In its third model year, the 2013 Chevrolet Volt is becoming a more familiar part of the automotive landscape, thanks in part to its position as Chevy's halo green car. Memories of the long, low, sleek 2007 Volt concept have faded, and the chunky, high-waisted Volt is becoming its own recognizable shape.
To our eyes, it's still nowhere as distinctive as the Toyota Prius hybrid, or the original two-seat Honda Insight. It does get noticed on the road, though, especially in the crimson red or the silvery-green paint color known as Meridien Joule.
The five-door hatchback from the side has a high cowl and window line, with fairly narrow window openings made visually taller by a black trim panel that carries the shape of the window onto the upper door. Lighter-colored cars benefit most from that styling trick. Still, the Volt appears still chunky in a way that neither the unusual all-electric Nissan Leaf or the ur-hybrid Toyota Prius is. It's not bad-looking, it's just not that trend-setting.
The fully blanked-out replica of the twin-opening Chevrolet grille definitely keeps it in the Chevy family, and the vertical glass panel in the long, almost-horizontal tailgate--just like a Toyota Prius or Honda Insight hybrid--improves rearward visibility to some extent.
The interior gets much higher marks. The Volt is a compact car with only four seats (the battery pack prevents a center passenger in the rear seat), but the characteristic Chevy twin-cockpit design is well suited to the large center stack with a digital display screen and capacitive touch switches below it.
The colorful, intuitive graphic displays on the vehicle information screen are among the best we've seen, and certainly as good or better than anything else from Chevy. An available glossy white plastic trim color inevitably reminds the driver of Apple products--if, that is, Apple made auto interiors.
For 2013, both the roof panel and the liftgate are body-color rather than the black of 2011 and 2012 models. And a new interior color--known as Pebble Beige--is offered both on the standard cloth upholstery and the optional leather seats with suede inserts.