Warming up to the idea

2013 Chevrolet Volt Review

By Miranda Lightstone
2013 Chevrolet Volt Review

Summary Rating: 76%

Styling

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Accessories

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Space and Access

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Comfort

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Performance

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Driving Dynamics

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Safety

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General Appreciation

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I like to understand what I drive. I like to know how many cylinders it has, what the horsepower is, which wheels are being powered; and with the 2013 Chevrolet Volt there's a lot more than pistons, spark plugs and drivetrains working beneath its futuristic shell.

So, I'll try my best to explain it all, but bear with me.

2013 Chevrolet Volt

Is it an EV or a hybrid?
Even I was confused by this when I first learned of the Volt's engineering way back in 2007. They called it an "extended range electric vehicle" -- they still do today.

It's an electric vehicle (or EV), and here's why: The electric motor drives the wheels which is why they can classify it as an EV, despite the gas tank. This combination of battery and gas make up the Voltec Electric Drive Unit which uses two electric motors, three clutches and a planetary gear set.

With a long-life 16 kWh lithium-ion battery, the 2013 Chevrolet Volt can run in pure electric mode for 40-80 km. If and when that charge runs out, the 1.4L ECOTEC gas-powered generator keeps you on the road by backing up the batteries that are powering your wheels -- in essence, acting as an electric power generator.

If you run on the gas motor often, you'll see mileage similar to subcompacts on the road today: 4-5L/100km range. However, for the amount you're likely to use the gas motor, it'll be more like 1-2L/100km (at least, that's what I saw by the end of the week).

Charging times? Well, for a full charge on a standard home outlet (120V) it will take approximately 10 hours. That's shorter than most, but the range limit is also smaller than most. If you spring for the 240V at-home filling station that time is cut in half and will take approximately 4 hours.

2013 Chevrolet Volt front view
The 2013 Chevrolet Volt can run in pure electric mode for 40-80 km. (Photo: Philippe Champoux)

Does it drive like an EV or a gas-guzzler?
Well, both... Kind of. The driving dynamics of the car are almost as confusing as the technology behind it.

When lined up against "pure" EVs like the Nissan LEAF and Ford Focus Electric (as we did for our EV Comparison Test), the 2013 Chevrolet Volt clearly offered something different. While the Ford's regenerative braking was choppy and rough, and the LEAF's acceleration so smooth it was like greased butter, the Volt fell somewhere in between.

Somehow driving the Volt just feels... different. Acceleration is linear, but stunted, like it's holding itself back. Braking feels soft at first, then stiffens up under harsher use. Again, like it wants to be normal, then remembers it's an EV. When the gas motor turns on, it's not extremely audible, but there is a noticeable vibration in the throttle and the steering wheel.

Speaking of the steering, piloting the 2013 Chevrolet Volt is actually quite enjoyable. Small and compact it's a breeze to park and drive in a crowded downtown core. Be warned: Pedestrians will not hear you coming in full EV mode.

Visibility in the 2013 Chevrolet Volt could be good, if it wasn't for the ridiculously small rear window. Thankfully, my tester was kitted out to the nines (which also meant its price brushed the $50k mark) and had a backup camera.

2013 Chevrolet Volt rear view
Small and compact it's a breeze to park and drive in a crowded downtown core. (Photo: Philippe Champoux)

iGeneration will dig it
Technology aside, the 2013 Chevrolet Volt is a good looking car. From the outside, it's different enough to grab attention without being so over the top (read: i-MiEV) that people stare. It's sophisticated, in a black tie (or bowtie, as the case may be) kind of way.

It's inside where things get interesting. My particular 2013 Chevrolet Volt was rocking the full tuxedo look inside as well with the optional white-plastic inserts across the doors, dash and centre stack.

However, what I absolutely loathe is the touch-sensitive centre stack. It's not practical nor is it easy to use while driving. Thankfully, steering wheel mounted buttons and a 7" configurable touch-sensitive LCD screen means you can, for the most part, avoid the button-less mess.

Besides that, the 2013 Chevrolet Volt's onboard system tracks fuel mileage, battery use, regenerative braking, and countless other things. And all of this can be conveyed to you via an iPhone App called RemoteLink.

2013 Chevrolet Volt intérieur
My particular 2013 Chevrolet Volt was rocking the full tuxedo look inside as well with the optional white-plastic inserts across the doors, dash and centre stack. (Photo: Philippe Champoux)

Saving money at the pumps, but spending it at the dealer
Here's where the 2013 Chevrolet Volt loses some of its appeal, in my opinion. With a base price of over $40k, it's not cheap, even when you consider government incentives or the odd promotion from GM.

And when you start adding all the doodads you'll inevitably want in a car like this you're going to hit that $50,000 mark pretty quickly. And I'm not sure those in the market for an EV will want to spend that much when vehicles like the Toyota Prius essentially offer a similar drive and technology for nearly half the price.

This 2013 Chevrolet Volt review was originally published on Auto-Venus.com.

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