The Volt is a car Chevrolet hopes will revolutionize transportation. Unlike conventional hybrids, which drive the wheels with electric or gas power, the Volt is a battery-powered electric car that has a gas-powered range-extending generator onboard to keep the car going if the charge runs out. The Volt is essentially a four-door hatchback family car with two rear seats separated by a console that houses part of the car's long, T-shaped battery pack.
New for 2012
For California buyers, Chevrolet has a new low-emissions version of the 2012 Volt that's eligible for a $1,500 state rebate and single-occupant access to the state's high-occupancy vehicle lanes. Newly available features include the Chevrolet MyLink entertainment system, a keyless-entry system and 17-inch aluminum wheels with black accents. Turn-by-Turn Navigation is now included with OnStar.
The Volt is unmistakable as a recent Chevy design, and though its profile and rear hatch design suggest it's something different, it's not as conspicuously styled as some efficient cars, including the Nissan Leaf. The shieldlike front grille looks like it allows little cooling air into the engine compartment and it's true, but plenty of air enters through an opening low on the bumper.
As expected, the Volt has two places to "fuel" up: a conventional gas filler door on the right rear fender and a charging port on the driver-side front fender. Exterior features include:
- LED daytime running lights
- Power-adjustable heated side mirrors with integrated turn signals
- Seventeen-inch aluminum wheels
- Available front and rear parking sensors
The Volt's cabin seats four and is outfitted with cloth seats; leather is an option. At 10.6 cubic feet, cargo volume is modest for a car of this size, and especially for a hatchback, which typically provides more space than a trunk. For the 2012 model year, the Volt includes three years of full OnStar service standard. Interior features include:
- Automatic air conditioning
- Touch-sensitive center controls
- Cruise control
- Manually adjustable front seats
- Folding rear seats
- CD stereo with 7-inch touch-screen, MP3 jack and USB input
- Bluetooth cell phone connectivity; Bluetooth streaming audio available (MyLink)
- Available Pandora and Stitcher compatibility with connected smartphone (MyLink)
- Available Bose premium speakers
- Available navigation system
Under the Hood
For electric-only operation, the 350-volt, 16-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack propels the car with 149 horsepower and 273 pounds-feet of torque. When the battery is depleted, a 1.4-liter four-cylinder gas engine kicks in with 84 hp to drive an electric generator. The Volt requires premium gasoline.
Chevrolet estimates a fully depleted Volt battery will recharge in 10 to 12 hours using common 120-volt household power. With 240 volts — which requires a charging station — the time drops to four hours. The charging station is sold separately, with installation extra. The car allows owners to schedule charging times to take advantage of off-peak rates. An application for smartphones gives owners remote control over this feature along with detailed monitoring capability. Mechanical features include:
- Front-wheel drive
- Electrically assisted power steering
Safety features include:
- Front-row knee airbags
- Side-impact airbags for the front seats
- Side curtain airbags
- Antilock brakes
- Electronic stability system
- OnStar, which includes automatic rescue notification in the event of an airbag deployment
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