The 2017 Chevrolet Volt is a compact hatchback that offers a way to travel only on electricity for the majority of everyday driving, while eliminating range anxiety by providing a gasoline engine for longer trips.
This year’s Volt comes in two trim levels, the base LT and the high-end Premier (known in prior years as LTZ). Changes to the car in its second year of a new generation are limited to the availability of adaptive cruise control and one new color choice.
The Volt manages a 7.7 overall rating on our scale with a high fuel efficiency rating, great safety rating, and good features. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
GM says its user data show that the Volt will now cover nine of every 10 trips entirely on battery power, recharged by plugging in. The Volt’s EPA-rated electric range of 53 miles is second among plug-in hybrids only to that of the BMW i3 REx, but the Volt is more convenient for long trips because the range-extended BMW’s tiny gas tank requires fuel stops roughly once an hour.
Chevy Volt styling and performance
From the outside, the Chevy Volt is crisper, more rakish, and visually both lower and tauter than its predecessor. Its low cowl and door sculpting dispenses with the slab-sided look of earlier Volts. The front of the car comes to a point and then wraps back around the corners, with the low nose and rising window line making the car appear to lean forward like a very sleek, wedgy sedan.
Inside, the new Volt retains the central display screen and instrument-cluster display of earlier models, but the cockpit is more intuitive, with conventional knobs for things like audio tuning and climate control that are much closer to standard Chevrolet interior hardware.
The 2017 Volt’s T-shaped lithium-ion battery pack has a total capacity of 18.4 kilowatt-hours, giving it a stellar EPA rating of 53 miles of electric range, about one-third more than the 38 miles of 2013-2015 Volts. As long as charge remains in the battery, the Volt’s two motor-generators power the front wheels alone; the engine never switches on even if maximum power if required, unlike most other plug-in hybrids. Total output between the pair is 111 kilowatts (149 horsepower) and a remarkable 294 lb-ft of torque. Chevy quotes acceleration from 0 to 60 mph of about 8 seconds.
Once the battery is depleted, after 50 miles or so, the engine switches on and the Volt turns into a conventional hybrid car (until its next recharge) with an EPA rating of 42 mpg combined. It’s a 1.5-liter 4-cylinder from GM’s latest global family of 3- and 4-cylinder engines. It delivers 101 hp at 5,600 rpm, and runs on regular (87-octane) gasoline. For lowest energy use, its combustion process has been modeled to simulate the ultra-efficient Atkinson cycle under some circumstances. An 8.9-gallon fuel tank and the larger battery give a rated range of 430 miles on electricity and gasoline together.
On the road, the Volt is remarkably quiet, smooth and vibration-free, and powerful when needed. It has a heavy feel for its size, but the weight is situated low in the chassis, so it corners flat and has decent feel from the electric power steering. It’s not a sport sedan, but it’s easy and comfortable to drive, even somewhat calming. Even when the range-extending engine switches on, the new Volt doesn’t feel strained under full power, maintaining the smooth, silent feeling of electric drive. Build quality in the several Volts we’ve tested has been excellent, and a range of 50 miles or more is realistic in temperate weather. When temperatures drop significantly, that range may fall to 40 or 45 miles—and the engine will switch on to heat the cabin below freezing.
Comfort, safety and features
The Volt is reasonably comfortable for four adults. The front seats remain low to the ground, with good bolstering, while the the two rear outboard seats take the form of individual buckets. Responding to owner requests, Chevy has given the Volt a fifth seating position, though it’s only for occasional use on short trips by small, lithe passengers. To call it a seat would be a stretch; it’s little more than a cushioned pad over the battery pack, with the wide battery tunnel requiring the occupant’s legs to splay into the foot wells on either side.
The IIHS calls the Volt a Top Safety Pick+ and federal testers give it five stars for safety, across the board. All models come with 10 airbags and a rearview camera as standard equipment. Optional safety equipment includes adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-keeping assist with lane-departure warning, forward-collision warnings, and automatic emergency braking.
All Volts come with power features; keyless ignition; automatic climate control, OnStar 4G LTE with a three-year subscription, a built-in wi-fi hot spot, and Apple CarPlay on the infotainment home screen.
The base 2017 Volt LT starts around $34,000 before any incentives, and a fully optioned Volt Premier can reach $40,000 or more. It qualifies for a $7,500 federal income-tax credit, a $1,500 California purchase rebate, and various other state, local, and corporate incentives.