA – all while delivering in excess of 40 mpg.
The front wheel drive 2014 Volt is powered by a 111 kW electric motor backed up with a 1.4L gasoline engine. The package delivers 98 MPGe in EPA testing. The “e” is for “equivalent” which is an EPA blended mileage using
gasoline and electric power. The gasoline engine alone is rated at 37 MPG combined highway and city. In my 1,160 miles, driven mostly on highways (remember, the EPA figures are based on 55 percent city driving and 45 percent highway), I got a very impressive 40.7 MPG. The 149 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque get the Volt to 60 mph in about 9 seconds, which is perfectly acceptable when driving Southern California freeways.
The Volt is a series hybrid, or in Chevrolet terms – a Range Extender. This is where the electric motor and the gasoline engine deliver all the power through the electric motor, whether directly from the battery or the 54 kW generator driven by the gasoline engine. The gasoline engine kicks in when the battery is out of charge or when the driver has selected the “Hold Drive” mode, which forces the car to not use any of the battery charge. The transition between battery-only power and when the gasoline engine turns on is quiet and seamless. Other than the center stack gauge showing the energy flow, you will not sense the change.
As with the electric-only Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Spark we tested recently, the Volt’s 16.5 kWh Lithium-ion battery is charged by plugging-in, augmented by the Regenerative Charging System that converts kinetic energy into electricity when applying the brakes or coasting. The Volt has four drive modes, one of which, “Mountain,” recharges the battery at a faster rate when coasting downhill.
The primary method to replenish the batteries is by plugging in:
110V 9 hours: discharged to a full charge
240V 4 hours: discharged to a full charge
The Volt does not come with a 480V Quick Charge option.
The five-door hatchback Volt weighs in at a seemingly hefty 3,800 lbs, but since electric motors provide instant and maximum torque, the Volt does not suffer any performance issues. The car does not feel heavy since the weight is well distributed due to the under-seat battery placement, resulting in a low center of gravity. The electrically assisted power steering, four wheel ABS and disc brakes, GM’s StabiliTrak electronic control system and front MacPherson Struts deliver a smooth highway ride. While not a sports sedan, takes corners without body roll and with confidence.
There is very little wind noise and no transmission shifts, so the ride is smooth and quiet.
My wife has the honor of riding in all the cars I review. After about 10 minutes on the freeway of our 1,300 mile trip, she looked at me and said, “This is really a nice car.” I could not agree more.
The 2014 Chevrolet Volt just may be GM’s best car for the money when you consider price, options and fuel economy. A marketing observation: most cars have badges on the trunk designating option levels, but GM has stayed away from this with the Volt…and I think they are smart in doing so. The Volt should be recognized for its clean lines and technology and not rely on a confusing array of letters and numbers to make it seem worthy of your attention.
The Volt incorporates a twin cockpit design with the center stack separating the bucket seats. The car is comfortable to drive with everything nicely laid out and within easy reach. The front seats have good bolstering, but do not come with lumbar adjustment, which would be nice for a car of this price and quality. It also does not have power adjustable front seats, which is something I did not find objectionable, as I am sure the cost-to-value for Chevrolet took into consideration the weight of the seat motors in an already somewhat heavy car.
The rear split seats, separated by an armrest with cup holders, are comfortable for two adults. The Volt should not be considered for four passengers on long driving trips as there is limited luggage storage in the hatch. With the rear 40/40 seats folded flat, there is ample luggage space for two adults to take long trips, and that would include golf bags.
The base model Volt is well-equipped for convenience and safety including remote keyless entry with remote start, power door locks, TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System), eight airbags, three years of OnStar, three months of XM Radio, a USB port, Bluetooth, a 7-inch color screen and heated and power adjustable outside mirrors. Also available are a premium trim package and two safety package options, as well as upgrades for paint, audio system with navigation, polished aluminum wheels and the Bose 6-speaker system.
The Volt I was driving came with all packages and options, which included driver and front passenger heated seats, leather-appointed seats, rear vision camera, 7-inch color touch screen, rear and front parking assist, forward collision alert, lane departure warning, and the aforementioned paint, wheel, audio and speaker options.
A note regarding OnStar: a simple push of a button connects you with a friendly GM representative to handle emergencies, directions and general assistance to make your driving experience safer and more enjoyable. This is one area where GM is the industry leader and after the three-year service plan expires it is well worth renewing.
The 2014 Volt base price is $34,185, including the $810 destination charge. That represents a $5,000 drop from last year’s price, putting the car almost into the realm of an average-priced car. The fully optioned Volt I was driving is priced at $40,540 including the destination charge. GM has also been offering special lease deals on the car as well. The Volt qualifies for federal and state tax credits and incentives that could reduce the final cost more than $10,000. Clean Fleet Report recommends contacting your CPA before considering a Volt purchase so you are completely clear on the tax credits and incentives and how they will impact your individual situation. Not relying on the dealer to provide this information will serve them and you best.
Also worth noting is that in California the Volt qualifies for the coveted car pool stickers allowing the driver, without passenger, to use the HOV lane. This is no small thing when trying to get anywhere on a freeway in the Golden State. In other states there is a patchwork of financial and other incentives worth checking out.
The 2014 Volt comes with these warranties:
Basic: 3 years/36,000 miles (Bumper-to-Bumper)
Scheduled Maintenance: 2 years/24,000 miles
Battery: 8 years/100,000 miles
Drivetrain: 5 years/100,000 miles
Roadside Assistance: 5 years/100,000 miles
The Volt should be on your consideration list when shopping sedans or hatchbacks, especially if you value comfort, fuel economy and a superior ride experience. The Volt’s build quality should have it competing against cars a class up and more expensive, and certainly ones that do not get as good of fuel economy. Give it a look next time you are checking-out cars and I am sure you will be impressed.
Enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!
Published Dec. 8, 2013
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