THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Best: EV driving without the range worry in a handsome and aerodynamic package.
- What’s Worst: Impractical rear seating, smallish cargo hatch, dynamic drive assists only avail in upscale Premier trim.
- What’s Interesting: The sedan sale downslide means the Volt may be replaced by a crossover version by 2020 or so but, for now, its sales remain strong enough in Canada to carry on.
Fall is not just a season to mark the end of things.
It’s also a time of new beginnings, especially in the auto sector where the annual lineup turnover leaves a mixed bag of 2017 and 2018 models at both dealers and press fleets.
Among still relevant 2017s, we have to consider the Chevrolet Volt, riding on the coattails of last year’s major makeover and carrying over next year with only minor changes for 2018 – new colours, trim content adjustments and a few added techno tweaks.
The Volt remains unique as a plug-in hybrid that uses it onboard gasoline engine mainly as an electrical generator. This original solution to EV “range anxiety” still works, enhanced by the second-generation improvements made for last year’s 2016 models that include:
∙ New 85 km EV-only range (up from 61 km).
∙ New battery pack rated at 18.4 kWh instead of 16.5 kWh, with 192 revised cells instead of 288, weight reduced by 9.8 kg (21 lb) and repositioned for a lower centre of gravity.
∙ New revised Voltec two-motor electric drive – 45 kg (100 lb) lighter, 12 percent more efficient and 19 percent stronger in 0-50 km/h acceleration. Rated at 149 hp, 294 lb/ft of torque.
∙ New 1.5-litre (up from 1.4-litre) range extending gas engine/generator, now running on regular octane instead of premium.
∙ New structural changes for a quieter ride.
∙ New Regen on Demand control paddles on back of steering wheel.
∙ New braking system with improved Regen feel.
∙ New five-passenger seating layout with available rear heated seats.
∙ New, more compact 120-volt cord set.
∙ New location-based charging and driver control changes.
∙ New illuminated charge port option.
Technological evolution may be inevitable but GM engineers maintain that the modifications to the Volt were made in response to customer feedback, which mainly reflected on the immense satisfaction of gasoline-free driving.
Most commuters in Canada take the car for a less than 30-minute commute and usually also less than 30 kilometres one way. The Volt’s enhanced 85 km range fits well within those parameters.
My daily driving routine as a news photographer usually averages more than 100 km and this is where the range extending strengths of the Volt comes into play.
It removes any worry about “running out of juice”.
Also Read: Ioniq charges up Hyundai’s electric future
Picking up the Volt, I noted that the previous tester had managed a 3.2L/100km (comb) over 430 km. My session came in close, averaging 3.5L/100km (comb) over 500 km, which, umm, included one time when I forgot to plug in overnight.
It’s hard to rate the fuel economy of a car that is so dependent on driver demands, distances and recharge availability.
Drive it without ever plugging in and the four-cylinder range extender earns 5.5/5.6L/100km (city/hwy). Plug in overnight, however, and some owners could easily attain a 0L/100km average for weeks or even months.
So, how much does it cost to recharge the car electrically?
Recharging takes about 13 hours via a standard 120V plug or 4.5 hours using a 240V outlet. It takes about 13 kWh to recharge the battery (there’s a bit of a buffer built in), so plugging in at my local off-peak rate of $0.077 per kWh worked out to about a dollar a day.
So, while those first 80-plus kilometres every day were hardly “free”, they certainly come at a lower cost than fuelling even the best gas-powered econo car.
The Chevrolet Volt is smooth-lined and sleek, stylish from any angle, a little plasticky when seen from the rear. The interior is comfortable, better-finished than the original, roomy up front but still requiring compromise for second row seating, even after the shift from a four- to five-seater layout.
Our entry-level LT model starts well equipped with 10 airbags, remote start, programmable charging, rear view camera, Stabilitrak, automatic LED lighting, power heated mirrors, heated front seats, auto climate, keyless entry, a heated leather-wrapped tilt/telescopic steering wheel with the expected audio/cruise controls, and an audio system with eight-inch touch screen display featuring MyLink and Apple CarPlay capability.
The 2017 Chevrolet Volt LT’s $38,390 MSRP was boosted only slightly in our tester due to an optional Siren Red Tintcoat ($455) for an as-tested total of $38,845.
But tick off the check boxes of provincial incentives that are the same as for the all-electric Bolt ($14,000 in Ontario, $8,000 in Quebec and $5,000 in B.C.) and a free pass into commuter heaven via HOV/HOT lanes courtesy of the Green Licence Plate program.
Add in the fuel savings and eco-conscience-salving reduced emissions and the Volt seems a viable alternative that blends the best of EV and gasoline-powered technologies.
Also Read: 2018 Nissan Leaf EV takes you even Further
2017 Chevrolet Volt LT
BODY STYLE: Five-seat, five-door compact hatchback extended range electric vehicle (EREV).
ENGINE: 1.5-litre DOHC four-cylinder range extender generating electricity for a 110 kW twin-motor arrangement (149 hp, 294 lb/ft)
BATTERY: 18.4 kWh lithium-ion – 192 prismatic cells
RANGE: 85 km EV, 675 km when fully charged and with full tank of gas
FUEL ECONOMY: As tested 3.5L/100km (comb)
CARGO: 301 litres
PRICE: 2017 Volt LT $38,390; As tested $38,845 incl Siren Red Tintcoat ($455). Destination ($1,600) not incl.
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