Somewhere around the end of 2018 came the news that Chevrolet was going to discontinue the Volt from its lineup. It was predictable but no less shocking for that.
Predictable because sedans are losing momentum all over North America. Particularly when it comes to the American manufacturers, cars are dropping like flies.
But shocking because the Volt is more than just a car for Chevrolet, and for General Motors it has long been a symbol. Recall that 10 years ago, the upcoming debut of this revolutionary car made headlines.
The Volt was indeed revolutionary, but with the avalanche of all-electric cars about to hit the market, combined with consumers’ hardening fealty to all things SUV, the Volt has, it seems, had its day, as incredible as it may seem.
Last year, 18,306 units of the Volt sold in the U.S. That's four to five times less than the Toyota Prius and a 10% drop from 2017. In Canada, sales remained mostly stable with 4,322 units finding new homes.
Clearly, those numbers were not enough for the brand. And thus it goes away, likely to be replaced (though that is yet to be officially confirmed) with some sort of SUV that will continue its legacy.
Meanwhile, models are still for sale, and the fact is the Volt is still one of the best purchases you can make in the “green” car segments.
Since Day 1, a principal mission of the Volt was to offer an alternative solution, one that would point the way to electric mobility. Buyers of the model were also on a mission, to help to reduce pollution in their own way.
Or the motive could also have been to substantially reduce their gas bills. Because, beyond purely ecological considerations, the Volt speaks to people looking wean themselves off gas-pump dependency.
So why aren’t these folks simply going all-electric? For some it’s because they aren’t there yet in their minds, and for others it’s because they want to be able to drive distances beyond the capacity of the battery.
35,000 km for $550
My short week-long experience with the Volt resulted in an average consumption of 4.7L/100 km. I drove long distances, without always having the opportunity to plug in. (With the older-generation Volt, I had previously driven over 300 km while maintaining an average of 1.6L/100 km).
In fact, everything depends on how the car is driven and the diligence with which you plug it in. In hybrid mode, GM’s published fuel efficiency ratings are 5.5L and 5.6L/100 km for combined city/highway.
So what’s this about 35,000 km for only $550, then? That’s actually the totals racked up by my cousin, to whom I recommended the purchase of this car 18 months ago. Her case perfectly illustrates how the Volt can be a fantastic vehicle.
When the stars align
Let’s be clear: to achieve that kind of efficiency, an owner’s needs must align with the capabilities of the Volt. The cousin in question – let’s call her Manon for the purposes of this article - found that the Volt fit hers perfectly.
Her reality is the following. She travels 100 km a day to and from work. At the office she has the ability to recharge the car. As a result, all her home-work-home driving is done in electric mode.
Before buying a Volt, she was making an annual donation of $3,500 to the oil companies by way of her expenditures at the gas pump. Now, she estimates her annual gasoline expenses to be around $300, plus about $250 worth of electricity for charging the car at home. Do the math and you see that she’s saving roughly $3,000 every 12 months.
Over a five-year period, that's $15,000 in savings. Yes, the car cost her more than an equivalent non-hybrid model, but after five years, the difference has been earned back, and beyond that it’s just money in the bank.
You know what they say about looking a gift-horse in the mouth...
The Volt is offered in two configurations, starting with the basic trim; the Premier edition was the one provided for my weeklong road test. Prices range from $40,195 to $45,195, not counting the government rebates offered by British Columbia and Quebec.
When it comes to choosing between the two, it really comes down to your necessities in terms of luxury. Each comes with a decent roster of standard equipment; taste will dictate which if right for you. Whichever one you go for, you might want to act quickly because stocks are thinning out; the Volt is likely to be a collector’s car in the near-future.
It's rare that I admit this about a particular model, but I've been an admirer of the Volt since day one. It represents the perfect transportation solution in my opinion. The idea of being able to ride on electric power excites me on a par with knowing that I will never run out of range. Here I get to have my cake and eat it too, in other words.
What will happen in 10 years, when charging stations are as ubiquitous as gas stations and we can recharge our cars in 5 minutes? I don’t know, but I’m guessing my thoughts on the subject will likely evolve. For now, though, the Volt is a fantastic choice and I recommend it without hesitation.
Another rarity in this trade: I have yet to encounter a disappointed Chevrolet Volt owner. Not a one. That says a lot.
Any criticisms? Yes of course. I would have liked to see a Volt (or its successor) with 200 or 300 km of range. I would also have liked Chevrolet to retain the original design, in my view far more appealing. The current look smacks of an attempt to try to please everyone and ending up with a generic-looking product. Visually, this thing is as exciting to look at as a paint-by-numbers rom-com or action movie. Where’s the daring?
Other than that, the brake system should be monitored for premature wear of some components - so says my cousin Manon's husband, a trained car mechanic.
Those minor issues don’t lessen the love I feel for the Volt. The cabin is quiet and the driving is solid and confidence-inspiring. Above all, there’s the incredibly low cost per mile, which for so many of us is the thing that really matters, isn’t it?
The Volt may be leaving us soon, but it will be remembered as a pioneer, on a par with the Tesla Model S, the Nissan LEAF and the Chevrolet Bolt.
Its beautiful story ends, but it has allowed the automaker to set the stage for the stories to come.