Review: 2012 Chevrolet Volt, can you live with it everyday?

Here it is, the 2012 Chevrolet Volt, the most advanced automobile achievement currently on American roads and a breakthrough in automotive technology – but that’s not what I’m setting up to rave about. I was lucky enough to have the Chevrolet Volt on two separate occasions – the first where I was very disciplined and had it charged and ready to go every morning and the second where I fueled up as I would with a conventional model.

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Instead of getting all technical on you guys and talking about how great the Volt is in terms of being an innovative automobile (which it definitely is), I’m going to focus more on whether or not the Volt is a great car that you can live with on a daily basis.

To answer the question addressed in the title before I even begin my review – Yes, you can live with the Chevrolet Volt everyday. So I guess that presents the real question, which is… should you?

But first… I’ll give you all the details.

2012 Chevrolet Volt Specifications:

  • Style: Sedan.
  • Drive Type: Front-wheel-drive.
  • Seating Capacity: 4.
  • Base Price: $39,995.
  • Price As Tested: $44,575.
  • Engine: Electric Drive Unit makes 149-hp and 274 lb-ft of torque; Onboard generator/engine makes 1.4L internal combustion engine with 83 hp.
  • 0 to 60 mph: 9.3 seconds.
  • Top Speed: 100 mph.
  • Electric Range: 35 miles.
  • Combined Total Range: 379 miles.
  • Charge Time: 4 hours on 240 volts and 10-12 hours on a standard 120-volt outlet.
  • Curb Weight: 3,781 lbs.
  • Fuel-economy (city/highway): 95/93 MPGe (city/highway) in electric mode; 35/40 mpg in gas mode.

All Photos Copyright egmCarTech © Omar Rana.

2012 Chevrolet Volt

Exterior:

The Chevrolet Volt isn’t the best looking car around but it definitely is more attractive than other ‘green’ vehicles currently on the road. GM says that that its aerodynamicists developed the shape of the Volt in a wind tunnel, which helped them design and engineer the most aerodynamic vehicle in Chevrolet’s history. The lines of the body overcome air resistance and contribute an estimated 8 miles of extra electric range and about 50 miles of extended fuel range.

While all these specs may entertain the automotive geeks, for the average car buyer, the most pertinent point here is that the Volt is designed to visually stand out from the rest but still remains unexciting.

2012 Chevrolet Volt

Interior:

The Chevrolet Volt’s interior is innovative on a level you would expect from Apple, and one of the most advanced that can be found in cars today.

Some of the high points apart from the usual suspects are the two 7-inch, high-resolution full-color screens, the first of which resides where the gauge cluster is found, giving the driver some reconfiguration options. The other display is in the center stack and has a touch screen with control switches.  Chevy MyLink, navigation with audio storage hard drive, rearview camera, and a premium trim package are all available options, as well.

2012 Chevrolet Volt

Performance:

Time to run through the specs. The 2012 Chevrolet Volt is powered by 16-kWh, ‘T’-shaped lithium-ion battery that powers the electric drive unit, which allows it to drive 35 to 40 miles on battery power alone. The system puts out 149-hp and a maximum torque of 273 lb-ft, allowing the Volt to go from 0-60 mph in about 9 seconds, and hit a top speed of 100 mph.

The Chevrolet Volt also carries an 84-hp 1.4-liter 4-clyinder engine that allows the 5-door, FWD sedan to travel additional miles while averaging a fuel-economy of 50 mpg. A fully charged battery and full tank of gas will allow you to drive the Volt for a total of 379 miles (depending on you how you drive but you’ll probably never hit that figure in real-world situations).

To reach full-charge the Volt can take about 4 hours to recharge on 240 volts, and about 10-12 hours on a standard 120-volt outlet.

The 2012 Chevrolet Volt gets an EPA estimated 93 miles per ’gallon-equivalent’ when driving under electric power only, 37 mpg when in gasoline mode. Over the long term it is estimated to get 60 miles per gallon in combined gasoline-powered and electric-powered driving.

All those facts are coming from General Motors, but now I will give you my take on the Volt as a daily driver in the week I was driving with it fully charged everyday and the other where it was never charged.

2012 Chevrolet Volt

Week 1 – Fully charged everyday:

  • I picked up the Chevrolet Volt from New York City and drove it home a total distance of 45 miles. The Volt lost its all-electric mode about 25 miles into the trip since we were blasting the radio and playing around with the climate and audio controls.
  • I plugged in the Volt every single night when returning home from work. Each night, the Volt took about 11-12 hours to reach full charge.
  • My trip to work totals 10.5 miles. Factoring in my use of electronics (iPhone charging, playing with the climate control) and somewhat aggressive acceleration – the Volt would last me 20 to 25 miles (which is about 15 to 10 miles below GM’s figure) before the 1.4 liter 4-cylinder engine came into play. However, once the range-extender does come on, it is quite noisy in the cabin due to the humming from the engine bay area.
  • When in full electric mode, the Volt is quite zippy. The electric mode offers smooth and quick acceleration letting you enjoy the overall comfortable ride of the car (no matter which mode you’re in).
  • In electric-mode, the climate control is quite disappointing. With the hot sun beating down, the Volt’s air-conditioning in electric-mode took forever to cool the cabin.
  • Driving a total of 30-35 miles a day and charging the Volt every single night before going to bed, the Volt said that I was averaging a combined 110 mpg – not bad at all.
  • I never filled up the Volt once during my first week-long affair with the new Chevy.

Week 2 – Never charging the Volt:

  • During my second week with the Volt, I picked up the car once again from New York City, where it was fully gassed and fully charged. Again on the way back home, the Volt’s all-electric mode lasted 25-27 miles before the range-extended engine kicked on.
  • This week, I never plugged in the Volt overnight, kept it in sport mode, and drove it with a sense of urgency going to and from work. I figured I would drive the Volt as a busy individual that didn’t have time to bother with charging the car or maintaining a schedule of the car’s mileage and fuel-economy.
  • This time around, the climate control system was working perfectly fine, keeping the interior at a comfortable temperature.
  • The noise from the engine bay was really annoying and got louder the more aggressive I got with the accelerator.
  • I filled up the Volt about twice this week, and averaged a fuel-economy of 29.1 mpg.

2012 Chevrolet Volt

Overall:

So – let’s get back to my original questions – can you live with the Volt everyday? Yes, but should you?  Well, this really depends on the type of person you are.

If you’re an individual that is technologically advanced that must have the latest and greatest and has the patience to wait 10-12 hours while your car reaches full charge so you can save some cash at the pump – then yes, be our guest. But get ready to part ways with $39,995 (or $32,495 after some tax credits).

However, if you’re an individual that’s always on the go and won’t really keep up-to-date with recharging the Volt – basically if you fit my ways in week 2 – then there are other ‘green’ vehicles that will suit your lifestyle and save you some cash at the pump. Those vehicles are called hybrids.

Another angle to consider with this car is its competition. As for the competitors in its fuel-efficient compact-sedan segment, you’re looking at the $24,000, ever-popular Toyota Prius, which gets you an outstanding fuel economy rating of 51/48 city/hwy mpg. Looking at the competition in the car’s price range, for what you would shell out for the Volt you could also be taking home a somewhat fully loaded BMW 3-Series or an Audi A4. So, going green would really have to be your priority to sacrifice the performance that you would be giving up for the price tag, although most comparable compact-sedans fall short of the technology the added cost of the Volt includes.

All Photos Copyright egmCarTech © Omar Rana.

– By: Omar Rana


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