Going from Leaf to Volt - 2011 Chevrolet Volt Long-Term Road Test

2011 Chevrolet Volt Long Term Road Test

2011 Chevrolet Volt: Going from Leaf to Volt

March 31, 2011

Chevy Volt.jpg

Like it or not, the 2011 Chevrolet Volt is frequently compared to the Nissan Leaf, mainly because they are the only two mainstream electrified cars on the market now. I drove the Leaf home Tuesday night and had the Volt the following night so the differences really jumped out at me. By the way, the price is one of the few aspects of the cars that you really can't compare. On the basis of the roughly $43,000 price tag, the Volt is simply not a real world consideration for anyone except the early adopter.

Here are a few quick impressions of the Volt and the Leaf:

Seats/Comfort/Interior: The overall feel of sitting in these two cars is very different. Both have comfortable seats (I think the Leaf would be a better fit for a large person). The Leaf feels open and airy while the Volt is more insulated with high door sills and poor visibility.

Interior room: The Volt seats four people only -- no way you're squeezing five souls in there. The Leaf is built to carry five and the rear legroom is definitely better. The Volt's rear seats fold flat so you could slide in long items. The Leaf's rear seats also fold down but because of battery storage this does not produce a flat cargo area.

Noise: The Volt has the edge here -- it is spooky quiet. If you have the radio and fan off, you can hear yourself breathing. Both cars have a slight whistling sound as they accelerate.
Power delivery: The Volt feels responsive with strong linear power delivery while the actual numbers show it goes 0-60 mph in 8.53 seconds. The Leaf is actually faster with an unofficial 0-60 time of about 7 seconds.

Range: Our Volt is delivering about 37 miles in all-electric mode. After that, there is always a letdown when the gas engine kicks on. Still, there is no range anxiety as you drive the Volt. I'm finding that for my driving patterns, 37 miles only gets me there -- not there and back. And once the gas engine fires up it's just another gas-burning car. The extra 40 miles of range that the Leaf delivers opens a lot more possibilities for me. I can get home and back to the office charger without topping up. I can get to downtown Los Angeles and back to my home on a single charge. So, with careful planning, the Leaf affords an uninterrupted all-electric experience.

Summary: I really enjoy driving the Volt. When I suppress thoughts about the unrealistic price I can really enjoy driving nearly 40 miles on $1.95 of electricity. But given the lower entry cost of the Leaf, the ability to hold an extra passenger and access to the car pool lanes, the Leaf offers advantages that are impossible to ignore.

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