By Keith Buglewicz
For 2017 Chevrolet’s Volt improves upon the 1st-generation car in a number of ways. It has better all-electric range, with 53 miles on battery power easily attainable. It can go a total of 420 miles thanks to a more fuel-efficient engine. But beyond efficiency, it's just a better car, period. It's fun to drive, with a nicely sorted suspension, good steering and decent power from its unique drivetrain. The interior is both more conventional and more high-tech than before, thanks to the use of real buttons combined with features like Apple CarPlay. It can even seat five people, at least for short drives, and it looks great. The price is also spot-on with the Toyota Prius, after you deduct for federal and state EV credits.
Chevy’s 2017 Volt appeals to two kinds of people. First, there are those looking for green street cred, but who also don't want to be scrambling for an outlet on a weekend road trip. Then there are those who simply want an affordable, good-looking, nice-driving, exceptionally fuel-efficient car.
About the only downside to the 2017 Volt is the rear seat, which may have three seatbelts, but is still too tight for extended road trips.
All-new last year, the 2017 Chevrolet Volt adds a few key features. Full-speed adaptive cruise control is now available on Premier models. Additionally, Teen Driver is now part of the MyLink system. Then there's the limited-availability Citron Green paint.
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, but the steering and...
... suspension blend to make the Volt genuinely fun to drive on a curving road. 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.
It's not unusual for electric vehicles to fall short of their claimed battery-only range. But the Volt's 53 miles is real-world proven. We managed to get 50 miles of EV range while cooking it on a famously twisty road north of San Francisco, just shy of its claimed range.
Apple CarPlay brings the cleverly intuitive interface you love on your iPhone directly to the dash of your car. Just plug in your phone tap the CarPlay icon on the screen, and you have access to Siri, texts, maps, iTunes music and more. As those apps improve, so does CarPlay.
Chevrolet wisely ditched the too-high-tech capacitive buttons and Star Trek-inspired shiny white plastic for a more conventional interior. It was a smart move, and one that works beautifully, with a sensible layout that includes a great new touch-screen infotainment display. A multi-info display between the main gauges lets you use buttons on the steering wheel to monitor speed, battery use and myriad other functions. Front-seat room is fine, but the rear seat is still on the tight side for taller passengers, while the new fifth seating position is for short trips only.
Apparently, someone in Chevy design decided it would be a good idea for their flagship EV to NOT look dopey. Good call, we say, as the 2017 Volt is maybe the first alternative-fuel vehicle that people will buy simply because they fell in love with its appearance. While it retains the same general design theme -- 5-door hatchback; metallic grille inserts; the lightning bolt through the "V" in Volt on the badge -- its execution is spot-on. The proportions look excellent, the wide stance and narrow grille and headlights give it a distinctly sporty appearance.
The base-model 2017 Chevrolet Volt LT comes very nicely equipped from the get-go. There's push-button start and remote start along with keyless entry, automatic climate control, and 4G LTE OnStar with a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot. That 8-inch touch-screen infotainment system is standard, as is Apple CarPlay. There's a rearview camera, plus cruise control and a tilt-and-telescope steering wheel with multiple controls for the various audio and infotainment systems. Standard safety equipment counts multiple airbags, including a knee airbag to prevent sliding under the steering wheel in a collision.
Leather seats and a Bose audio system are both optional in the Volt LT, meaning if you want those features you don't have to make the stretch to the more expensive Volt Premier model. If you do, though, not only are those features included, but you also can order Chevrolet's Driver Confidence Package, which includes lane-keeping assist, low-speed automatic braking, and lets you order adaptive cruise control. The Premier is the only model that offers navigation as well, at a surprisingly affordable $495.
There's only one drivetrain for the 2017 Chevrolet Volt, consisting of two parts. There's the range-extending 4-cylinder gasoline engine, which displaces 1.5 liters and puts out 101 horsepower. But it's a generator, there to supply electricity to the electric motor when the 18.4-kWh battery runs out of juice after about 50 miles. Actual motivation for the Volt is thanks to a pair of electric motors with an output of 149 horsepower. A 50-mile range may not sound like much, but Chevrolet notes that about 90 percent of car trips fall within that range, plus the Volt can go up to 420 miles before refueling with regular unleaded. A full recharge takes about 4.5 hours on a 240-volt charger or roughly 13 hours on a standard 120-volt plug.
Dual-electric motor /generator
18.4-kWh lithium-ion battery pack
1.5-liter inline-4 (drives generator only)
111 kW/149 horsepower
294 lb-ft of torque
EPA projected full-charge range: 53 miles (all-electric), 420 miles (combined)
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 106 MPGe (all-electric, mpg equivalent), 43 city/42 highway mpg (on gasoline engine/generator)
The base 2017 Chevrolet Volt LT has a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) just over the $34,000 mark, including the $875 destination charge. Note, that's before deducting $7,500 in federal tax credits, not to mention any state or local credits. The 2017 Volt Premier adds leather seats and more, bumping the price to about $38,500. As for competition, other plug-in hybrids like the Ford C-Max Energi aren't much less expensive, but offer significantly less range. Some pure EVs like the Nissan Leaf are also less expensive, but don't have the ability to go much past 80 miles without needing a full recharge. Historically, electric vehicles don't do well when it comes to resale value, and the Volt splits the difference between the Ford C-Max Energi and Toyota Prius Plug-In. Be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area paid for their new Volt.