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SAFETY | 9 out of 10
Five stars overall; four stars frontal; five stars side; five stars rollover
'Good,' frontal, side, rear, and roof strength; Top Safety Pick
The Volt doesn't currently make any synthetic noise outside the car to alert pedestrians of its presence, as the Nissan Leaf does.
The 2013 Chevrolet Volt has received the best ratings and the top scores both from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
GM safety designers subjected the Volt to all the standard crash-safety tests, with particular focus on the T-shaped battery pack that runs under the tunnel and sits under the rear seats. Beams that transfer crash loads through the pack and into the rest of the car's structure mean that the pack itself is protected in most crashes.
A media brouhaha in the last half of 2011, over a fire in a Volt sitting in a wrecking yard--three weeks after it was destroyed by the NHTSA in a crash test--brought GM everything from right-wing sneers to a Congressional hearing into the car's safety. After conducting its own study, the NHTSA concluded that the circumstances surrounding the fire were extremely rare, and that the Volt was as safe as any other vehicle. GM nonetheless offers an optional set of modifications to the battery for cars built before February 2012, to prevent just those kinds of issues.
In regard to vehicle fires, however, it's worth noting that roughly 250,000 vehicle fires occur in the U.S. every year--most of those during an accident, not three weeks afterward.
The Volt has a full complement of eight airbags: front, dashboard and side airbags are joined by knee bolsters, and side air curtains stretch the full length of the passenger compartment. It also includes the now-standard suite of electronic safety systems--including anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control, and other systems. All Volts come standard with the OnStar telecommunications system from General Motors, which comes with three years of free service for Volt owners.
For now, Volts are not fitted with automatic noise generators that alert pedestrians if the car is approaching quietly on electric power only. Instead, it includes "chirping" noise that the driver can trigger by pulling the indicator lever.
The 2013 Chevrolet Volt got high marks on NHTSA and IIHS crash tests.