2017 Chevrolet Volt Review

2017 Chevrolet Volt - EV happiness without the range anxiety.

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The average American drives a mere 29.2 miles on any given day. And when you think about the fact that most electric-only vehicles have a range of more than 80 miles, you can see where these vehicles might make sense.

But that's only if you never plan to take a road trip.?Enter the 2017 Chevrolet Volt. It offers more than 50 miles of electric-only range, but equipped with a 1.5-liter range-extending engine, the compact hatch has a total driving range of 400 miles.

Talk about the best of both worlds. Drive in EV-only mode on a daily basis, but you'll never have range anxiety and you can easily take a cross-country road trip.

Chevrolet estimates that most owners will drive more than 1,000 miles between gas station visits, which translates to less than one fuel up a month.

Design

The Volt was completely redesigned for the 2016 model year, and it is a vast improvement over the previous generation's iPhone-like interior and blah egg-like exterior.

While the Volt retains its aerodynamic shape, it gets a few more hard edges, which modernizes the design. It also has a more distinct family resemblance to the rest of the Chevrolet lineup.

The interior, however, is where you see the biggest improvement. The center stack is simple, sleek and intuitive, and it has just the right mix of touch-screen versus hard-button components. Nothing looks plasticky or cheap -just the opposite. The overall interior impression is one of elegance and modern technology.

Another huge improvement is that the [reads easier with "the"] rear seat no longer has a wide open pass-through to the trunk. While the pass-through looked kind of neat from a design standpoint, it was completely impractical from the I've-got-to-live-with-this-car standpoint. You were unable to hide items in the trunk that you didn't want the world to see because anyone looking through the windshield could see though to the cargo area.

Ride & Handling

I know the Volt is supposed to be a "green" vehicle, which is usually synonymous for booooo-ring. Except that it isn't boring at all. Because of the electric powertrain up front, there's a lot of instant torque that gives you immediate acceleration. It behaves well in the city - calm, cool and collected - yet as soon as you get on the highway, the Volt has plenty of pep for passing.

The Volt is equipped with a two-motor drive unit and a 1.5-liter range extender, which is designed to use regular unleaded fuel. The two-motor system enables faster 0-to-30-mph acceleration, and increased battery capacity enables more electric-only driving.

Power output is a really nice 149 horsepower and an exceptional 294 pound-feet of torque. No wonder passing and off-the-line starts are so quick!

Another note on the ride: The Volt is incredibly quiet - especially when the vehicle is in electric-only mode. Minimal road and ambient noise creep in, no matter whether you are on the highway or city streets.

Fuel economy


With the redesign of the Volt in 2016, the ability to drive in electric-only mode increased from 38 miles to 53 miles. This also makes for a huge increase in miles per gallon (MPG) and miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe).

Chevrolet estimates 42 MPG if you're going to be driving a lot of miles and dipping into the gasoline-powered range extender. The MPGe, however, rings in at 106.

These numbers are nice on paper, and they're even better in real life. During the test week, I drove about 70 city miles running errands. I decided to see how long it would take before I needed the range extender, so I didn't charge up once. I found that I was able to go more than 60 miles on a single charge, and the car told me I was getting 250+ MPGe.

Scrolling through some of the info screens, I noticed that the lifetime fuel economy was 46.6 MPG and it was 104 MPGe since the last full charge.

Total driving range for the 2017 Volt is 420 miles.

Tech & gadgets

One of the neatest things about the 2017 Volt is the standard 8-inch color touch screen. It vibrantly displays apps and vehicle information. There are also a bunch of available high-tech safety features including rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision alert and lane keep assist.

The Volt also has Apple CarPlay and offers wireless device charging.

Trims

Trims for the front-wheel-drive Volt are pretty simple. You can either get a well-equipped LT or a really well-equipped Premier.

LT: This trim comes standard with features such as passive entry, push-button start, automatic climate control, remote start, Sirius XM Satellite Radio, OnStar with a basic plan for 5 years, rearview camera and an 8-inch color infotainment touch screen. Base price is $34,095.

Premier: Though this trim adds just $4K to the bottom line, you got a ton of nice standard features, and I think it's well worth the upgrade. Features include leather seats, Bose premium audio system, heated side mirrors, heated front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel and automatic park assist. This trim also offers the available safety tech, which make it a contender for the IIHS Top Safety Pick + Award. Base price is $38,445.

The test vehicle was a Premier model and it added both Driver Confidence packages as well as navigation for a total of $1,485. As tested price was $39,930 - and that's before any tax incentives are applied.

The 2017 Volt is eligible for up to $7,500 in tax rebates. To check eligibility of all electric vehicles as well as download any forms to receive your credit, visit the U.S. Department of Energy website. (http://fueleconomy.gov/feg/taxevb.shtml)

Safety

Standard safety features include dual stage front airbags, thorax side-impact seat-mounted airbags, front and rear head curtain side-impact airbags, front knee airbags, rearview camera and tire pressure monitoring.

Once you upgrade to the Premier trim, for just under $1K you can add blind-spot monitoring, rear-cross traffic alert, forward collision alert, lane keep assist, low-speed front automatic braking and a following distance indicator. Adaptive cruise control is also available for an additional $595.

The new version of the Volt hasn't been rated by either the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. But the previous generation got high marks from both agencies, earning an overall 5-Star rating from the former and a Top Safety Pick from the latter.

Not sure what the safety ratings mean? We break it down for you here.

New for 2017

Since Volt was completely new for 2016, there aren't any huge changes for this model year. Some changes of note include standard Teen Driver on all models, the availability of full-speed adaptive cruise control and a limited-edition Citron Green Metallic color.

A few of my favorite things

One of the first things I noticed about the Volt was how quiet it was. When you shut the doors, it's like being sealed in silence. Much of that is due to the electric motors, but even once the gasoline engine flips on, the inside of the cabin remains incredibly quiet.

The ride and handling is really nice for a compact car, and the finishing touches are fairly high quality.

What I can leave

There really isn't much I didn't like about the 2017 Volt. But if I had to pick nits, I would like to see things like blind spot monitoring and forward collision warning available on the base model as well as the top-tier Premier.

The bottom line

Volt offers the best of both worlds. For those who don't drive more than 50 miles in a day (which is most of us!), it becomes the perfect electric vehicle for your daily commute. But it also frees you from range anxiety, allowing this to be the only car you need to own. Whether you want to take a cross-country road trip or run errands, the Volt has you covered.

Read more from Jill Ciminillo:

* Mazda's master plan: Driver's wanted

* Did you check your back seat? Look before you lock

* Viper's parting gift: Five limited-edition models



Jill Ciminillo

After more than a decade of writing car reviews, Jill is still considered relative newcomer to the auto review scene. But with her "fresh" perspective, she represents the female point of view amongst her predominantly male colleagues. And, since something like 80 percent of all car-buying decisions are either made by or influenced by women, that's nothing to sneeze at. Formerly the online automotive editor for the Chicago Sun- Times and the print auto editor for Pioneer Press Newspapers, this 5th percentile (aka petite) female tells it like it is from the fun to the functional. As a marathon runner, Jill also serves on the Active Lifestyle Vehicle jury, judging the cars she drives for how well they fit in to a weekend warrior athlete's lifestyle. Jill is currently the automotive editor for the Auto Matters section hosted by Sinclair Broadcast Group and the senior vice president for the Midwest Auto Motive Media Association.

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