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2017 Chevrolet Volt Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2017 Chevrolet Volt was new.


Performance: 8.1

The 2017 Chevrolet Volt is surprisingly spunky for a plug-in hybrid. Acceleration is better than you may expect, with a good amount of power for most driving situations. Ride quality is decent, without being overly smooth or firm. Handling is composed, and some may even accuse the Volt of being fun to drive. Regenerative brakes, usually a sore spot for plug-in hybrids, work well in the Volt, with smooth transitions.

  • "The 2nd-generation Chevy Volt is better the moment you pull away from a stop. It's quicker, thanks to the new engine and electric motor[s], but the steering and suspension blend to make the Volt genuinely fun to drive on a curving road." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The 2016 Volt is actually pretty fun to drive. No one's going to argue that it's a sports car, but the sedan does feel more comfortable in its own skin and within its enlarged performance envelope." -- CNET (2016)
  • "If not entertaining, the driving inputs are at least pleasing." -- Automobile Magazine (2016)

Acceleration and Power

The Volt pairs an electric powertrain with a gasoline engine for propulsion. The battery pack has enough range for about 53 miles of driving. Once depleted, the Volt’s 101-horsepower 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine kicks in to keep things moving and to charge the battery. Total horsepower output is 149.

The Volt's 53-mile range is more than what you'll find in some plug-in hybrids, like the Toyota Prius Prime, which only has a range of about 25 miles. The Chevrolet Bolt really takes away range anxiety with its 238-mile reach. However, the Bolt is a pure-electric vehicle, so once you hit that 238-mile mark, you won't have a gas engine to rescue you. The Volt achieves 106 mpg-e when running on all-electric power. That's higher than what most plug-in hybrids get, but it's less than what you'll get with the Prius Prime. In hybrid mode, the Volt returns 42 mpg (combined city and highway), still shy of the Prius Prime's 54 mpg combined.

Saving fuel is the name of the game for the Volt, but acceleration is zippier than you may expect. As with most electric motors, the Volt's provide great low-end torque, equating to peppy jaunts around town. You can hear when the gas engine kicks in, but it's generally not too bothersome. However, it is more noticeable when climbing a hill or at a stop, when it's supplying maximum power and charging up the battery pack.

  • "When you're not trying to hypermile, you'll find acceleration can be brisk. Chevy claims 0-60 in 8.4 seconds, which beats a [2015] Prius by a couple seconds." -- Autoweek (2016)
  • "It's more responsive and snappy around town and it's quieter just about everywhere. There's less road noise much of the time, but the big payoff comes when the engine is running. More of a purr than a growl, the more refined 1.5-liter engine sounds (and feels) more distant and remote. Sure, the volume goes up when climbing a grade, but it's dramatically less raucous." -- Edmunds (2016)
  • "When it needs to run hard, the 1.5 buzzes with labored effort, a noise especially apparent when you come to a red light. Most engines are at their quietest then, but the Volt's can be cranking away in a frenzy, charging the battery. It's one of the peculiar idiosyncrasies of this powertrain, but GM claims that the Volt II falls into these charging holes less often than Volt I, so it's a rarer occasion." -- Car and Driver (2016)

Alternative Fuels/Charging

Charging times depend on the method you use. With a 120-volt household outlet, it can take anywhere from 10 to 16 hours to replenish a depleted battery. Charging times vary with this method depending on how hot it is where you're charging. If you install a 240-volt charging station, you'll reduce that time to as little as four hours. Fortunately, there are smartphone apps available that help you find a public charging station, and some even help you plan your trip based where the stations are.

Handling and Braking

The jury is still out on the Volt's handling: Some critics find it adequate, while others say it's downright enjoyable. However, both are an accomplishment for a plug-in hybrid – a segment not usually known for agile cornering abilities.

Ride quality is likewise middle of the road. It's not overly smooth, but neither is it particularly jarring. Instead, the Volt's ride lets in just enough of the road so you know what's going on but not enough to make things uncomfortable.

Regenerative braking is usually a touchy subject for hybrids, but the Volt's is one that others should take notes on. At first, the car uses regenerative brakes that recapture energy while the car slows, using that energy to recharge the battery. Then, good old-fashioned friction brakes take over to bring the car to a stop. The transition between these two systems is smooth, which is not as common as you might expect in hybrid and electric cars.

The Volt takes braking a step further with a steering wheel-mounted paddle that triggers stronger deceleration from the regenerative system. This system makes driving the Volt more engaging and helps to capture even more energy. It allows you to bring the car to a complete stop without stepping on the brake pedal.

  • "Bend it into a curve, and its flat stance and firm suspension combine with accurate steering to make it...fun. Yes, a fun EV. Even the brakes are satisfying, thanks in part to the lack of weirdness between mechanical and regenerative braking. The Volt takes advantage of regenerative braking with a paddle on the steering wheel that activates Regen On Demand. Hold it, and the electric motor's regenerative braking is enhanced, slowing the car dramatically while helping to extend the battery's life. Once you get the hang of it -- and it doesn't take long -- you'll find you hardly ever even need to use the actual brake pedal." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The Volt's ride is compliant -- not firm but not cushy -- while handling is merely average, offering a predictable feel but very little gusto or excitement. That isn't necessarily a drawback that's unique to the Volt, however, as few rivals (including gas-powered models) tout especially involved driving dynamics." -- Autotrader
  • "I brake for the first turn—hey, these brakes feel terrific for a hybrid, vastly better than the soupy pedal that mars the current car." -- Motor Trend (2016)

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