Review: Chevrolet Volt (2012 – 2014)

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Range extended electric car that can go up to 300 miles. Good looking with four seats. Unique interior. Comfortable and refined. Can potentially return 235mpg and 27g/km CO2.

Too expensive at £28,545 even after Government £5,000 grant, which led to its demise.

Chevrolet Volt (2012 – 2014): At A Glance

At first the Chevrolet Volt may look like a hybrid car. After all it's fitted with an electric motor back up by a normal petrol engine. But the Volt is actually a fully electric car that runs on electric power at all times. Confused? Well it's actually quite simple - so simple in fact that it could mark a real revolution in electrically powered cars.

The big problem electric cars have is their range. The Nissan Leaf has a maximum range of 100 miles and this can be affected by everything from the temperature outside to the way you drive it. The launch of electric cars into the market has even created a new phrase - 'range anxiety' - as owners worry about whether they'll make it to a charging point in time.

The Volt doesn't have these worries. It's a 'range extended' electric car which means that when the battery runs out of charge - after around 40 miles - the onboard generator takes over, using the 1.4-litre petrol engine to generate electricity that then powers the car. This means that while the petrol engine is running, it's not actually directly powering the car.

So does the technology work in real life? Well it certainly means you don't have to worry about running out of electricity and all stress that entails. Even with the battery flat you can continue to run the Volt via the petrol engine so essentially you will never be stranded as long as you can get to a petrol station. It drives well too with a very comfortable ride, nice steering and impressive performance. We think it makes a lot of sense.

The one sticking point is the price. Like any new technology, the Volt isn't cheap and even after the £5000 Government electric car grant it still costs £28,545. It does come well equipped though plus it's a genuine four seater with good boot space. Unlike other electric cars, you could run the Volt as your only car without needing a back up for longer journeys. It certainly has plenty going for it.

Road Test and Video identical Vauxhall Ampera LHD 2011

Road Test identical Vauxhall Ampera 2012

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What does a Chevrolet Volt (2012 – 2014) cost?

Chevrolet Volt (2012 – 2014): What's It Like Inside?

Length 4498 mm
Width 1787–2126 mm
Height 1439 mm
Wheelbase 2685 mm

Full specifications

Echoing the cutting edge technology under the bonnet, Chevrolet has given the Volt an equally modern interior design. The first thing you notice is the white high gloss finish on the doors and centre console making it feel more like a high end stereo than a car. It's certainly different and the touch sensitive buttons work well.

There are no conventional instrument dials either. Instead the driver gets a single screen which gives you all the key information like speed and remaining range. Like any standard trip computer there are various menus you can scroll through for different information but you're more likely to keep an eye on the charge left in the battery and then the fuel left in the tank. There's also a useful gauge on the right with a moving ball that shows you how efficiently you're driving.

In the middle of the dash there's another colour screen which displays all your infotainment details along with the sat nav, climate control and power use. The Volt is very well equipped as standard with sat nav, Bluetooth, heated seats and even a reversing camera - features which are rarely standard on cars that cost considerably more than this.

But while it's very modern, that hasn't come at the expense of practicality or comfort. The Volt is a genuine four-seater with good room for all passengers, although the high central tunnel that runs the length of the car does make it feel a little cramped in the back, especially for taller passengers. There's a useful boot though with 310 litres of space and the rear seats can be folded flat to increase this to more than 1000 litres. The only slight disappointment is the absence of a proper parcel shelf. Even though the Volt is a hatchback, it gets an odd fabric cover that is hooked on in four corners and feels a little cheap.

Refinement is impressive though and the Volt is quiet and comfortable to travel in. The absence of engine noise when running on battery power means it's near silent, helped by that aerodynamic shape which helps reduce wind noise, especially noticeable at higher speeds where you'd expect it. The quality of the interior is impressive too with plenty of soft touch materials and a good finish.

Standard equipment from launch (May 2012):

Heated front seats, height and reach adjustable steering, daytime running lights, rearview camera, cruise control, electric parking brake, automatic air conditioning, DAB radio, Bluetooth, steering wheel mounted stereo controls, a Thatcham Category 1 alarm, 17-inch alloy wheels, ESP, Isofix child seat mounting points, automatic headlights, front and rear parking sensors, eight airbags, a leather steering wheel and leather seats.

Child seats that fit a Chevrolet Volt (2012 – 2014)

Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.

Which car seat will suit you?

What's the Chevrolet Volt (2012 – 2014) like to drive?

While the Volt may be very different from a conventional car underneath, driving it is very straightforward. You press the start button on the dash, put the gear lever into into D and off you go. It's incredibly smooth and does feel very strange when you move away with no engine sound, but apart from that it's very much like driving a standard petrol car with a CVT automatic gearbox.

The most noticeable different however is performance. As the Volt is powered by an electric motor rather than a conventional engine it has plenty of torque. In fact its 370Nm is the same as a Porsche Cayman S and in the Volt it's available from zero revs which means impressive performance away from a standstill. Accelerating from 0-62mph takes 9.0 seconds and it performs well when you want pulling power, such as overtaking or joining a motorway.

As well as the Standard driving mode in the Volt there are several other modes including a Sport mode which makes the accelerator pedal more responsive and a Mountain mode which holds battery energy for driving on steep inclines. There is also a Hold mode which means the Volt runs off the petrol engine even if the battery is fully charged. This is useful if you're heading into cities with restricted emissions zones.

Running from the battery the Volt will cover between 25 to 50 miles. Like any car, the more efficiently you drive the longer that range will be but in everyday driving you can easily achieve 40 miles without any changes to your normal driving style. Once the battery runs out of charge, the electricity is generated from the 1.4-litre petrol engine but there's no change in the way the Volt drives. This adds a further 250 miles to the range.

What does take some getting used to is the way the engine works. As it's not directly powering the car, the revs and engine noise bear no direct relation to when you press the accelerator pedal. It's quite odd at first, almost as if there's a time delay between the throttle and engine, but once you get used to it you soon begin to ignore the engine noise altogether.

The Volt is enjoyable to drive with responsive steering and neat handling. The battery is mounted in the floor which means a low centre of gravity so it corners neatly and with little body roll. There's good front end grip and overall it feels relaxed and smooth, making it very comfortable on long journeys.

Charging the Volt is straightforward. There's a six metre long cable that's kept under the boot floor and using a standard power socket the battery can be fully recharged in six hours. There are three modes for charging - an immediate mode, a delayed mode where charging is completed in time for a set departure time and lastly a mode where the Volt charges using the cheapest electricity rate available (you do need to have the various rates from your electricity provider) by the time you need it.

Engine MPG 0-62 CO2
Volt 235–235 mpg 9.0 s 27 g/km

Real MPG average for a Chevrolet Volt (2012 – 2014)

Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.

Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.

Average performance


Real MPG

182–182 mpg

MPGs submitted


Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.

What have we been asked about the Chevrolet Volt (2012 – 2014)?

Every day we're asked hundreds of questions from car buyers and owners through Ask Honest John. Our team of experts, including the nation's favourite motoring agony uncle - Honest John himself - answer queries and conudrums ranging from what car to buy to how to care for it as an owner. If you could do with a spot of friendly advice before buying you're next car, get in touch and we'll do what we can to help.

Ask HJ

Is there a way of reducing road noise on a Chevrolet Volt?

I bought a Chevrolet Volt a couple of weeks ago and am very pleased with the car in every way, apart from one - the road noise at high speeds (over 50mph) is surprisingly louder than I would have expected, especially with such a quiet engine. I guess it is probably down to the tyre size again. What tyres would you recommend for this car?
It might be that because the drivetrain is so quiet, all you hear is the tyres. I think the tyre size is 215/55 R17s. Michelin Energy Saver Plus would probably be quietest, but the car probably already has low rolling resistance tyres like these.
Answered by Honest John
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