2012 Chevrolet Volt Review

Pros & Cons

  • Low monthly fuel cost in normal driving
  • useful 300-mile maximum range
  • appealing standard features
  • excellent crash test scores.
  • Questionable value
  • small backseat for two people only
  • touchy brakes
  • no power front seats
  • home charger is a necessity
Other years
List Price Range
$11,500 - $14,998

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Edmunds' Expert Review

The 2012 Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid is arguably the most fuel-efficient car on the market, but it's pricey for what you get.

Vehicle overview

In case you missed all the hullabaloo that occurred last year when this car debuted, let's get one thing straight: The 2012 Chevrolet Volt is not a pure electric car. Much of the general public initially assumed it was, helped along in this belief by the car's name and some vague marketing. The Volt is essentially a plug-in hybrid, meaning it has the ability to run much faster and farther under just electric power than a normal hybrid. In the Volt's case, this means up to 100 mph and anywhere from 25-50 miles without using a drop of gasoline.

Once you run out of battery juice, the gasoline-powered inline-4 engine kicks in, producing electricity for the motor and actually powering the wheels in some circumstances, stretching the Volt's range as much as an additional 300 miles. All told, the Volt is the most advanced hybrid to date and quite possibly the most fuel-efficient car you will be able to buy. We say "quite possibly" because you can't measure the Volt's fuel economy in any conventional way. It all depends on how you drive.

If you have a 30-mile round-trip commute and you plug in your Volt every night when you get home (a full charge requires as few as 3 hours), give yourself a gold star. Your fuel economy would be infinite because you'd always be running off the battery pack and hence never use gas.

Now let's say you have a 60-mile commute. In that case you'd be using gasoline for driving about 30 miles each day, so you'd be fueling up regularly. In an Edmunds test of a Volt with the battery pack depleted, the car averaged 31.4 mpg in mixed driving. This isn't a bad mileage figure compared to regular gas vehicles, but it is seriously subpar when compared to the mid-40s mpg that a standard hybrid typically provides.

As you can see, how far you routinely drive would be a huge factor in determining how thrifty the Volt would be for you. Most potential owners will likely be able to take advantage of its electric range. And electricity costs for recharging are but a fraction for the equivalent amount of gasoline. But looking at the big picture, this is not an inexpensive proposition. Even with a $7,500 federal tax credit, a base Volt will still cost about $32,500 -- and that's without the home charging station, which can be useful for a plug-in hybrid like the Volt.

Overall, we think the 2012 Chevrolet Volt represents an agreeable middle ground between a pure electric vehicle (which is usually limited to about 75 miles before needing a time-consuming recharge) and a standard hybrid (which doesn't offer the all-electric range and speed of the Volt).

A unique offering last year, the Volt faces some competition this year in the form of the new Toyota Prius Plug-in. The Prius offers only about 15 miles of pure electric range, but costs far less. The Nissan Leaf is a true electric car, though its range is limited to about 100 miles. If you want an intriguing yet practical taste of a greener automotive future, we suggest you check out the 2012 Chevy Volt.

2012 Chevrolet Volt models

The 2012 Chevrolet Volt is a midsize four-door hatchback sedan with seating for four.

Standard features include 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, heated mirrors, keyless ignition/entry, remote ignition, automatic climate control, cruise control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, six-way manual front seats, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cloth upholstery, Bluetooth, OnStar (with turn-by-turn navigation), MyLink (includes Bluetooth streaming audio, voice control for phone and audio functions and enhanced smartphone integration) and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, auxiliary audio jack, iPod/USB interface and a touchscreen.

The Premium Trim package adds leather upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and heated front seats. The Rear Camera and Park Assist package adds a rearview camera and front and rear parking sensors. Other options include a navigation system (with voice controls, real-time traffic, DVD player and 30GB of digital music storage) and a Bose audio speaker upgrade.

2012 Highlights

For 2012, the Chevrolet Volt gets a slightly lower price tag, but its formerly standard navigation system and Bose audio system are now on the options list. New standard features include updated keyless ignition/entry and the new MyLink system. The latter provides Bluetooth streaming audio as well as voice control over the audio system and your cell phone.

Performance & mpg

The front-wheel-drive 2012 Volt is primarily powered by an electric motor rated at 149 horsepower (111 kilowatts) and 273 pound-feet of torque. This motor draws power from a 16-kWh lithium-ion battery pack until the battery charge is 70 percent depleted. At that point, the Volt's 1.4-liter four-cylinder internal combustion engine, which requires premium fuel, comes to life as a replacement power source for the electric motor. Under certain higher-speed conditions, the four-cylinder can also help power the wheels directly.

The battery can only be completely recharged through either a 120- or 240-volt outlet, but regenerative braking and the engine generator can replenish it slightly. In Edmunds testing, we found the Volt had an electricity range of about 25-50 miles. When the battery is depleted, our testing showed the Volt gets an average of about 33 mpg. In general, the term "your mileage may vary" has never been so true.

In Edmunds performance testing, the Volt went from zero to 60 mph in 9.2 seconds in electric mode and 9 seconds flat with the engine generator. Both are reasonably quick times for the traditional hybrid segment.

Safety

Safety features on the 2012 Chevy Volt include antilock brakes, stability control, front side airbags, front knee airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. In Edmunds brake testing, the Volt came to a stop in a respectable 124 feet.

In the government crash tests, the Volt scores 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 earns the highest rating of "Good" in frontal offset, side-impact and roof strength tests.

Driving

The 2012 Chevrolet Volt accelerates quickly from a standstill and is very responsive at moderate speeds as well; it's the kind of performance that's typical of electric vehicles.

In all-electric mode, the Volt is as quiet and smooth as any EV we've driven -- and it's still a competent vehicle when the engine-generator kicks in. The change-over from battery charge to generator power can be difficult to notice, though once you inevitably do, it may take a while to get used to the engine revving regardless of engine speed.

The Chevy Volt feels slightly nose-heavy when you bend it around a corner, but it makes its moves with little body roll. Indeed, from the compliance of its ride quality to the weight and response of the steering, this Chevy Volt drives more naturally and feels more substantial than hybrids like the Honda Insight and Toyota Prius. One problem area is the brake pedal. It is quite touchy and can be difficult to modulate, though stopping distances are good. Another constant annoyance is the Volt's low-hanging front airdam, which scrapes on just about every driveway and speed bump.

Interior

The 2012 Chevrolet Volt's distinctive center stack appears to have been modeled after various personal electronic devices with touch-sensitive buttons. It's a fitting theme for the car, but we've found the collection of small and similar-looking buttons makes actual operation a bit finicky. Overall interior quality is high, though, with materials that seem to be the best yet from recently improved Chevrolet.

In terms of functionality, the Volt's futuristic gauge readout is easy enough to read at a glance, though it washes out in sunlight. There's also a display -- sort of like the bubble in a spirit level -- that helps you stay in the most energy-efficient driving range. It's big and green when you are conserving fuel or battery energy and smaller and angry orange-yellow when you're not.

Space and comfort are a little disappointing. There is no power driver seat option, which limits adjustability and seems like an oversight in a car that costs $40,000. In back, there are just two seats in order to make room for the battery pack, and they lack both headroom and legroom; adults will likely feel cramped.

The Volt's hatchback design is convenient for loading cargo, but the swooping rear roof line and battery pack location limit maximum luggage capacity to just 10.6 cubic feet with the backseats up. The rear seats fold down to expand cargo capacity, but overall practicality is below that of a Prius.


Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 2012 Chevrolet Volt.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

Cold Weather Volt Owner
voltman,02/27/2012
I live in Minnesota and have 2 months of winter driving experience with my Volt. Like other owners I can say I love the car. Fit and finish and design are stunning. The heater works fine which was a concern of mine. There are 2 heater modes. Eco consumes less battery but doesn't heat as effectively. Regular is equivalent to other cars. When it is quite cold (less than 28 F), the battery will get you 33 miles but beware the gas engine will go on for about 5 of those miles to keep the battery and cabin warm. The best you'll get is about 130 mpg for those 33 miles. Above 30 F, you can expect 30 miles per charge with no use of the gas engine. In general, I have gotten 37 mpg on gas.
Best Car I've Ever Owned
mcgoody,01/07/2015
4dr Hatchback (gas/electric hybrid DD)
Bought this car brand new on New Year's Eve 2012. In May 2018 I was in an accident and it was totaled, HOWEVER me and my two young kids walked away fine. In my years of ownership I was nothing but impressed. In fact, We purchased a brand new Volt after totaling this one. I've owned many different makes and models and the Volt by far is the best vehicle I've ever owned. Service on both my 2012 and 2017 has been minimal; oil changes and tire rotations. I'm over 6 feet tall and have no issue in the driver's seat. Those behind me are snug, but it's doable. Car is designed well, solid inside and out, and is extremely reliable. Being in the mtns I was concerned for weather. No problem. The centered weight of the car makes it phenomenal in snow and great on ice. A great vehicle, and a steal at a pre-owned price.
Amazing Economic Sportscar
l4kmttnt,12/09/2011
Outstanding experience thus far! I am an integration manager for a large company traveling 40+ wks out of the year. This has given me the opportunity to drive many, many makes and models of vehicles as I must rent a car every week for work. When my wife and I decided to purchase a new car last month -we specifically went to our local Chevy dealer in search of a Chevy Cruze as I felt it was the BEST sporty and economical car of choice. HOWEVER, we had the chance to drive a Volt and immediately fell in love with the performance, comfort, long-range savings opportunity and overall sportiness of the car. We are 100% happy thus far and look forward to many satisfying miles as we pass by the pump.
Excellent car but beware if you have an accident!
urbanlegend711,11/15/2013
I have been really impressed with the car overall. It has great acceleration, handles beautifully and didn't give me a single problem in 1.5 years and 22k miles. I had a minor front-end collision in September and the car still ran when I left it. Apparently because it's a hybrid the electronics need to be disconnected for welding. The car went to a dealer to have this done, the body shop then repaired it, but now...2 and a half months later, the dealer cannot get the car to run at all. Repairs appear to be very involved, expensive and risky with this car.

Features & Specs

See all Used 2012 Chevrolet Volt features & specs

Safety

NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    Overall4 / 5
    Driver5 / 5
    Passenger4 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    Overall5 / 5
  • Side Barrier Rating
    Overall5 / 5
    Driver5 / 5
    Passenger5 / 5
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front Seat5 / 5
    Back Seat5 / 5
  • Rollover
    Rollover5 / 5
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of Rollover9.3%
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Good
  • Roof Strength Test
    Good
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Good
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test
    Good

More about the 2012 Chevrolet Volt

Used 2012 Chevrolet Volt Overview

The Used 2012 Chevrolet Volt is offered in the following submodels: Volt Hatchback. Available styles include 4dr Hatchback (gas/electric hybrid DD).

What's a good price on a Used 2012 Chevrolet Volt?

Price comparisons for Used 2012 Chevrolet Volt trim styles:

  • The Used 2012 Chevrolet Volt Base is priced between $11,500 and$14,998 with odometer readings between 9950 and24786 miles.

Shop with Edmunds for perks and special offers on used cars, trucks, and SUVs near Ashburn, VA. Doing so could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars. Edmunds also provides consumer-driven dealership sales and service reviews to help you make informed decisions about what cars to buy and where to buy them.

Which used 2012 Chevrolet Volts are available in my area?

Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 2012 Chevrolet Volt for sale near. There are currently 3 used and CPO 2012 Volts listed for sale in your area, with list prices as low as $11,500 and mileage as low as 9950 miles. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 2012 Chevrolet Volt.

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Find a used Chevrolet Volt for sale - 6 great deals out of 21 listings starting at $22,531.

Find a used Chevrolet for sale - 4 great deals out of 10 listings starting at $22,994.

Find a used certified pre-owned Chevrolet Volt for sale - 5 great deals out of 22 listings starting at $7,334.

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Should I lease or buy a 2012 Chevrolet Volt?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

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