Slowly but surely, the world of automobiles is moving in a greener direction. Electric cars will likely be the wave of the future, but it’ll take some time for them to be fully embraced. In the interim, there are hybrids (cars that use both gas and electric power) to bridge the gap. The Chevrolet Volt was one of the first hybrids on the scene and, in many ways, it is still a standard bearer.
There are two schools of thought in hybrid car design. The first suggests that a hybrid should have design cues that are futuristic and slightly otherworldly. The second school of thought is that hybrids should look like regular cars but perform better in the miles per gallon department.
On a consumer level, the choice between these styles is often about personality. Are you the type of driver who wants to be noticed for actively reducing your carbon footprint, or are you someone who likes to blend in and quietly make moves? If you’re somewhere in the middle then the Chevrolet Volt is just your speed.
Both inside and out, the Volt has a design language that implies the sleek, smooth lines of something from the future. Inside the 2018 Volt, for example, instead of buttons, the dashboard is comprised of a smooth, reflective surface with touch sensitive indicators embedded into it. Lightly touch the area above any of the backlit “buttons” and you’ll feel a short vibration to let you know that your input has been registered, much like the haptic feedback of the average touch screen device.
Of course, the reason you’re considering a hybrid at all is the gas mileage, right? In a Volt, once the battery is fully charged the car runs on full electric power until it depletes itself and then it switches over to gasoline power. Most other hybrids use a combination of both electric and gas power to reduce your gas consumption. The advantage of Volt’s system is that it’s possible to go weeks without depleting any of the gas in your tank as long as you keep the battery fully charged.
Speaking of which, a fully charged battery is advertised to get you 38 miles, but our real life test drive actually yielded an average of 42 miles per full charge. Obviously, you can’t complete a long distance drive on full electric power, but you’ll still spend less on gas, overall. The Volt also comes with a long, plug-in cable, which you can use with any household electric socket.
During our test drive, we tried to find plug-in power along our route but we were disappointed to discover that the offerings were scarce. While there were a few gas stations that happened to have electric outlets outside, the Volt needs to charge overnight to regain full power. Also, there were a fair number of quick-charge stations but all of the ones we found were only equipped with a proprietary plug for Tesla electric vehicles. That said, the best scenario for road tripping in a Volt is to make sure you have access to a plug every night so that you can begin each day with a full charge.
A few other notable features that have nothing to do with mileage: The Volt makes a space age sound when powered on or off, has an indicator light visible from outside the car to let you know when it has finished charging and, our favorite, it has built-in technology to find the nearest movie theater and show you what’s playing on the dashboard’s navigation screen.
One complaint for iPhone users: every time you charge your phone via the USB outlet, the car will automatically treat it as an iPod and start playing music from your phone, even if you’re already listening to something else like XM radio or a CD. There might be a way to turn this feature off be we couldn’t find it.
Buyable Ranking: 8. If you’re a movie buff who’s interested in saving a ton of money on gas and loves owning a conversation piece, this is your next vehicle. Just be mindful that there is not a lot of interior space for backseat passengers.
2018 Chevrolet Volt
Miles Per Gallon: 98 combined gas and electric
Fuel tank: 9.3 gallons
Starts at $26.6K
Video courtesy of Tom Gill Chevrolet