The 2015 Chevrolet Volt is a 5-door hatchback with a plug-in hybrid drivetrain. A significant electric-only range, officially measured at just under 40 miles, allows the Volt to run solely on electricity from the grid and operate like a pure electric vehicle (EV). If the juice runs out, the Volt recharges its batteries and runs down the road with the help of its gasoline-powered engine. With a full charge and a full tank, the Volt has a 300-mile range that easily outpaces any production EV. The all-electric Nissan Leaf, for instance, has a range of about 80 miles.
If the Volt is driven less than 40 miles between recharging sessions (19 miles each way to work, for example), the gas generator will never require usage. In that case, the Volt operates as a pure EV with zero emissions. If the Volt is being driven for more than 40 miles between recharges, then the range-extending 4-cylinder engine will be used, requiring an occasional trip to the gas station.
Harnessing the best of two worlds, the 2015 Volt is a viable and attractive solution within the realm of green motoring. And Chevrolet offers lease deals on the Volt that take the sting away from its high sticker price.
What's New for 2015?
Aside from minor color updates and a new option package that combines a navigation system and a Bose audio system, the Volt's only update for 2015 is an available 4G LTE Wi-Fi hot spot.
What We Like
Zero-emission potential; 300-mile-plus range; very low fuel cost; nice roster of amenities; refined styling
What We Don't
Pricey; poor rear visibility
$35,300 and up
The Chevy Volt is propelled by an electric motor that makes 149 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. This unit is powered by a 16-kWh lithium-ion battery pack fitted in the central tunnel and under the rear seat. The Volt's battery pack can be recharged in about 10 hours using a standard 120-volt outlet.
The Volt is capable of traveling 30-to-40 miles on pure electric power, and it can reach speeds of up to 100 miles per hour. As the battery becomes depleted, a gasoline-powered 1.4-liter 4-cylinder becomes an alternate power source for the electric motor, giving it a range of more than 300 miles. This engine will also provide some direct power to the wheels at certain speeds.
As far as efficiency goes, there are two distinct measurements for the Volt. Running on electricity from a plug-in charge, the Volt is rated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at 98 miles per gallon equivalent in combined city and highway driving, meaning that the Volt can go about 98 miles on the electrical equivalent of the amount of energy in a gallon of gasoline. Once the battery charge runs out, however, the Volt achieves less impressive fuel economy than some typical non-plug-in hybrids. It's rated at 35 mpg in the city and 40 mpg in highway driving when using its gasoline motor alone.
Standard Features & Options
The 2015 Chevrolet Volt skips trim levels, coming instead in just one basic configuration. From there, drivers can choose between various options.
The Volt boasts a long list of standard features, including 17-inch alloy wheels, GM's MyLink infotainment system, Bluetooth, automatic climate control, cruise control, a remote starter and a center-mounted touchscreen. Automatic headlights and heated mirrors are also standard.
There are four major option packages. The Comfort package adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel and heated front seats. Drivers who want even more luxury can get the Premium Trim package, which adds leather seats and a rear center armrest. For safety-focused drivers, an optional Enhanced Safety package includes a rearview camera, rear parking sensors, and available lane-departure and forward-collision warning systems. A new package bundles the car's available Bose audio system with a navigation system. For 2015, the Volt also adds a newly optional 4G LTE Wi-Fi hot spot.
Occupant protection comes from eight airbags, including two side-curtains and two at the driver's and front passenger's knees. The Volt is also equipped with an anti-lock braking system, stability control and OnStar emergency telematics.
In government crash tests, the Volt earned a 5-star overall crash safety rating, including a 5-star side crash-test score, a 5-star rollover rating and a 4-star front crash-test score. In tests conducted by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Volt earned an excellent Top Safety Pick+ rating -- the group's highest possible safety score.
Behind the Wheel
The most noticeable thing about driving the 2015 Chevrolet Volt is its superb off-the-line acceleration. This is a common trait among electric vehicles due to their high torque output at low engine speeds. For the same reason, the Volt is an assertive left-lane passer. The acceleration contributes to making this car positively fun to drive. The Volt's ride is smooth and quiet, especially in all-electric mode, and the changeover to generator mode is almost seamless, preserving a ride that feels refined in most driving conditions.
The Volt's road manners are nicely balanced. Its well-tuned suspension makes it a capable handler, able to take corners with confidence. Road grip is good, and body roll is minimal. Despite its hefty weight, the Volt feels reasonably nimble at virtually all speeds. The only peculiarity is the twitchy feel of the Volt's brake pedal, which can be attributed to the car's regenerative braking technology.
The front seats are firm and well contoured but lack any power adjustments, which is a bit of a surprise considering the Volt's higher-end overall package. The back row is composed of two bucket seats divided by a center console that hides the car's massive lithium-ion battery beneath it. Headroom and legroom are in short supply for both rows, and getting in and out of the back seat takes a little extra effort because of the car's low-slung roofline.
The rear cargo hold is accessed by way of a convenient hatch, but the storage area is only 10.6 cu ft. The rear seats fold down to expand this space, but not enough to call the Volt spacious.
Other Cars to Consider
Nissan LEAF -- As the first mass-produced pure electric car for the U.S., the LEAF delivers a range of about 80 miles with zero tail-pipe emissions, but with that comes a lot of range anxiety. The LEAF doesn't come close to the Volt's 350-mile cruising range, and the Volt's dynamics are skewed in a sportier direction.
Tesla Model S -- If you're looking to stretch your budget a little beyond the Volt's $35,300 base price, Tesla's sporty Model S starts around $71,000 with shipping. It's pricey, but few cars match the Tesla's excellent style and its impressive 200-mile-plus fully electric range.
Toyota Prius Plug-In -- The Prius plug-in offers only one third of the Volt's all-electric range, but operating as a normal hybrid, its fuel economy is about 35 percent higher than the Volt's in gas-generator mode. The Prius is also a little less expensive and offers quite a bit more cargo space.
The Chevrolet Volt comes in only one trim level, but it offers multiple stand-alone and packaged options. We recommend adding the safety package to combat the Volt's poor rear visibility, and the optional navigation system (now included with the Bose audio system) -- because you never know when you'll need it. These enhancements bolster the Volt's already comprehensive list of amenities, making it a very complete package.