Now that the much-anticipated and much-discussed Chevy Volt is finally out and about in the real world (on sale in seven states currently, and available in all 50 by the end of the year), we can get a better idea of what it's really like to live with. I recently did just that, taking home a Volt for a four-day weekend. Conclusion? The Volt works, but whether it works for you depends on how you interact with it -- and that's more so the case here than with any other car, due to the Volt's two methods of refueling.
The Volt's exterior form is by now well familiar. Inside is a mix of mod and basic. The seats are not bad but adjustments are rudimentary. Outward visibility suffers due to fat A- and B-pillars, typical for a General Motors car. Up front, the cabin is interesting-looking, with lots of body-colored trim inside. But the back-seat riders are definitely second-class citizens, their door panels are molded hard plastic, and both headroom and legroom are at a premium. The rear seatbacks are two individual units with a space in between (a la Volvo C30), and that combined with the lack of a package shelf does open up the rear-seat area to light coming in through the huge hatch glass. The downside is that stuff in the cargo hold is not hidden from passersby.
The dash has two large, high-resolution displays and there's an animated start-up greeting -- which should wow the iPhone generation. The flat buttons on the sleek center stack look cool but demand more attention than old-school switches and knobs. The radio/navigation logic is quite good, only the nav's zoom function could be easier to find.
Peppier than a Prius
A futuristic "whoosh" greets you when you hit the blue, pulsing Power button, and again when you shut the car down. The torque of the big electric motor makes the Volt peppier than a Toyota Prius or a Honda Insight. (A selectable sport mode quickens throttle response even further.) The chassis is relatively firm. Bumps are well managed but the suspension could use more rebound damping at the rear. The electric power steering is quite good with natural efforts. The regenerative brakes feel normal most of the time, but become more difficult to modulate during harder stops.