Full 2014 Chevrolet Volt Review
What's New for 2014
For 2014 the Chevrolet Volt sees a big price drop that makes it much more competitive against other, green-oriented rivals.
By now, many people know the difference between a hybrid vehicle and a pure electric vehicle. The former uses both gasoline and battery-sourced electric power for propulsion, while the latter doesn't use gas at all. Unfortunately, the typical electric car has a range of 70-80 miles before it runs out of juice. Here's where plug-in hybrids like the 2014 Chevrolet Volt come in: Plug-ins marry the hybrid and EV concepts and allow pure electric operation for a given distance before switching over to their hybrid mode. And the Volt just so happens to offer considerably more electric-only range than its handful of plug-in hybrid rivals.
Specifically, the Volt can run about 38 miles on battery power alone, after which point the 1.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine kicks in to generate electricity that extends the car's overall range by another 300 miles or so. By comparison, the Volt's plug-in competitors can only run about 10-20 miles before switching over to hybrid mode. What this means is that the Volt is potentially better suited as a pure electric commuter car for those with shorter drives to work. If your typical driving stints are about 30-40 miles and you're able to recharge in between, you could go a very long time indeed without visiting a gas station.
Owners with longer commutes -- not to mention those who want to also use the Volt for road trips -- will obviously exceed the car's all-electric range and will then be employing the hybrid system. In a year of testing, our long-term Volt returned an average of 35 mpg during such operation. That's pretty good, but still notably lower than the 40-50 mpg commonly achieved by most traditional hybrids.
Previously, our biggest criticism of the Chevy Volt was its much higher base price compared to standard hybrids. But for 2014, that's no longer an issue, thanks to a whopping as-new $5,000 price drop. The new price makes the Volt about five grand less costly than the 2014 Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid and puts it on par with the Ford C-Max Energi and Toyota Prius Plug-In. The latter two can't go nearly as far on electricity alone as the Volt, but they are otherwise similar in powertrain concept, not to mention more practical due to their roomier passenger and cargo compartments.
Green-leaning shoppers who can live with a pure electric car's limited range may still want to consider the less expensive, all-electric Nissan Leaf, too. For now, though, the 2014 Chevy Volt provides the best of both worlds with its 35 miles of all-electric driving range and gasoline-powered range extender. It also happens to be one of the nicest cars to drive among these super-eco machines.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Chevrolet Volt is a midsize four-door hatchback with seating for four passengers.
Standard features include 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, LED running lamps, heated mirrors, keyless ignition/entry, remote ignition, automatic climate control, cruise control, a height-adjustable driver seat, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth, OnStar emergency communications, a 7-inch touchscreen display, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, Chevy's MyLink system (which includes voice-controlled audio functions and smartphone integration) and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB interface.
The Premium Trim package includes leather upholstery, heated front seats and a removable rear seat center armrest. The Enhanced Safety Package 1 bundles a rearview camera, rear parking sensors and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. To that, the Enhanced Safety Package 2 can be added, which includes front parking sensors and forward collision and lane departure warning systems.
Other options include heated front seats and a seven-speaker Bose sound system. A navigation system that also includes voice controls and digital music storage can be added to the latter.
Powertrains and Performance
The front-wheel-drive 2014 Chevrolet Volt is primarily powered by an electric motor that puts out 149 horsepower (111 kilowatts) and 273 pound-feet of torque.That electric motor is fed by a 16-kilowatt-hour (kWh) lithium-ion battery pack until the battery charge is 70 percent depleted, at which point the Volt's 1.4-liter four-cylinder, gasoline-fueled engine springs to life to power the electric motor. Primarily, the engine is used as an electricity generator to power the electric drive motor, though in some situations it can also kick in to boost the car's performance. There are Normal, Hold, Sport and Mountain modes designed to maximize the powertrain's performance and efficiency in different situations.
Recharging the battery pack completely requires plugging the car in to a 120- or 240-volt outlet, though regenerative braking and the engine generator can help recharge it to a certain extent. Using a 240-volt power source, it takes about 3 hours to recharge a depleted battery.
In long-term Edmunds testing, our Volt had an average all-electric range of 37 miles (against an EPA estimate of 38 miles), with certain charges ranging from 25-50 miles. Once the battery was depleted, the Volt averaged 35 mpg in our year-long test, a few mpg under the EPA's combined estimate of 37 mpg. The Volt does feature a handy "Hold" mode that allows the driver to optimize the car's efficiency by locking out the all-electric propulsion mode until it is deemed most beneficial based on the driving conditions.
In Edmunds performance testing, the Volt took 9.2 seconds to accelerate from zero to 60 mph in electric mode and 9 seconds flat with the engine generator. Both are reasonably quick times for the traditional hybrid segment.
Standard safety features on the 2014 Chevrolet Volt include antilock brakes, stability control, front-seat side-impact airbags, front knee airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. Also standard is OnStar, which includes automatic crash notification, on-demand roadside assistance, remote door unlocking, stolen vehicle assistance and turn-by-turn navigation.
Front and rear parking sensors and a rearview camera are optional, as are forward collision and lane departure warning systems.
In Edmunds brake testing, the Volt came to a stop in 117 feet, an excellent performance for this segment.
In government crash tests, the Volt scored an overall rating of five stars (the highest possible), with five stars for both frontal and side-impact protection categories. Similarly, in Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash testing, the Volt earned the highest rating of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal offset, side-impact and roof strength tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
Inside, the four-passenger Chevy Volt has a modern feel, thanks in large part to touch-sensitive controls inspired by the latest in personal electronics.While this creates a suitably cutting-edge vibe, in practice these small and similar-looking buttons can be difficult to identify at a glance. They also don't work very well if you're wearing gloves.
The gauge cluster is another futuristic touch, as it digitally displays speed, battery pack and/or gasoline level, various trip functions and a little graphic that encourages efficient driving. It can be a bit much at first, and the screen itself can wash out in direct sunlight, but most owners will find it usable and even helpful.
Consistent use of high-quality materials imparts a sense of refinement in the Volt's cabin. Front-seat comfort is fine, but the lack of a power-adjustable driver seat and a cramped second row that lacks both headroom and legroom are somewhat disappointing, especially for a car in this price range. Out back, the Volt's hatchback design makes for easy loading and unloading. However, cargo capacity measures a mere 10.6 cubic feet with the rear seats up, only about half of what competitors like the Toyota Prius and Ford C-Max Energi provide.
The 2014 Chevrolet Volt is surprisingly rewarding to drive. It accelerates quickly from a standstill on an effortless wave of torque typical of electric power, and behaves like a more potent hybrid when the all-electric mode runs out. The Volt's appeal extends farther than just its powertrain. From the compliance of its ride quality to the reassuring weight and response of the steering, the Volt drives more naturally and feels more substantial than hybrids like the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius.
There are a few quirks, however. The change-over from running on battery power to generator power is impressively seamless, but once you do notice its occurrence, it may take a while to get used to the engine revving out of proportion to the vehicle's speed. The brake pedal can also be quite touchy and difficult to modulate until you acclimate, even though stopping distances are very good. Perhaps most annoying is the Volt's low-hanging front airdam, which scrapes on just about every driveway and speed bump. But given its construction of black-colored flexible material, it is thankfully designed to take these inevitable hits.