I have to drive 40 miles and the 2016 Chevy Volt says I only have about 23 miles of charge left in the battery. No biggie: I have three quarters of a tank of gas. I hit the accelerator and the car's two electric motors push me onto the highway. Plug-in hybrids like the Volt are nothing new. But what makes this stand out from other EV/petroleum vehicles is that it doesn't look different from the rest of the cars on the road.
The plug-in hybrid Volt (not to be confused with the all electric Bolt launching later this year) looks and drives like a typical mid-range sedan. In fact, if it weren't for the Volt badge on the back of the car, other drivers would be hard-pressed to note that it runs (at least part of the time) on electricity. But as a driver you'll know. Especially when you're able to squeeze 53 miles out of the battery between charges.
That's actually the car's main selling point: the ability to potentially commute to and from work without ever spinning up the gas-powered generator. And if the round trip exceeds 53 miles, it's no big deal because petroleum is there to make sure you get home. For energy-conscious buyers, a plug-in hybrid that kills range anxiety is good enough. But the Volt is made for more than just the folks happy who want to squeeze every bit of energy out an battery. It's also fun to drive.
Behind the wheel, the car's zippy acceleration, moderately tight steering and low-profile give it a slightly sporty feeling while cruising the highway. It won't win any drag races, but you also won't feel like you're driving a bland box on wheels.
One issue I occasionally had was that thanks to that low, aerodynamic clearance, the car is prone to bottoming out while exiting parking lots and hitting bumpy curves in the mountains. Though high-speed twisties might not be part of your daily routine, you'll have to be careful while pulling out of the grocery store.
While the exterior doesn't look futuristic, per se, the dashboard reminds you this is Chevy's "tech car." The glowing center console looks like someone at the company watched Tron too many times. The dashboard has a circular design that highlights stats like the car's range over speed with the battery charge on the left and the gas tank on the right. Still, that middle section can display a plethora of information, including miles per hour, directions, energy usage and the current music track, among other things.
The dashboard also houses the main infotainment system, which supports Apple's CarPlay. There you'll find an Energy button that gives you a report card on how you're driving. If you're the type of person who insists on tracking and analyzing all of your trip data, you got it. I'm not that person and while I found the information compelling, it did little to change my driving habits. That's OK, though, because even with my lead foot, the battery still delivered its promised fifty or so miles of range.
That's where cars like the Volt are headed. They're made for two types of drivers: The data nerds who want to quantify their behavior, and folks who just want to save money on gas and feel a bit better about the environment.
At a starting price of $25,720 (including a $7,500 tax credit) it's a few thousand more than a Toyota Camry or Honda Accord. But it's not so far out of reach that you have to bust out a spreadsheet to justify its price tag. The Volt is fun to drive without being at all flashy or ostentatious. It's a regular car that still manages to give us a taste of the future.