By Keith Buglewicz
KBB Expert Rating: 7.3
Neither a conventional Prius-like hybrid, nor a pure electric like the Nissan Leaf, the 2015 Chevrolet Volt tries to be a bit of both. For about 30-40 miles, the Volt will run in a pure-electric mode, even at freeway speeds. That's not a huge range, but Chevrolet insists it's within the average daily driving distance for 80 percent of drivers. Should your battery be depleted, no worries, as there's a gasoline engine under the hood that acts as a generator to keep you going for another 340 miles or so with an EPA-estimated mileage of about 40 mpg. The best news is that, unlike competitors such as the BMW i3, the Chevy Volt isn't awkward or ungainly. In fact, inside and out, it's pretty cool.
If you relish the idea of driving an electric car, but fear the idea of being stranded with a dead battery, the Chevy Volt might just be the ideal solution. It even qualifies for high-occupancy vehicle access with a single driver, a big deal for those living in congested areas.
The Chevy Volt isn't exactly cheap, even after factoring in tax incentives. If you regularly drive more than 40 miles each day, you'll frequently wind up using gasoline in your supposed EV. But the biggest drawback may be that the Volt can seat only four people, limiting its usefulness.
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The 2015 Chevy Volt sees a few minor changes before an all-new model debuts for the 2016 model year. The battery capacity increases slightly – although the official range remains unchanged – and OnStar gains 4G LTE, allowing the Volt to be a Wi-Fi hot spot with a subscription.
Avoiding gas stations is great, but we still think one of the best things about EVs like the Chevrolet Volt is low-end torque you get from a...
... dead stop. The Chevy Volt offers enough thrust to push you into your seat as it silently whisks to 50 mph. In EV mode there's no engine noise, and that takes a bit of getting used to. When it's running, the range-extending engine's revs don't rise and fall relative to the car's speed. That aside, the Volt is otherwise unremarkable behind the wheel. It offers a comfortable ride, and it corners better than you'd think. The electric power steering feels responsive and properly weighted, without being vague on the highway or too heavy in a parking lot. Note that the Volt's claimed 38-mile EV range depends on how lead-footed you are on the gas pedal. Uh, rheostat. You know what we mean.
DELAYED START AND DEPARTURE TIME MODE
The Chevy Volt tries to make its charging fit your schedule and budget. You can program the Volt to start recharging its battery pack when rates are at their lowest, and you can also program a departure time, and the Volt ensures it's fully charged by the time you leave.
VOLT SMARTPHONE APP
The OnStar MyLink offers myriad remote controls for your Chevy Volt. You can check your Volt's battery level, tire pressure, available electric range, lock/unlock the doors and start the A/C system to pre-cool the interior while it's still plugged in. It'll even email you when it's fully charged.
The 2015 Chevy Volt's interior offers up futuristic-looking controls, arranged conventionally. The bright white or dark-accented plastics boast touch-sensitive controls for the audio and climate-control functions. Two 7-inch LCD screens convey information, with one replacing the instrument cluster (speedometer, fuel and range gauges), and one atop the dash, used for monitoring the electric motor and battery, and the available navigation screen. While the cool-looking touch-sensitive buttons are a little tricky to identify and operate, the layout is conventional, and it's easy to find the various controls. There's good cargo space behind the snug 2-passenger rear seat.
Chevrolet's design team had to create a shape that was at least as aerodynamically efficient as the Toyota Prius – all in the name of better fuel economy – but without aping it outright, as Honda did with the Insight. We'd say, mission accomplished. You'd never mistake a Volt for a Prius, thanks to its Chevy-signature grille design, creased fenders and wide stance. The Volt's sharp-edged rear fenders help it slice through the wind, as does the functional rear hatch spoiler, all of it making the Volt one of the most aerodynamic cars in GM's long and storied history.
The options list for the 2015 Chevrolet Volt isn't particularly long, but that's because so much comes standard. There are the touch-sensitive controls inside for climate, audio and driving, plus an 8-year/100,000-mile warranty on the battery pack and associated electrics. It also comes with automatic climate control, cruise control, keyless access, power mirror/locks/windows, 110-volt charge cord, a touch-screen audio system with USB and Bluetooth inputs, and 17-inch wheels. Standard safety features include electronic traction and stability control, anti-lock brakes and eight airbags. You also get five years of basic 4G LTE OnStar service.
There are four main option packages for the 2015 Chevy Volt. A Premium Trim package adds heated leather seats and a rear center armrest, while two safety packages add rear-parking assist and a rearview camera, and front-parking assist and collision-warning systems, respectively. A navigation system adds touch-screen navigation, obviously. You can also have a 240-volt charging system added to the cost of the Volt, making quick recharges easier, plus there's a lightweight energy-saving Bose audio system available.
The primary motivator for the 2015 Chevy Volt is an electric motor making 149 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque, supplied by a 17.1 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. When the battery's depleted, a 1.4-liter, 84-horsepower 4-cylinder gasoline engine kicks in, acting as a "range-extender." It will continue generating electricity until the tank runs dry, around 300-380 miles, depending on how lead-footed you may be. To recharge the battery takes between 10-16 hours on standard 110V house current, or about four hours on a 240V dedicated unit. You can select among four operating modes: Normal for efficiency, Sport for better acceleration, Mountain to help preserve the battery on steep grades, and Hold for when you want to use the gas engine exclusively.
AC synchronous electric motor/generator
17.1 kWh lithium-ion battery pack
1.4-liter inline-4 (drives generator only)
111kW/149 horsepower @ 4,800 rpm
273 lb-ft of torque @ 0-4,800 rpm
EPA projected full-charge range: 38 miles (all-electric), 380 miles (gasoline range-extender only)
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 93 MPGe (all-electric, mpg equivalent), 35 city/40 highway mpg (on gasoline engine/generator)
There's only one 2015 Chevy Volt model to choose from, and its Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts around $35,000. With leather, navigation, Bose audio and the rearview camera and park-assist package, it climbs to about $40,000. That's pricey, even when you factor in the potential $7,500 federal tax credit and other state and local credits. Of course, the potential savings in fuel could significantly offset that price. Another thing to think about is that, if you fully recharge the Volt each day, it'll cost only about $1.50 per day, helping to offset the $490-plus-installation cost of a dedicated 240V home charger. Be sure to check KBB's Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for their 2015 Volt, and note that resale will probably be around the same as a Nissan Leaf, but below established players like the Toyota Prius and VW Golf TDI.