It’s understandable if you’ve never seen a Chevrolet Volt in person because, until just recently, it was available only in a handful of markets. By the end of 2011, however, the revolutionary Volt will be available from sea to shining sea. In fact, after the recent upgrades at the Detroit plant where the Volt is assembled, GM claims that the Volt will be produced in large enough numbers to be sold in Canada, China, and Europe by year’s end. Although it drives like any other single-gear electric vehicle, the Volt is unique because it packs a 1.4-liter gasoline four-cylinder engine under the hood. The 150-hp electric motor can power the vehicle on its own for about thirty-five miles, after which the gasoline engine kicks in to spin a generator, propelling the car for an additional 300-plus miles. It goes without saying that the Volt is no sports car, but it steers well, has a decent ride, and is surprisingly buttoned down despite riding on low-rolling-resistance tires. Inside, the Volt is comfortable but lacks the refinement of Chevrolet’s newest vehicles, such as the Cruze and the Malibu. The center console in particular is a low point both in design and functionality. The Volt is offered only in a single trim level with just two available options packages: the premium trim package, which adds heated front seats and perforated leather trim on the seats and steering wheel; and the park assist package, which includes a backup camera and front and rear parking sensors.

Drive: Front-wheel
Trim Level: Volt
Body style: Sedan, 4-passenger
Engine: Liquid-cooled AC motor, 150 hp, 273 lb-ft; lithium-ion battery, 16kWh; 1.4L gasoline engine range extender
Transmission: 1-speed fixed
Passenger volume: 90.8 cu ft
Cargo space: 10.6 cu ft

The Volt made its debut last year, so there are few changes for 2012. Turn-by-turn directions through OnStar are now standard on all Volts equipped with navigation. MyLink, an integrated system that allows owners to monitor their Volt remotely using the dedicated mobile app or website, is also newly standard and includes Bluetooth audio streaming. Seventeen-inch aluminum wheels with aerodynamic inserts have also been added to the options list.

Dual-stage front, side, and side curtain air bags are standard. ABS, traction and stability control, and a tire-pressure monitoring system are standard as well. A backup camera and front and rear parking sensors are optional.

All: 95 mpg city/90 mpg highway

  • Excellent fuel economy
  • No range anxiety
  • 35-mile electric-only range
  • Interior quality and design
  • Rear seat only holds two

The only extended-range electric vehicle for sale in the United States.

  • Nissan Leaf
  • Toyota Prius
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