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2013 Chevrolet Volt Second Look Review By Steve Purdy

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2013 Chevrolet Volt

SEE ALSO: Chevrolet Buyers Guide - Reviews Specs and Prices 1997-2013

Taking a second look
By Steve Purdy
Michigan Bureau

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We just reviewed the extended-range electric Chevy Volt last spring but our resource guys assured us there were enough changes to warrant another look. This is also an opportunity to check back with my friend, Walt, whom I referenced in my previous story as the ideal Volt customer, that is, an urban dweller without many long-distance driving needs who is an early adopter of technology and lusts after the challenge of maximizing his no-gasoline driving.

I’m just the opposite, a slow adopter of technology and rural dweller who drives seldom less than 100 miles in a day, with no political or practical agenda against gasoline use.

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Walt has had his black Volt for just about 15 months now and he still loves it. He calculates a 600 mpg average so far and says he hasn’t filled the gas tank since April. Of course, theoretically you can drive the volt indefinitely without using any gasoline if you’re careful. Or you can drive it like I do, using the first 30+ miles worth of electrons just to mitigate the fuel usage a bit. It probably costs about a buck-and-a-half for those electrons that are the equivalent of about a gallon of gasoline. Once fully on the range extending 1.4-liter engine that acts only as a generator, we get somewhere in the high 30s for mileage. So it’s still quite efficient.

The EPA makes an attempt at rating the mileage based on some convoluted formula that tries to be consistent enough to compare to other electrics and hybrids, and they’ve come up with 98-mpge (the ‘e’ standing for ‘equivalent’).

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They also rate it at 37-mpg when running on gasoline only. EPA also says the range on just electricity is 38 miles. I could manage only 31. It takes a solid 8 hours to fully charge the batteries when plugged in to my 110V garage outlet.

With its little 9.3-gallon gas tank we have less than a 300-mile range before filling, but that will be of little concern for most Volt buyers. I filled twice this week with the gauge just below half and it took only about 5 gallons each time.

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Without government subsidies the Volt costs just about $40,000 even without significant options. Our test car has the Premium Trim Package (leather and heated seats along with a removable rear seat armrest), MyLink Radio with Navigation, polished aluminum wheels and Bose premium speakers making for a bottom line on the sticker (including the destination charge) of just over $43,000. The Federal government still offers a $7,500 subsidy, and there are a few other government incentives out there (the U.S. D.O.T., for one) that will help as well.

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The Volt shares a platform with the Chevy Cruze and is just about the same size, that is, it is a front-wheel drive compact four-door, four-passenger sedan. Particularly with the leather trim inside it is quite nicely appointed with up-scale materials and a simple but not tawdry interior design and execution. I’m not fond of the touch-surfaces that replace knobs and buttons but most folks seem to like them. Controls and readouts are mostly intuitive and easily managed, including the changeable information displays that can provide detailed, real-time information on usage of battery and fuel. Walt delightedly uses them like a video game.

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Rear seat passengers will feel cramped unless they are diminutive. Because it is a hatchback design there is a decent 15 cubic-feet of cargo space.

Handling and performance are nothing to write home about but are perfectly adequate and well balanced. Acceleration is quite impressive on full throttle. An electric motor, as you probably know, gets its maximum torque right out of the hole. Ride and interior quietness will remind you of a larger car. With the well-designed front seats the average-sized person will find it comfortable.

Safety equipment on the Volt is impressive, with lots of airbags, chassis dynamics and structural rigidity. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has awarded Volt a “Top Safety Pick” designation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration awards 5-Stars (top level) in all but one category of crashworthiness. In spite of having the Navigation screen our test car did not have a backup camera. Seems like that would be a no-brainer to include that simple feature. (That wasn’t the only reason I backed into a low rising, stealthy yellow guard post this week, but it could have helped.) The rearview camera is optional as are lane departure warning, forward collision warning and park assist.

The lithium-ion battery and electric drivetrain components are warrantied for 8 years of 100,000 miles. The rest of the powertrain gets 5-year or 100,000 mile coverage. By the way, pay no heed to that burning battery flack of about a year ago. That resulted from improper storage at a testing facility. There have been no incidents like that in real world use.

Though sales of the Volt have been disappointing in the first couple of years it is mighty popular with those who know it best. For the second year Volt has topped Consumer Reports’ Owner Satisfaction Survey. I don’t know if that poll included our friend Walt, but I know what his vote would be.

©Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved