By on September 28, 2011

Ed, Sajeev, and yours truly have all weighed in on the Chevrolet Volt. We all agreed that it drives surprisingly well, but that aspects of the interior need work. I hadn’t been planning to review the Volt again, but was asked if I’d like to have one for a week following the Cruze ECO. And so an intramural competition was born. If the $19,995 Cruze ECO is such a solid, comfortable, and efficient commuter, why spend twice as much for the $39,995 Volt?

Okay, maybe not twice as much. A $7,500 tax credit takes care of over a third of the difference. And a run through TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool finds that the Volt includes about $2,300 in additional features. Give credit for these, and the difference is about $10,300. So figure fifty percent more.

A word about those earlier reviews. All three were based on short drives, about an hour in my case. More than a few people have wondered how valid such a review can be. Well, valid enough that even after a week in the car I find I have little to say that hasn’t been said before, save that the strengths noted earlier remain strengths and the weaknesses noted earlier remain weaknesses—neither significantly diminishes with experience.

The number one weakness: as Ed noted, “an iPod covered in buttons is no iPod at all.” Even after a week in the car the center stack remained difficult to use. At a minimum the many buttons need to be separated into clearly demarcated logical groups. As is, even basic functions often require far too much conscious thought and time with one’s eyes off the road. I never did figure out how to best operate the HVAC, as the AC and heating systems seemed to have minds of their own even in “comfort” mode. I’d also like a way to turn off the audio without turning off everything. As is, you either have to turn the volume all the way down or use the mute button on the steering wheel. Go the latter route, and the music returns at the original volume the next time the car is started—the “mute” is forgotten when the car is shut off.

Among other weaknesses, the Volt’s rear seat didn’t seem any less cramped after a week with the car than it did initially. And you’ll want the $695 rear camera option given the car’s poor rearward visibility.

Objectively, the Volt’s number one strength is, of course, its ability to run on electricity. Some will claim that the roughly forty-mile range before the gas-powered “range extender” automatically kicks on isn’t sufficient. Well, in my case I had to take the car off life support in order to test it with the engine running. Until I did so all of my runs to Costco, the doctor (daughter broke a toe), and the kids’ school were accomplished entirely on battery power.

How much cheaper is it to run on electricity? I complained earlier that the Volt’s display doesn’t include a report for miles-per-kWh analogous to the trip computer’s miles-per-gallon report while running on gas. I’ll repeat that complaint. Consequently, I had to do a little math, the upshot of which is that the Volt covers about four miles on each kilowatt-hour (when not running the air conditioning). Conservatively figure three miles per kWh to allow for charging losses and some AC use. In Michigan each kWh costs about 12 cents, so this works out to about four cents per mile. In the Cruze ECO I observed a bit over 35 MPG. With gas at $3.80, that’s about 11 cents per mile. Over the course of a 12,000-mile year, the difference would add up to about $800. In other words, it’ll be a while before that $10,000+ is recouped.

But does this render the Volt pointless? Perhaps there’s more to the car than cutting fuel costs? Any car beyond a basic transportation appliance is bought because it’s more pleasurable to look at, sit in, or drive. Perhaps all three.


The production Volt doesn’t look like the initial concept (which I personally never expected to happen, given GM’s propensity to create thoroughly impractical concepts). But it also doesn’t look like the Cruze or anything else, with the partial exception of the Prius. And it does have a more stylish, upscale exterior than the Prius. Just looking at it I felt like I was driving something special, and not just because of the $995 “veridian joule” paint and $595 polished aluminum wheels that helped bump the pre-tax credit total to $46,165 (someone inside GM did their best to induce sticker shock in reviewers). This was far from the case with the Cruze.

Sit in the Volt, and the sense of occasion goes up by an order of magnitude. Love it—or not—the interior styling is certainly distinctive and effectively expresses the leading-edge technology packed into the car. When pressed, the start button lights up blue while the car makes a video game-like “powering up” sound. Hit it again, and you get a “powering down” sound as the light goes out. (My boys loved this.) The problem we had figuring out whether or not the Prius was on: avoided. The two displays are gorgeous and far better designed than the buttons that assist them. The driving efficiency gauge, a ball the changes height and color, is the most intuitive I’ve yet experienced—though I wish it reported how much of the braking was being handled through the regenerative system. There’s also a driving efficiency report to surreptitiously test one’s “I’m not going to change the way I drive” spouse. (She scored a respectable 86 percent and reported liking the car far more than the relatively sluggish Prius.)

Drive the Volt, and you’ll find that, in this case at least, appearances aren’t deceiving. GM has tuned the powertrain to deliver an incredibly smooth launch. Even if you floor the accelerator from a dead stop in “sport” mode there’s not a hint of a jerk. You cannot chirp a tire in this car. Instead, the car smoothly and almost silently builds speed much the way a high-speed elevator does (if not in the same direction). As with the Prius, driving the Volt with an ultra-light foot feels natural. But, unlike with the Prius, driving it with a heavy foot also feels right. Once the car is underway the electric motor dishes out a firmer shove when prodded. Either way, the Volt never feels sluggish or strained the way a Prius (or Cruze ECO, for that matter) can. With the accelerator to the floor the car easily leaves traffic behind—if you’re in a hurry, sixty can happen in about nine seconds. Not a stellar time, but recall that this is with absolutely no sign of strain from the powertrain. While running on battery power the electric motor is nearly silent. I rode in an EV1 once, and the whine of its motor was far louder. Run out of battery and the Volt’s 1.4-liter gas engine automatically cuts on, but usually remains a distant hum while roughly matching the MPG of the Cruze (high 20s to mid 40s, depending on driving style and conditions, with a suburban average around 35), and so 10-12 MPG short of a Prius. At its loudest the gas engine remains far quieter than the 1.8 recently sampled in the new Chevrolet Sonic. If GM can achieve such silent running in the Volt, why not in the Sonic? Braking is also smooth and silent in the Volt, with no evident transition between the regenerative system and the conventional brakes. The entire experience of driving the car is distinctively effortless, almost magical.

This isn’t to say that the Volt is a cocoon. The suspension is firmer and more tightly damped than that in the Cruze ECO and there doesn’t seem to be as much road noise insulation. As a result, impacts are more sharply felt and heard, but body motions are also better controlled. The ride remains comfortable, and serious drivers will appreciate the chassis’s moderate level of feedback, which helps compensate for the incommunicative (if well-weighted) steering.

The bottom line: I wasn’t sad to see the Cruze ECO go at the end of the week—it’s a very well done appliance, but an appliance nonetheless—while I very much miss driving the Volt. In twenty years the way the Volt drives will likely seem typical, but we’re not nearly there yet. In the here and now the Volt’s worth $10,000+ more than the Cruze the same way other $30,000+ cars are worth more than the Cruze: by providing a different, more desirable experience.

Chevrolet provided the vehicle, insurance and fuel for this review.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.

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76 Comments on “Review: Chevrolet Volt vs. Chevrolet Cruze Eco...”


  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Pity we won’t see a Cruze with a hatch like the Volt’s. I miss my 9-3′s huge cargo opening.

    • 0 avatar

      Not so huge in this case, but it serves for even the heaviest grocery runs.

    • 0 avatar
      moorewr

      And to think! They make a Cruze hatchback and sell it all over the world!

      http://www.cartype.com/pics/8486/full/chevrolet_cruze_hatchback_11_01.jpg

    • 0 avatar

      If Ford manages to do well with the Focus hatch, then you can bet on Chevrolet reversing its earlier decision.

      • 0 avatar
        moorewr

        Yes, hurrah for the Focus hatchback. Between that and Chevy bringing the diesel Cruze over, I have high hopes for the US small car market.

      • 0 avatar
        Thinkin...

        Yes indeed – they can’t get the 5-door Cruze here soon enough. Since there’s little, if any, R&D costs involved, it’s unfathomable that GM wouldn’t choose to offer it in the US straightaway. (Unless, of course, this GM is the same GM that drove themselves out of business a couple years ago… That GM was great at making terrible decisions. I hope this one proves smarter.)

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        I’m pretty impressed that GM is bringing a (any) Diesel car to the US. I would think that a hatchback bodystyle would be much less of a risk (and cost) to bring to market in the US.

        I would think the Diesel has many more hurdles to go through. One of which is the fuel pricing, and GM can’t do anything about that.

        Gasoline here in Western Michigan is about $3.30-3.40/gallon right now. Diesel fuel is ~$3.80-3.90/gallon. Although our gasoline costs change frequently, it usually lower than Diesel.

        More power if GM does bring it on.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        OTOH, why couldn’t GM just make a hatch similar to the Volt for the Cruze idiom? I mean, change the interior and the end caps, but the same basic body.

        Or maybe it would end up looking too much like the Volt?

      • 0 avatar
        moorewr

        geozinger – the Cruze hatch is not like anything else I’ve seen from Chevy. It remind me a bit of the previous generation of European Fords, except with the bow-tie nose. You can browse the UK site for pictures. I like the side profile, but other angles look very tubby.

        http://www.chevrolet.co.uk/cars/cruze/cruze-hatchback/

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        @moorewr: I see what you mean. I think the one I’m thinking of is the wagon version. Here’s the pix from Australian magazine.

        http://tinyurl.com/4xszcds

        Someone here called it a 5 door. In the States 5 door is a code for hatchback if you don’t want to call your vehicle a hatchback.

        Get it? H*ll, I don’t and I live here!

    • 0 avatar
      dizzydevil105

      The Cruze 5 is a hatch back version its sold in europe and asia I am sure if you really wanted one you could have one custom shipped.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I’ve seen a couple around, nice looking car. Would look even nicer if that black plastic or paint or whatever was actually window. I did not realize that the Volt is actually a hatchback, I though it was just the usual “looks like a hatch with a useless tiny trunklid”. Bravo to GM for that one!

    Here on the lovely but very expensive coast of Maine, my marginal cost for electricity (generation and delivery combined) is $.215KW/hr, so the Volt would never repay the difference over a Cruze. I WISH I could pay only $.12 per. But then this car is all about making a statement, not saving money.

    And at $46K, it was almost $7K MORE than my 328i Touring. Which is vaguely horrifying. But I understand the need to recoup the development costs. The $7500 in Goverment cheese is crap though, IMHO.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    I will say that the corporate grille almost works on this car and kinda looks right.

  • avatar

    A big unknown, given the new, massively complex powertrain: what it will cost to maintain a Volt out of warranty. Unfortunately, we have far more Nissan Leaf owners signed up to help with TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey, so no reliability stats for the Volt in the near term as much as I’d like to have some.

    To help with the survey, with a Volt or just about any other car:

    http://www.truedelta.com/reliability.php

    • 0 avatar
      TEXN3

      My opinion below is baseless… but this is why I’d rather have the Cruze than the Volt. In 10-12 years, the Cruze may be perfect for my kid to take over and will have served well but the Volt I would not be sad to have gone.

      I know people said the same about Pruii and have been mostly wrong. But that is somewhat of a different animal.

      As a side; due to my ultra-low electricity rates ($0.065/kWh) versus unleaded rates ($3.84/gallon), I wonder what the cost recovery would be relative to most publication’s considerations (usually in CA, MI, NY).

      And finally; the Cruze is definitely in the top 3 of vehicles to replace the TL (should that need arise in the next few years). Along with a used (05-09) Legacy or new Impreza (sedan or wagon).

      • 0 avatar

        Is that the total rate, including the “transmission charge” and taxes? These account for 4 of the 12 cents mentioned above. If so, quite low. But it would still only cut a penny or two from the fuel cost per mile. So maybe you’d save $1,000 instead of $800.

        Note that my comparison was with the Cruze, which is among the most efficient non-hybrids. You’ll save far more compared to a TL.

      • 0 avatar
        TEXN3

        Yes, total rate. We’re mostly hydro-power and Idaho Power has not been building many new t-lines (much to my chagrin, as a contractor/consultant within the T&D and utlity industry).

        I wouldn’t compare it to the TL either. I’d only be comparing to new vehicles (such as I described above). A car (TL, in this case) that only requires maintenance, fuel, and the occasional repair (under $200) is cheaper to operate and own.

      • 0 avatar
        wagonsonly

        TEXN3 – Interesting that you’re comparing the Cruze with two Subaru models (I’ve seen in your other posts that your other car is an Outback). Driving to work today, I saw a Volt in the wild for the first time – and was struck by how much it looks (in my opinion) like an SVX, at least from the front and rear. Other than the lack of manual transmission, it’s also the first time I’ve seen a contemporary American car that I would seriously consider buying.

      • 0 avatar
        TEXN3

        I’ve had a few for rentals and test drove a manual equipped model. It’s quite refined for its size, at the cost if a higher curb weight. I really think it’s competent and well out together… But alot have fallen in that trap with GM. I like Subaru, I like the engineering and designs put into their vehicles. They drive well and at least on the Outback, the long-travel suspension is great on our varying road surfaces.

        Also, I dont care for over stylized vehicles, nixes the Ford and Koreans.

        I see the resemblance between the SVX and Volt.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      To be fair though, the electric drivetrain bits _should_ be more reliable, and take a look at GM’s maintenance schedule.. OTOH it’s a first-gen product, so who knows?

  • avatar
    benzaholic

    > Any car beyond a basic transportation appliance is bought
    > because it’s more pleasurable to look at, sit in, or drive.
    > Perhaps all three.

    There can also be more personal motivations, such as wanting the latest gadgets or trying to support a particular market direction.

    Current electric cars don’t win on a strictly financial basis, but I accept that they eventually will. Might be ten years, might be fifty, might be a hundred. Given the long technology development times, some may choose to pay the premium of these early generation creations in hopes that it will allow/encourage the next generation of these drivetrains, and the next one after that.

    Short of some real breakthroughs, batteries will not be the winning means of carrying around the energy, but the electric motors, transmissions, braking systems, just to name a few, will remain, so their continuing development is valuable. Just assume they’ll use fuel cells as storage, if the hydrogen infrastructure comes around, or Mr. Fusion if not.

    • 0 avatar
      Herm

      Breakthroughs are coming, pretty soon batteries will be tiny and give you a humongous range. Expect to be surprised when even full size helicopters go battery powered.. its like science fiction I tell you!

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    You wrote “. . . the Volt is worth $10,000+ more than the Cruze the same way other $30,000+ cars are worth more than the Cruze: by providing a different, more desirable experience.”

    By extension, does the above hold true for Volt vs other $20,000 cars that are “solid, comfortable, and efficient commuters” (which is how you described the Cruze)??

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      VERY good question!

    • 0 avatar

      The Volt is like nothing I’ve ever driven before (though I admittedly haven’t driven a LEAF). If someone likes the experience the Volt provides, then no $20,000 car is going to provide it. A Focus is also more fun to drive than a Cruze, but for very different reasons. Apples, oranges, and all that.

      My key point was that this is one of those decisions that can’t be boiled down to a cost analysis, though relative running cost can certainly be one factor among others.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    “A $7,500 tax credit takes care of over a third of the difference.”

    Unless you’re a taxpayer paying the 7500.00 for someone else’s purchase.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      Let’s be honest for a minute: we all pay taxes for things we’d don’t always directly benefit from and/or fundamentally disagree with. It’s part of the social contract and the best you can really hope for is to elect someone who only puts money into your trough.

      For me, $7500 per person for the Volt (or whatever Canada and Ontario do as an equivalent) is peanuts compared to, eg, what it costs to incarcertate people for drug possession, or the bunch of submarines we bought a while ago that don’t work.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      So it was acceptable for the ‘guberment to subsidize Prius sales in the 2000′s but not OK to subsidize EV and partial-EV sales in the 2010′s.

      Got it

    • 0 avatar
      sitting@home

      It’s a TAX CREDIT. It’s not someone else’s money you’re spending, it’s your own money you’re keeping.

    • 0 avatar
      probert

      You’re paying a lot more- both in terms of lives and money – to protect oil resources. It’s also an investment in clean tech and user habits that could pay future dividends.

      This is the most advanced car in the world – where’s the national pride. In the sixties we went to the moon – in the 11s we went to the convenience store.. using electricity!

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    Michael…nice review.
    It felt more from the heart than other reviews.

    I am also glad that the Volt feels good. I want that good feeling at take off any way I can get it.
    Give me turbo, superchargers….OR electric motors.
    Heck, give me any combination above and I am happy if it results in my feeling goose bumps when driving.
    I am not tied to any tech when it comes to fulfilling my fun in life goal.

    The ONLY part that still eats at me is the tax discount.
    Enough already of me helping out with my money…!!!
    IF people want the fun torque or earthly rewards for going electric…they should pay the whole bill.

    That 7 plus grand off the price really bites at me.

    • 0 avatar

      They’re only selling about 500 a month, so the total number of dollars is far, far smaller than, say, Cash for Clunkers. So far Nissan is benefiting much more than GM.

      The Volt’s take off is probably more gradual than you like. It does prioritize smoothness.

      • 0 avatar
        TrailerTrash

        Ya, I am not thinking this things is gratifying at take off.
        All I am hoping is that electric on its own or with any combination of other tech eventually gives me more.
        You did say it is more fun than the Eco, so to me the gas/electric partnership can work well…or at least better than just the small 4.

        I still think that combining these techs will be great.

        Personally, I was hoping the Mazda X8 would combine the electric with rotary.
        Or perhaps we can see electric motors with other engines to get the pleasure I am seeking.

        By the way, your answer to your own question opening this comparison…is the extra money worth the spend even though it would take a stupid long time to get a payback.
        The answer, I guess, was yes.

        So is it with the gas/electric combination in the Porsche Cayenne hybrid.
        It seems everybody is giving Porsche hell for the waste of money and the eco part.
        But as far as I can see, it really makes for a fun big car!
        The electric helps it and over all…it is a fun hauler.

        Isn’t that what we really have here?
        OK…so the eco thing is so, so…but the car is fun.

      • 0 avatar
        Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

        Takeoffs may be smooth, but they’re also relatively quick if my experience at stoplights is any indication.. I would recommend driving in L with Sport mode engaged at all times, it’s a whole lot more fun.

        (my ‘efficiency’ is 42-45kWh/100mi , and that’s in triple-digit Texas heat with A/C in ‘eco’ (which actually works!).. It also helps to have ChargePoints around for which you have free recharging..)

      • 0 avatar
        Pixel_Dude

        I’ve got an Acura RSX Type S, and a Volt. I’ll take the Volt’s acceleration any day over the Type S (not necessarily faster, but much more satisfying).

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Considering the fact that you have to take the Volt to the dealer for any minor issue, makes that purchase even more questionable considering the cost of dealer service and the cost of the exclusive parts needed for that car. In the long run, you will regret not betting the more traditional Cruze.

    • 0 avatar
      TEXN3

      At least until the warranty runs out, you’d be doing the same on any car.

      • 0 avatar
        Volt 230

        Are you gonna bring your Volt to Pep Boys after the warranty runs out? I don’t think so!!

      • 0 avatar
        TEXN3

        Not for anything except wear and tear items, similar as any other new car.

        Most buyers of the Volt are purchasers of the ” next big thing” and will have dumped the car after a few years. I wouldn’t purchase a Volt, Leaf, plugin Prius… I’d lease.

        But I’m not going to be doing either, I’m a motor head and prefer the norm.

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      I’ve seen Priuses at Jiffy Lube.

      For the most part, the same wear items exists on the Volt as on a normal car, and there’s a good chance that engine-related wear, as well as brakes and certain ICE wear items, will be less, not more.

      • 0 avatar
        Herm

        No direct fuel injection or turbo in the Volt, plus very little engine use for the average driver means long oil life… perhaps up to 20k miles or 2 years. Brake pads should last the life of the car, like they do in a Prius. But most modern cars need very little maintenance anyways.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      Volt maintenance schedule: http://gm-volt.com/forum/showthread.php?5561-Volt-Maintenance-Schedule

      tl;dr:
      * 7500mi: rotate tires
      * 15k mi: inspect everything, lube hinges/latches/locks
      * 24 months: change oil + filter
      * 50k mi: replace engine air cleaner, inspect fuel evap system
      * 100k mi: replace plugs
      * 150k mi or 5 years: drain/flush/refill engine cooling system (I assume this means both electric and gas)
      * 150k mi or 10 years: inspect drive belt
      * 10 years: drain/flush/refill AC system

  • avatar
    thirty-three

    In BC electricity is $0.0062/kWh, and gas is ~$5/gallon, so that pushes things in favour of the Volt, particularly if you have a short commute and can use electricity almost all the time. Unfortunately we don’t get the $7500 tax credit, so that probably cancels things out.

    • 0 avatar
      Alex Mackinnon

      Well, I just crunched the numbers and it works out to about $2000/yr saved on gas if you drive 24000km/yr under electricity. A bit less when you factor in that the ICE needs to be fired up every so often.

      Downside is, Hydro has basically outright said to much of Metro Vancouver, they can’t support the load with existing infrastructure since so much growth has happened in the area recently. Expect $.07 to $.09/ kWh electricity soon to pay for new infrastructure.

    • 0 avatar
      Bancho

      Is that decimal place in the right spot?

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I like the Volt, but the “multi-button iPod”—which is a good line—would probably be a near-dealbreaker for me.

    • 0 avatar
      TrailerTrash

      the deal breaker for me is the extremely low front end. for awhile, there were lots of complaints about this thing not even being able to drive into driveways without breaking the low front plastic.

      I wonder if Michael noticed any problem with the low front end…..

      Plus, I am not that into saving the environment or a few dollars to give up on my fun.
      I simply like quick.
      I like a push in the back when passing as it is nerve racking enough. I just want to feel power when I need it.

      Oh…and I swore I would never buy anything that has the rear end of a door stop.
      They look bad and I demand the ability to see.
      Seeing is just a major part of driving.

  • avatar
    HiFlite999

    Your closing remarks really trumps all others. In some sense, the purchase of any car beyond what is enough to get the job done is a luxury. I’m under no illusion that my RX-8 will be $/mile cheaper than a Camry. Yet one is willing to pay X for Y for reasons generally falling under “taste”. It seems the majority of objections to green cars are in reality objections to the tastes of others. In the carnut world somehow 400 hp engines are worth paying extra for, while hybrid electrics are not. Potato, Potahto, French Fries, what does it matter?

  • avatar

    I see ONE VOLT for every 30 CRUZES I see.

    It just doesn’t make any sense to me to buy a Volt (or a leaf for that matter).

    • 0 avatar
      gslippy

      Here in western PA, I’ve seen exactly two Volts – both on the local dealer’s lot. They were slow to get here.

      Haven’t seen a Leaf yet; PA isn’t even on Nissan’s next batch of states for Leaf release.

      Cruzes are everywhere, and I’ve ridden in my officemate’s new one many times already – nice car (1.4T).

  • avatar
    Advo

    I thought all the center consoles were in an off-putting, to me, kitchen appliance white. I wasn’t paying attention to every review.

    The black plastic trim below the side window is the only thing I don’t like about the appearance. I’d even settle for an optional more body-colored replacement.

  • avatar
    vbofw

    Great review Michael. Tight and very interesting.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    I have to chuckle at people that get their undies in a bunch about the federal tax credit. Like it’s somehow lowering their quality of life. In the end, alternative fuel vehicles like the Volt, Leaf and others could end up saving you money or at the least stabilizing the price of gas.

    Seems most are sold on the Volt once they have the chance to drive it or even just take a ride. There are a few available a dealers where I live but all were purchased out of state which seems to be their excuse for asking 5K over MSRP.

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    No one’s buying a $30,000 Prius or $40,000 Volt for economic reasons. They bought it to make statement. To get that smug “I’m doing my bid to save the environment, and you’re not, therefore I am holier than thou” feeling. For that, Volt delivers. The Volt’s styling, its operation and its high-tech center console all reinforces this feeling, which enables it to fulfill a need a Cruze Eco can never fulfill successfully.

    • 0 avatar
      Thinkin...

      I read all these statements about “smug” Prius drivers, yet I’ve never met one. I know about a half dozen people who own Priuses (Prii?) and never once has any one of them even mentioned their car without me asking about it first. They’ve never pointed and laughed at me at the gas station, or asked why my car has three pedals. They’ve never mentioned the environment, and none even have bumper stickers. Fact of the matter is, if I wasn’t a car nut, I’d never know that they own hybrids.

      My friends with BMWs on the other hand… I like the old Bimmer joke best: “How do you know if someone drives a BMW? Wait a minute – they’ll tell you.”

      • 0 avatar
        Japanese Buick

        Exactly, Prius hate always amuses me. I only know one Prius owner well. He’s a Tea Party Republican retired Air Force colonel who loves his Prius because he hates paying for gas and he loves the engineering of it (calls it his “nerd car”).

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      The closest to smug that I get in my Volt is:

      “I’m doing my bid to prevent having to send your child to get killed or maimed to protect some tycoon’s balance sheet”

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Heaven help me, after years of vitriolic hatred directed by me against the Volt, I’m beginning to warm up to it a little.

    Cons:
    If ROI is your thing, this car isn’t. It’s dirtier, more costly, and less efficient than a Prius. I don’t go for the dual fuel requirement, rare as a fillup might be. That center console reminds me of a scientific calculator. Too bad it needs a subsidy to help sell it, and a bailout to help it across the finish line.

    Pros:
    I like its looks a lot (I thought the concept was nasty, and which eventually became the Camaro, IMO). Reviewers universally praise its driveability. It keeps its promises of technical achievement.

  • avatar
    Dynasty

    Theoretically, the technology in the volt will make it’s way into other (maybe all) GM vehicles and the cost will go down substantially.

    Batteries still have a lot of potential left to discover. Perhaps within five years, batteries will be good enough to get 100 miles before the gas engine turns on.

    100 miles using no gas is probably pretty close to the edge for these types of vehicles to really catch on.

  • avatar
    Garak

    I’m waiting for the Opel Ampera to come to Finland. Electricity is something like 10 cents per kWh, but gasoline is about 8$ per gallon or more – the car makes much more sense than in the US.

    Also, due to CO2-based purchase and road taxes, the price difference to ordinary cars might not be too bad.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    Good review, Michael. I was curious to see how the Volt would hold up against the Cruze Eco as it seems to be the reason against as to why anyone would buy a Volt in the first place. Certainly, it’s the tangibles and the intangibles. I agree that 10-20-50 years from now we’ll be driving something like this car. Maybe not this car, but something based on it.

    I wish I had the dollars to put out for one of these (but until commercial printing becomes a solid business again, I’m screwed). I was very interested in the car when it was announced, but put off by the high cost of entry.

    Maybe Gen2 will be more in line with cheaper mid size cars and I can get one. Just in time for retirement.

    Woo hoo!

  • avatar
    daviel

    I normally hate GM small cars, to-wit: cavalier/cobalt – Cruze looks and reads nice though. What do you get out of the expensive Volt? a trip to Walmart and back? Meh

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      I get my commute.

      Both ways.

      Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.

      (better yet, my office parking garage has a L2 charger and dedicated prime parking spaces for EVs, so M-F my fuel costs are 0.00/mi, though I’ll still typically charge over the weekend if I’m to run errands.)

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    Very good review.

    I think Chevrolet did a good job hiding the utilitarian compromises in the styling with one exception. On the bottom where there is the blackout strip, the blackout strip doesn’t extend onto the doors. The result is it looks like the doors from another car were tacked onto the Volt. Since this car had a premium paint package to the tune of $995, it seems especially shoddy.

    As to the $7500 tax credit: it is a subsidy to get the technology further up the technology curve (experience curve) faster. In the experience curve, the costs of production decrease in proportion to cumulative units produced. Absolutely it is a subsidy, but we actually subsidize all cars because the gas tax doesn’t pay the whole cost of maintaining our road system, nor does it account for the external effects of the pollution the cars generate.

    • 0 avatar
      moorewr

      I hadn’t noticed the blackout strip before, and now that you’ve pointed it out it bugs the hell out of me.

      People have pointed out above that a tax credit is “your money” – indeed “tax payments” like these are that even if they are another drop in the debt bucket. Government always “picks winners and losers” this way – consider how much public money goes to roads, or all the costs associated with air travel. That was a decision, and a brilliant one, early in the history of aviation. If the public didn’t pay for airports and air traffic controls, air travel would look very different.

    • 0 avatar
      Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

      You don’t see the blackout strip if you get one in black.

  • avatar
    boltar

    Regarding the tax subsidy, electric cars in general are very much a chicken and egg issue for infrastructure and consumer acceptance. Without the subsidy it seems pretty unlikely GM would produce the Volt, and adoption of fuel-efficient electric cars would be much delayed in the US. The fact that the subsidy is apparently quite effectively facilitating the move into electric cars — which will eventually allow Americans to ship boatloads less money in exchange for foreign oil — strikes me as an amazing bargain and good use of government funding. And it’s exactly the kind of thing governments are intended to do: look after the strategic long- term interests of the republic when ordinary market-driven choices of American citizens would be penny wise and pound foolish.

    Good on GM for at least moving things forward for a change after 40 years of fighting progress. In a few years when the production costs of Volt-like hardware drop to around $20k rather than the current $40k the role of the subsidies (like the effective tax subsidies that created the interstate system in the 50s and 60s) will be considered as an obvious win when it is remembered at all. In spite of the current fashionable trendiness of detesting government meddling, it’s responsible for creating most of the auto centric world we live in.


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