2013 Chevrolet Volt Expert Review

3.2 Overall Score
Performance 2.9Comfort 2.8Styling 3.2Value 3.0

Editor's Overview

Unique and stylish, the 2013 Chevrolet Volt electric plug-in hybrid runs purely on battery power. However, once its battery pack is depleted (after 25 to 50 miles), the Volt's gasoline engine kicks on to run a generator, powering the electric motors and helping recharge the batteries. This extends the Volt's range an additional 300 miles or more, eliminating "range anxiety."

You'll Like The 2013 Chevrolet Volt If...

If you're worried a pure electric car won't be able to satisfy your distance requirements before needing to be recharged, the 2013 Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid electric sedan is the answer: It carries a charging station around with it, in the form of its 1.4-liter gasoline engine.

You May Not Like The 2013 Chevrolet Volt If...

Buying a 2013 Chevy Volt is an expensive proposition, even with the federal and state tax breaks. If you just want long range, good fuel economy and low emissions, a VW Golf TDI or Toyota Prius is cheaper.

What's New

The 2013 Chevrolet Volt gets a new Hold mode in its drive selection to conserve battery charge, and a new no-cost-option low-emissions package qualifies the Volt for single-occupancy HOV lanes in California and New York. New features include lane-departure and collision-warning systems, and GPS-enabled navigation.

Interior Features

Taking a page from the Apple computer school of design, the 2013 Chevy Volt's interior is covered in bright white and dark accented plastics and touch-sensitive controls for the audio and climate-control functions. Two 7-inch LCD screens replace the traditional analog gauges, with one serving as the instrument cluster (speedometer, fuel and range gauges) and the other in the center stack displaying the electric motor/battery operation as well as the available navigation screen. The cool-looking touch-sensitive buttons are a little tricky to identify and operate. The rear seat takes only two occupants and their head- and legroom are snug.

Exterior Features

With the goal of total operating efficiency, the Chevrolet Volt's design team crafted a body shape that could cheat the wind while delighting the eyes. Up front are a rounded nose, closed grille opening and steeply raked windshield. Sharp edges along the Volt's rear fenders help slice through the wind, as does the functional rear hatch spoiler. This is one of the most aerodynamic cars in GM's long and storied history. Even the Volt's wheels and tires are designed for maximum efficiency; the ultra-lightweight wheels (17.8 pounds) mount Goodyear Fuel Max low-rolling-resistance tires.

Driving Impressions

The 2013 Chevy Volt's electric motor delivers a big dose of torque right from the get-go, letting the car sprint away quickly from a standing start. The absence of engine noise is a bit disconcerting at first, and when it does kick in, the way the engine's revs don't track road speed can seem odd, but you'll soon get used to the quirks. We can't call the Volt's driving dynamics "spirited," but the Cruz-based platform works well. The electric power steering is quite well-weighted and responsive, though the regenerative braking feels a bit unnatural through the pedal. This year, the EPA raised its estimate of the Volt's electric-only range from 35 to 38 miles, but obviously, actual range varies hugely depending on circumstances. The new Hold mode is useful, for example, when driving on a freeway heading into the city, where you'll want the full electric charge available.

Pricing Notes

The 2013 Chevrolet Volt's Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starts right at $40,000 and loading one with leather, navigation, Bose audio, and the rearview camera and park-assist package will bump that figure to $45,000. Even when you factor in the potential $7,500 federal tax credit, that pricing limits the Volt's appeal. Leasing may be one way to make the payments manageable. Although Chevrolet projects a full recharge will run only about $1.50 per day, the cost of a dedicated 240V home charger to replace the standard 110V cable will run $490 plus installation. As with the Nissan Leaf EV, it's difficult to assess how well the Volt will retain its value over time, although we expect the 2013 Chevrolet Volt to remain on par with the Leaf, but far below the values for the Toyota Prius and VW Golf TDI.

Notable Equipment

The base 2013 Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid comes with a more comprehensive feature set than just about any other Chevy on the market. It's also the recipient of all of Chevy's latest and greatest technology and features, including touch-sensitive climate, audio and drive controls, and an 8-year/100,000-mile warranty on its battery pack and associated electrics. Other standard features include air conditioning, keyless access, power mirror/locks/windows, 110-volt charge cord, color-touch AM/FM/CD radio and 17-inch wheels. Standard safety features include electronic traction and stability control, anti-lock brakes and eight airbags. You also get USB connectivity and five years of OnStar.

Notable Options

For 2013, most Chevy Volt options are grouped into a few packages, including Comfort (heated front seats and leather-wrapped steering wheel), Premium Trim (adds leather seat trim and a rear center armrest), and two Enhanced Safety packages, one including rear park assist and rearview camera and the other adding front park assist and the new lane-departure and collision-warning systems. Stand-alone options include an energy-saving Bose sound system (it's 40 percent lighter and uses 50 percent less energy than a conventional sound system), MyLink, and a navigation system with 30 GB hard-drive music storage and Sirius NavTraffic.

Favorite Features

Using information supplied by your local electricity provider, you can program the Volt to start recharging its battery pack when rates are at their lowest. And if you tell it when you plan to leave in the morning, the car will automatically schedule the charging process to ensure it's ready.

The OnStar MyLink app lets you check your Volt's battery level, tire pressure, available electric range, lock/unlock the doors and start the A/C system to pre-cool the interior, all from your smartphone. You can control charging rate and get a text or e-mail alert when the battery is "full."

Under the Hood

The 2013 Chevrolet Volt's propulsion system consists of an electric drive unit that makes 149 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque, a 16kWh lithium-ion battery pack and a 1.4-liter/84-horsepower 4-cylinder "range-extender." That engine takes over when battery charge is depleted – normally after 25-50 miles of driving – and generates on-the-fly electricity for another 300-340 miles. Recharging takes 10-16 hours using a standard 110V outlet or about four hours on a 240V dedicated unit. The Volt has four operating modes. Normal is the most efficient, Sport provides more direct accelerator response, Mountain helps the battery cope with extended steep grades and Hold runs only on the gas engine/generator, conserving battery charge for when it may be wanted (in town, for instance).

AC synchronous electric motor/generator
16kWh lithium-ion battery pack
1.4-liter inline-4 (drives generator only)
111kW/149 horsepower @ 4,800 rpm
273 lb-ft of torque @ 0-4,800 rpm
EPA projected full-charge range: 38 miles (all-electric), 344 miles (gasoline range-extender only)
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 93 MPGe (all-electric, mpg equivalent), 37 mpg (on gasoline engine/generator)

Editors' Notes

The 2013 Chevrolet Volt electric plug-in hybrid represents a unique twist on the hybrid-car theme. Unlike the Toyota Prius Hybrid, which uses its gasoline engine to power the car and the electric drive as a supplement, the Volt runs purely on electric current. Once its battery pack is depleted (after 25 to 50 miles), the Volt's gasoline engine kicks on to run a generator, powering the electric motors and helping recharge the batteries. This extends the Volt's range an additional 300 miles or more. With its cool and elegant styling, and even more cool and elegant interior, the 2013 Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid not only makes a statement about your environmental consciousness, it also says something about your good taste and appreciation for style.

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