2012 Chevrolet Volt Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

John Voelcker John Voelcker Senior Editor
March 15, 2012

The 2012 Chevrolet Volt is the plug-in electric car you drive as far as you want--if you can find one to buy.

In December 2010, almost four years after GM unveiled a concept for a plug-in electric car with a range-extending engine, the 2011 Chevrolet Volt went on sale in a handful of states. By the end of 2011, it was available at selected Chevy dealers nationwide.

We've driven the Chevy Volt several times under a variety of conditions, and there's no questioning the fact: It's a real car. It seats four in comfort, rides and drives quietly, performs briskly, and comes with all the accessories and features you'd expect of any car. And unlike battery electric cars, it runs as long as you want it to--up through cross-country trips.

Absent some of the interior styling and information displays, in fact, you might never know the Volt had a revolutionary electric powertrain. If you never plug it in, it will run happily on its small gasoline engine for as long as you keep filling the tank. The fact that the engine only generates electricity to power the electric motor that actually turns the wheels isn't necessarily evident, even from behind the wheel.

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But Chevy expects owners to plug their Volts in to 110- or 220-Volt power to recharge their lithium-ion battery packs, most likely overnight. That gives the car 25 to 40 miles of electric range using that stored energy. And GM relentlessly points out that three-quarters of U.S. vehicles travel less than 40 miles per day, so in theory, a Volt recharged daily and used for a commute shorter than that might never burn a drop of gasoline.

Once the battery energy is depleted, the Volt's 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine switches on to generate power--but it happens so quietly you might miss it if you're not paying attention. With the engine running, in what's known as "range-sustaining mode," you'll get about 300 miles per tank of gasoline. Fill it up, and you can do it all over again.

The production Volt is a far cry from the long, lean shape of the 2007 concept car. It's distinctive but not all that graceful, but there's purpose behind the lines. The closed front grille improves aerodynamics, and underlining its electric propulsion, there's no exhaust-pipe outlet at the rear (it exits under the car).

Inside, the cockpit is futuristic, with detailed information displays showing the car's performance, its battery state of charge and remaining range, and its lifetime gas mileage (which tops out at 500 mpg).

In its first year, there have been long waiting lists for the Volt, compounded by a weeks-long shutdown of its assembly plant for retooling. GM plans to boost Volt production for 2012, and it expects to sell every one it can make.

The 2012 Chevrolet Volt, in fact, might be the ideal green car if it weren't for the staggering price: $39,995 for what is essentially a four-seat compact hatchback. Most buyers will qualify for a $7,500 Federal tax credit, along with additional state, local, and corporate incentives of many sorts.

But while the 2012 Volt comes with a variety of features not usually found in compacts, it's still pricey. Any possible payback will rely on the savings on electric operation, which usually runs one-third to one-fifth the cost per mile of gasoline. GM warranties the battery pack for 8 years or 100,000 miles in most states.

Still, for the first few years of its life, Volt buyers won't be shopping it against other compacts. Instead, they may compare to a Nissan Leaf electric car, or the more expensive luxury vehicles that many of them could afford.

For buyers in the plug-in-friendly state of California, Chevy has now given them the ability to gain one of the deeply desirable green stickers that allows single-occupant travel in the state's High Occupancy Vehicle lanes.

But only Volts built after February 2012 are fitted with the extra emissions equipment that qualifies them as "enhanced advanced-technology partial-zero-emission vehicles," or e-AT-PZEVs, and GM is only selling those Volts in California. If you're thinking of buying a 2012 Volt in the state, make very sure you know which one you're getting: an early car, or a mid-year model fitted with the updates.

In the end, early Volt buyers are willing to pay the money to be the first on their block to drive one of the very few plug-in cars that both runs in zero-emission mode and can take you cross-country if you need it to. The icing on the cake, though, is that the car is genuinely good--fun to drive as well as cutting edge. Score one for GM.

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February 14, 2016
2012 Chevrolet Volt 5-Door HB

I just purchased this from a very reputable dealer and it has had bugs since I took delivery 2 weeks ago; not sure if this is a good car for me or if I have someone elses lemon

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The dealership actually offered me back my 2004 Toyota Camry LXE fully loaded and a beautiful car for all these years. Alas, a one owner car and I had just turned 150,000 miles. I have had this particular car... + More »
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December 25, 2015
2012 Chevrolet Volt 5-Door HB

This is an amazing automobile, great engeneering and dependable!

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I think this is a wonderful car! I am impressed that GM actually designed and built this automobile it is so far from the normal engineering of GM who usually sticks with tried and true. The car is dependable... + More »
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November 29, 2015
2012 Chevrolet Volt 5-Door HB

Great first generation.

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Love the car generally. Dislike wind noise with windows partially down and find visibility weak. Have had to replace plug in port as only defect.
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November 4, 2015
For 2012 Chevrolet Volt

Chevrolet VOLT, bridging the gap between gas and electric cars.

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The Chevrolet VOLT is a concept car. It's an important evolutionary step... A step away from gas-powered vehicles. The "range extended" concept a no-compromise approach to giving an electric car the same... + More »
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November 2, 2015
2012 Chevrolet Volt 5-Door HB

Volt/Ampera: a through and through good concept

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The car not having good enough headlights is stupid. The ergonomy is a disaster, where a touch-screen makes one touch buttons involuntarily and then it is not always easy to correct this. Having said that, the... + More »
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October 19, 2015
2012 Chevrolet Volt 5-Door HB

The Volt does everything that is should and then a little more

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quite, reliable, stylish, comfortable, nice ride for its size, just don't mess with my glide.
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October 18, 2015
For 2012 Chevrolet Volt

MY FIRST STEP INTO AN ELECTRIC FUTURE

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I live in the UK and am keen on looking after the earth, recycling and not wasting valuable resources so I was delighted when the Vauxhall Ampera (Chevvy Volt)fell within my budget and became mine in May this... + More »
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September 30, 2015
For 2012 Chevrolet Volt

Fantastic car and power to beat 5.0 mustang up to 50 mph.

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Best car I ever had . I even had Audi s, Cadilacs, Corvettes, Thunderbirds, Subaru STIs etc. Usec only .3 that's .3 gallons of gas to go 1500 miles . Smooth, tons of torque.
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August 16, 2015
2012 Chevrolet Volt 5-Door HB

This vehicle drives very much like a BMW.

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Driving this vehicle is a pleasure. Electric vehicles are definitely the future of personal transportation. With the low center of gravity an great acceleration, driving the Volt it is like you are wearing it. + More »
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August 7, 2015
2012 Chevrolet Volt 5-Door HB

A purchase I've never regretted even once!!!! I love my 2012 Volt!!!

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I bought the Volt because I really wanted to get away from dependency on gasoline and for the obvious environmental reasons. The car has had no problems, I drive it every day and haven't bought gas since... + More »
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