- 53 mile electric range
- Silent and smooth operation
- Blends in with the crowd
- Intuitive interior
- No range anxiety
- Blends in with the crowd
- Five seats? No way
- 3.6-kw charger is slow
- Complicated powertrain may confound novices
The 2018 Chevrolet Volt is an accomplished and refined extended-range electric car that makes an ideal everyday commuter.
Some days you feel like an electric, some days you don't.
The 2018 Chevrolet Volt is both, if that's what you're looking for. It's a five-door compact hatchback that can be driven up to 53 miles on electricity alone, but offers a backup gasoline motor for longer trips.
It was the pioneer extended-range electric car, a vehicle that eliminates range anxiety associated with, say, the Nissan Leaf while still providing tailpipe emissions-free driving in almost every situation. Based on its combination of eco-friendliness, crash-test scores, and a surprisingly upscale feel, we’ve rated it a 7.5 out of 10 on our scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Chevy made only a few changes to the Volt for the 2018 model year. Some equipment has been shuffled and new paint colors have been added, and the Volt still is sold in LT and Premier editions.
For this second generation, Chevy went for a much more conventional look when it came to styling the 2018 Volt. At first glance, it’s almost indistinguishable from the hatchback version of the Chevrolet Cruze, although the two share little. Inside, it’s much the same, with a dashboard that doesn’t look as wildly futuristic as, say, the Toyota Prius. That’s a good thing in our eyes; the Volt doesn’t project its eco-friendliness as vocally.
The downside, however, is that its interior can feel cramped. A high belt line and thick roof pillars exacerbate this feel.
Don’t focus too much on the Volt’s style and comfort; it’s not bad looking and it’s a little cramped inside. Instead, the draw here is certainly what’s not visible. It delivers an EPA-estimate 53 mile range using only electricity supplied by an 18.4 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. When the battery is depleted, a 1.5-liter gas engine turns on and transforms the Volt into a conventional hybrid car capable of 42 mpg combined, according to the EPA. Between an 8.9-gallon fuel tank and the battery, the Volt boasts a 420-mile range between fill-ups, meaning it can easily be driven across the country.
Moreover, it drives like a comfortable, smooth, and vibration-free small car with adequate power and a refined demeanor. It’s not inherently sporty, but the battery’s central location means it has terrific balance on a twisty road.
The Chevrolet Volt LT is well-equipped from the start, although Chevy dropped its leather-wrapped steering wheel in favor of a chintzier urethane unit this year. Then again, that may work well for vegans, so there’s an upside for some buyers. The Volt Premier can approach luxury grade with a few options that easily push it past $40,000—but there’s a $7,500 federal income-tax credit and many states offer their own rebates or credits.
2018 Chevrolet Volt
Clean and more conservative than most eco cars, the Volt is an attractive vehicle.
The 2018 Chevy Volt’s look is rakish and aggressive with a steep angle to its windshield and its rear glass area.
It doesn’t scream “I’m different” quite like the last generation did—and our rating reflects that improvement. We’ve scored it a 7 out of 10 for its styling, awarding it extra points for its above-average interior and exterior. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Chevy’s now-signature “dual grille” front fascia is here, but since the Volt doesn’t need quite as much fresh air fed to its engine bay as a gas-only car, much of what would normally be an intake is instead a matte silver plastic with a nice surfacing.
From the side, the Volt is almost indistinguishable from the Chevy Cruze compact, aside from a slightly higher tail and a blacked-out “Volt” badge integrated into the fender. Oh, and there’s a charging port integrated into the driver’s front fender. At the rear, its tail sits high to better deflect air in the most efficient manner possible. Clear lens taillights are a trend we’re ready to see go away, but they’re neatly integrated here.
The Volt’s interior has a twin-cockpit design executed in black with silver accents, although two-tone interiors are optional for a hint of elegance. Button placement is intuitive and we really like the 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system’s central dash integration. Unlike the first Volt, touch-sensitive buttons have been replaced by traditional units that work well.
2018 Chevrolet Volt
The 2018 Volt's big boon is its advanced powertrain.
At its core, the 2018 Chevrolet Volt remains a plug-in hybrid—but the aces up its sleeve are its 53-mile, EPA-rated range solely on electric power and its gas engine’s ability to take over when needed.
For most drivers who will use their Volts to commute to and from work on weekdays, gas station stops will be few and far between. We’ve rated the Volt’s real-world performance a 6, giving it an extra point for its sublime ride quality.
In practice, it’s not an especially great car to drive, but don’t let its ho-hum feel overshadow its impressive powertrain. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
A T-shaped lithium-ion battery resides between the driver and passenger and under the rear seat. It’s an 18.4-kwh unit supplied by LG Chem. Should the driver deplete the battery, a 1.5-liter inline-4 gas engine under the Volt’s hood quietly kicks on and effectively turns the Volt into a hybrid rated at 42 mpg combined. Its electric powertrain is rated at 149 horsepower and torque stands at a solid 294 pound-feet.
That setup delivers power exclusively to the front wheels; both motors can power them together or one can drive the vehicle while the other is used to recharge the battery. The gas engine can clutch in and out to assist the electric motors if the Volt determines that it’s the most efficient setup at that time. What’s most impressive is how transparently the Volt’s drive system operates; unless you’re looking at its status screen, you’ll probably have no idea how many different situations are going on underneath.
Those power figures don’t necessarily indicate how immediate the 2018 Volt’s acceleration is. It’s not jarring, but it delivers seamless grunt as soon as the accelerator is pressed. With a full load up a mountain grade, the Chevy Volt won’t win a drag race; it runs out of steam rather quickly. But with 0-60 sprints around eight seconds, the Volt is about average for a smaller car with a 4-cylinder gas engine.
We’ve driven Volts hundreds of miles in full hybrid mode; it’s easy to forget that the gas engine is running since it’s so silent and it turns this Chevy into a terrific highway companion thanks to limited wind rush and excellent straight-line stability.
Most owners will make use of a 240-volt Level 2 charging station, which tops off a depleted battery in about 4.5 hours. There's no DC quick-charging available with the Volt, but that's probably not a big deal for most owners since the gas engine is there for longer trips. If a 120-volt outlet is the only one available, it'll take nearly half a day to fill up the Volt's battery, however.
2018 Chevrolet Volt
Comfort & Quality
Unfortunately, the Volt's powertrain forces some compromises inside with so-so visibility and tight accommodations.
The 2018 Chevrolet Volt can transport four passengers and a modest amount of cargo in hushed comfort over long distances and its interior is well-outfitted, but visibility for the driver is exceptionally poor.
It’s hard to see out of the Volt, which is something we struggle to overlook. As a result, we’ve rated it a 6 out of 10 for comfort and quality. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
With this latest generation Volt, Chevrolet has included a third seatbelt in the back that brings it to full five-passenger status—assuming number five is quite small. Truth be told, the best seats in the house are up front, where thrones with good lumbar support particularly on models with leather upholstery provide great long-distance comfort.
Aiding the Volt’s comfort is its silence. Its engine is hushed and there’s limited road and wind noise. Only some tire noise intrudes over certain terrain, a byproduct of the Volt’s hushed nature otherwise. Its interior is rendered with high-end materials and ample soft-touch plastics. Straightforward controls amplify its more upmarket feel. Last year’s standard leather-wrapped steering wheel is gone for 2018, unless you add a few options. That’s unfortunate since the steering wheel is a potential shopper’s first touch point.
2018 Chevrolet Volt
The 2018 Volt does well in crash tests and offers good safety tech.
The Chevrolet Volt scores well in federal and independent crash tests and it offers important collision-avoiding technology as an option.
We’ve scored it a 8 out of 10, docking it only because automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control are options restricted only to the Premier trim level. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Standard equipment includes a rearview camera and a full complement of 10 airbags. Last year, adaptive cruise control was added as an option to a package that also includes rear-cross traffic alerts, blind spot monitors, active lane control, lane departure warning, and forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking.
All that safety tech is welcome, but it can’t disguise the fact that the Volt’s low seating position, its high window line, and its thick roof pillars can obscure an entire car from the driver’s eyes. We wish Chevy parent General Motors would look to skinnier roof pillars, which other automakers have proven can hold up just as well in a crash as the bulky units found in the Volt.
Speaking of crashes, the NHTSA gave the 2018 Volt five stars in every category and the IIHS rates it a Top Safety Pick when equipped with automatic emergency braking. The IIHS says that the Volt performed admirably in every test; its only ding is an “Acceptable” rating for the standard LED headlights. The optional automatic high beam units on Volt Premier earned the top “Good” rating.
2018 Chevrolet Volt
Though there's not a lot of customizability, the Volt comes well-equipped and offers luxury-level features.
The 2018 Chevrolet Volt is available in two basic flavors—LT and Premium—with a handful of options grouped together in packages.
Before any extra-cost options are added on, the Volt already starts off well equipped; it earns extra points for its wide range of available features, quality infotainment, and its innovative powertrain, which brings it to an 8 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The Volt LT includes as standard features like automatic climate control, keyless ignition, and an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. That infotainment system includes parent-company GM’s OnStar system (with a three-month trial) and a 4G LTE hotspot. Navigation software can be added for a nominal fee by a dealership, too.
The Volt Premier is a little swankier with heated leather seats, a heated steering wheel, Bose audio, and a wireless charging pad that works with certain devices.
Those features are generally offered on the Volt LT at an extra cost, but only the Volt Premier is available with some important safety tech. The Driver Confidence I package includes automatic high beam headlights, forward-collision warnings, blind-spot monitors, and rear cross traffic alerts. The Driver Confidence II package goes further with automatic emergency braking. A so-equipped Volt can be pricey—nearly $40,000—but it’s worth remembering that there’s currently a $7,500 federal tax credit and many states and municipalities offer their own incentives.
2018 Chevrolet Volt
The Chevy Volt is certainly one of the greenest new cars you can buy.
With a greater electric range than any other plug-in hybrid aside from the quirky and pricey range-extended BMW i3 REx, the 2018 Chevrolet Volt is among the lowest consumption vehicles money can buy.
It's an easy 10 out of 10 here. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
But we don't consider the urban i3 a Volt rival thanks to its tiny, 75-mile range gas tank that would make it a real challenge to drive across the country. Instead, the 2018 Volt is more in line with plug-in hybrids. With 53 miles of electric range, the Volt should satisfy most typical commutes. For those who want to go further, the gas engine kicks on and provides an EPA combined rating of 42 mpg.
It's the best of both worlds: all-electric transportation most of the time without the "range anxiety" of a depleted battery.
The EPA's Miles Per Gallon Equivalent (mpge) figure takes into account how far a car can travel electrically using the same energy contained in a single gallon of gasoline; the Volt is rated at a 106-mpge figure. It's below a typical fully electric car, but, again, the Volt isn't exactly an electric.
For the way most of us drive, the Chevy Volt should allow for very, very few stops at gas stations.