- Automotive Instinct

Groundbreaker or over-hyped novelty?

2012 Chevrolet Volt Review

2012 Chevrolet Volt Review
My first indication that all was not as it should be came in the form of a knock at my door, shortly before midnight. Peering up at me on my front porch, nightgown clutched around her, was my elderly neighbour.

"Lesley, there’s something weird going on in your backyard.”

Reassuring her that it was merely a new hybrid car tucked in behind the house where it could safely re-charge, I apologized and turned back towards the warm comfort of my interrupted dreams.

"But … it's making a noise!"

2012 Chevrolet Volt rear 3/4 view
As a gas-free urban runabout, the Volt is an impressive step in the right direction. (Photo: Lesley Wimbush/

I trudged into the yard and discovered the 2012 Chevrolet Volt chirping away like an angry bird. The charging draw had proved too much for the 100-amp service of my 99-year-old home, and had blown a breaker. Cursing, I fed an extension cord through the basement window, where I found an outlet that proved mutually acceptable to both house and car.

It was an inauspicious beginning to a week spent with a car whose introduction has been fraught with misinformation and delays.

After a maelstrom of controversy, replete with accusations of lies and deception, General Motors finally released the long-overdue Chevrolet Volt.

And wouldn't you know it — the press fell all over themselves in a groundswell of adulation, showering it with accolades across the continent, many proclaiming it "Car of the Year."

I must admit my curiosity was piqued as much by the controversy as by the Volt's miraculous claims of un-hybrid-like performance. Would it be the game-changing technical wonder that would re-establish GM as a ground-breaking player, or just an over-hyped, over-priced novelty? Well, neither. And both.

Admittedly, I'm far from the targeted demographic for the Volt. Sure, there are lazy weekends where my driving consists of no more than puttering between my house, the gym and the grocery store. But living an hour from Hwy. 401 means that regular trips to and from the city to exchange press cars, runs to the airport and frequent visits north of Hwy. 7 to visit my favourite stable add hundreds of kilometres to my weekly travels.

With its range of 50 to 80 km of pure electric travel, the Volt's ideal driver is the urban dweller whose daily commute is less than 20 km. However, the Volt's claim to fame is of course, the back-up internal combustion engine that completely alleviates the range-anxiety of its purely electric counterparts. The drivetrain consists of three parts: a large 149-hp electric motor, a smaller 74-hp motor/generator, and the same 1.4-litre gasoline engine found in the Chevy Cruze.

2012 Chevrolet Volt left side view
With its range of 50 to 80 km of pure electric travel, the Volt's ideal driver is the urban dweller. (Photo: Lesley Wimbush/

By Lesley Wimbush,