In the 2019 Chevrolet Volt, buyers get the best of both worlds. Unlike the all-electric Nissan Leaf or the electric Volkswagen e-Golf, the Volt is a plug-in hybrid that can run solely on electric power for up to 53 miles, after which its 1.5-liter gasoline engine kicks in to power the car for another 367 miles. Unlike with the Toyota Prius or the Ford Fusion Energi, however, the Volt’s gasoline engine doesn’t drive the car — it merely creates power for the electric motors, increasing the Volt’s overall range to 420 miles.
Oh, sure, the Volt is still pricey for what you get, but federal and local tax incentives — combined with constant special offers from Chevrolet — ensures its pricing remains fairly reasonable. If you’re looking to go green, the latest Volt is a great way to do it.
What’s New for 2019?
Among the Volt’s numerous changes for 2019 is an improved 7.2 kW charging system that cuts charging times nearly in half. A 6-way power driver’s seat is now standard on Premier and optional on LT, and the adaptive cruise control can now be switched into conventional mode when required. A new Energy App is added to the 8-in infotainment screen, providing drivers with information on how route, weather conditions, driving patterns and cabin comfort impact fuel economy.
What We Like
Zero-emissions potential; excellent range; low fuel cost; nice amenities; modern styling
What We Don’t
Pricey; poor rear visibility
The 2019 Chevrolet Volt is propelled by a 149-horsepower 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine. Thanks to its large battery pack, the Volt can travel an EPA-rated 53 miles on a single charge before the range-extending gasoline engine kicks in. As for charge times, Chevy says it takes about 4.5 hours to recharge a Volt using a 240-volt outlet, or 13 hours with a standard household plug.
If you’re interested in the actual fuel economy figures, the EPA says the Volt’s combined-driving figure is 106 miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe) — the agency’s rating figure for plug-in hybrids and electric cars. Once the electric motor has shut off, the gasoline engine alone returns an impressive 42 mpg in combined driving.
Standard Features & Options
The Volt is offered in two trim levels: a base-level model dubbed the LT and a high-end version called the Premier.
The LT ($34,395) is generously equipped, offering a remote starter, a backup camera, keyless access with push-button start, LED headlights, an 8-in center touchscreen with Chevy’s MyLink app interface, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, 17-in alloy wheels, automatic climate control and compatibility for iPhone users.
The Premier ($38,995) offers even more features, including leather upholstery, auto-dimming mirrors, heated front and rear seats, power driver’s seat, a heated steering wheel, heated mirrors, a Bose sound system, an automated parking system for both parallel and perpendicular parking spaces and a wireless charging pad for mobile devices.
Options on the Volt LT include several features that come standard in the Premier (leather upholstery, heated seats, power driver’s seat, a heated steering wheel and a Bose sound system) and the Driver Confidence package, while the Premier offers a more robust Driver Confidence II package. Like the LT’s package, the Premier’s package touts a blind spot monitoring system, lane-departure warning and rear cross-traffic alert, then adds adaptive headlights, lane-keep assist and forward-collision warning with automatic braking. The Premier also offers navigation and, when equipped with the Driver Confidence packages, driver selectable adaptive cruise control.
The Volt offers everything you’d expect as standard equipment, including a backup camera, side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, as well as traction and stability control. GM’s OnStar system, which boasts automatic crash notification and stolen-vehicle assistance, is also standard. Options run the gamut from adaptive headlights and lane-keep assist to an automated parallel-parking system, forward-collision alert with automatic braking, a blind spot monitoring system, lane-departure warning and rear cross-traffic alert.
In crash testing, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the 2019 Volt an overall 5-star rating. The nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the 2019 Chevrolet Volt its highest rating of Good in every crash test, Superior in its crash-avoidance and mitigation tests and Marginal in the ease-of-use test for the child-seat anchors. The IIHS also awarded the Volt a Top Safety Pick+ award.
Behind the Wheel
If you’ve driven the first-generation version of the Chevrolet Volt, we suspect you’ll find it very similar to this model. That’s because the latest Volt offers the same general size, shape and driving dynamics as its predecessor, and it even retains the same powertrain. The most noticeable differences we’ve found are a roomier cabin, slightly better acceleration, more safety features and a little more composure through the turns.
If you’ve never driven a Volt, you’ll immediately be surprised by just how quiet the hatchback is. The electric motor makes no noise, meaning the only sounds you’ll hear are rushing wind and tire noise on the pavement. The Volt’s ride is compliant — not firm but not cushy — while handling is merely average, offering a predictable feel but very little gusto or excitement. That isn’t necessarily a drawback unique to the Volt, however, as few rivals (including gas-powered models) tout especially involved driving dynamics. The same can be said for acceleration, which is adequate, but could be better. The Volt offers excellent interior room, especially for rear passengers.
When you’re behind the wheel of the Volt, we suspect the only real drawback you’ll find is visibility. Owing to the car’s aerodynamic styling, visibility isn’t particularly good, especially out the rear, which has thick pillars. Even in the front, however, you can lose pedestrians and even other vehicles in the Volt’s large A-pillars.
Other Cars to Consider
2019 Ford Fusion Energi — The plug-in hybrid Fusion Energi is larger and more expensive than the Volt, but offers superior driving dynamics, more features and a bigger passenger compartment. However, the Fusion Energi can only travel 25 miles on electric power.
2019 Nissan Leaf — The Leaf delivers a range of about 150 miles with zero tailpipe emissions. But with that comes a lot of range anxiety: The Leaf doesn’t come close to the Volt’s 420-mile cruising range, and the Volt’s dynamics are skewed in a sportier direction. Later in 2019, Nissan is promising an extended range battery that should increase range to 220 miles.
2019 Toyota Prius Prime Plug-in — The Prius Prime Plug-in offers less than half of the Volt’s all-electric range. But operating as a normal hybrid, its fuel economy is far better, with a predicted range of about 640 miles at around 54 mpg in combined driving. The Prius Prime is also less expensive and offers quite a bit more cargo space.
Used Tesla Model S — The Tesla Model S is a high-tech, upscale, fully electric luxury sedan that offers an impressive range of well over 250 miles. Prices are high, though, so you may want to consider a used model.
We’d go with the Volt Premier and add the top-level Driver Confidence II packages, adaptive cruise control and navigation. It may be expensive, but tax rebates will soften the blow, and you’ll be able to enjoy the best of both worlds: lots of features and lots of fuel efficiency.