Vehicle Overview The 2017 Chevrolet Volt marks the second year of production for the redesigned model, but last year's redesigned Volt was only available on a limited basis. As such, many shoppers may not be aware of the changes that the second-generation Volt incorporates. There's a whole new body structure, for one thing, along with more conventional styling inside and out that departs from the old Volt's concept-car vibe. Under the surface, a revised plug-in hybrid powertrain delivers a remarkable 53 miles of all-electric range, up from 38 miles in the original. Moreover, the 2017 Volt's quieter 1.5-liter gasoline engine/generator no longer requires premium fuel, and it achieves an EPA rating of 42 mpg combined, a healthy 5-mpg improvement.
Fundamentally, though, the new Volt's appeal remains the same. Whereas most plug-in hybrids offer roughly 10-20 miles of electric range, this Chevrolet has enough battery power to keep you away from the gas station for weeks at a time, if not months. On the other hand, there's none of the range anxiety that plagues purely electric cars, because the gasoline engine is always ready to kick in and propel you more than 400 miles between fill-ups. During the week, you can commute in your Volt and never use a drop of gas. And should a weekend getaway come up, you can simply rely on hybrid gas-electric power, with no need to stop and find a charging station.
If you're still not sold on the Volt, we suggest a trip to your local Ford dealer. The Ford C-Max Energi hatchback and Ford Fusion Energi sedan are plug-in hybrid stablemates that offer more interior space and share a capable gas-electric powertrain, though their electric-only range is capped at about 20 miles. We've been hearing about a much-improved Toyota Prius Plug-In for a while now, but concrete details have yet to emerge. For a more avant-garde experience, you could try the sporty BMW i3 with its available range-extending gas generator. Overall, though, we recommend the 2017 Chevrolet Volt if you want real EV functionality without the usual range-based limitations.
Performance and MPG The 2017 Chevrolet Volt has a plug-in hybrid system consisting of twin electric motors (149 horsepower) and a 1.5-liter gasoline engine/generator. The electric motors are powered by a 18.4 kWh lithium-ion battery pack that you typically plug in to recharge, but it can also be partially recharged on the go from the gas engine/generator and regenerative braking. The gas engine kicks in when the battery pack's initial charge is depleted, working primarily as a generator to continue providing electricity. In some situations, such as accelerating with a depleted battery, passing and climbing steep hills, the gas engine also assists the electric motors to increase the Volt's performance.
In addition to Normal, Sport, Hold and Mountain drive modes, the 2017 Volt has a "Regen on Demand" paddle on the steering wheel. This feature allows the driver to adjust deceleration and the amount of regenerated braking energy that can be sent back to the battery pack.
Recharging the battery pack requires you to plug in to either a standard 120-volt outlet or a dedicated 240-volt charging station. Regenerative braking and excess power from the engine/generator also can help boost the battery charge when the Volt is in motion. It takes about 4.5 hours to recharge a fully depleted battery from a 240-volt power source, or 13 hours from a 120-volt source.
In our road test of the 2016 Volt, we achieved 62 miles of all-electric driving on a fairly flat route, easily beating the EPA's range estimate of 53 miles. For combined gas and electric operation after EV mode expires, the EPA rates the Volt at 42 mpg combined (43 city/42 highway). Overall energy usage is rated at 106 mpg (MPGe), but longer trips without periodic battery charging will significantly reduce this figure.
Safety Standard safety features on the 2017 Volt include antilock brakes, traction and stability control, front knee airbags, front and rear seat side-impact airbags and front and rear side curtain airbags. Also standard is the OnStar emergency communications system, which includes automatic crash notification, an emergency assistance button, remote door unlock and stolen vehicle assistance, and a pedestrian safety signal that alerts pedestrians when the car is approaching in silent all-electric mode or is stopped at a crosswalk.
Available on the Premier trim are lane departure warning and intervention, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision alert and one of two automatic emergency braking systems, with the low-speed version included in the Driver Confidence 2 package and the full version added via the optional adaptive cruise control feature.
Additional Information Chevrolet redesigned the ingenious Volt in 2016, but because of a limited roll-out, many shoppers may have missed the updates to the Volt. The changes are significant: There's a new body structure with more conventional styling, and, more importantly, an updated powertrain that provides up to 53 miles of electric-only range, which is 15 miles more than the original. The Volt's ace in the hole is a 1.5-liter gasoline engine that kicks in once the battery runs low, allowing the Volt to drive up to 400 miles, a range that matches a regular gasoline-powered car.
What hasn't changed is the Volt's basic appeal. Most plug-in hybrids give you 10 to 20 miles of electric-only range before they require either a recharge or gasoline-fed assistance. The Chevrolet Volt's 53-mile battery is sized to cope with the average commute, which means that owners may go weeks, if not months, without visiting a gas station. Functionally, it works like a pure battery-powered car, but the presence of the gasoline engine eliminates range anxiety. The gas engine starts up automatically when the battery gets low, and if there are no charging stations to be found, it operates like any other hybrid.
We like the new Volt's interior. It's more conventional than the original Volt, and feels less like a concept car (or an Apple prototype). The front seats are comfortable, though we wish power adjustment was an option. The backseat is split by the T-shaped battery pack, and while the cushions are shaped for three passengers, it really only accommodates two in comfort (and even then, we use that term loosely). Cargo space is 10.6 cubic feet, which is skimpy by hatchback standards, but the backseat folds down to accommodate larger items.
The Volt's plug-in hybrid powertrain uses a pair of electric motors that develop 149 horsepower, along with a 1.5-liter gasoline engine. The Volt is designed to drive its full range with power coming from the 18.4-kWh lithium-ion battery. When the charge runs low, the gasoline engine starts up and turns a generator to power the motors, though it also provides direct mechanical assistance under certain driving conditions. Recharging takes about 4.5 hours from a 240-volt EV charger and 13 hours from a 120-volt outlet. The battery also can be charged by the engine, though this has a deleterious effect on fuel economy. The EPA rates the Volt at 106 miles per gallon equivalent on battery power and 42 mpg (43 city/42 highway) in gas-powered hybrid mode. Official electric-only range is 53 miles, but Edmunds achieved 62 miles of all-electric driving during our road test of a 2016 Volt. Another improvement in the new model: It uses regular (87 octane) fuel, whereas the outgoing Volt required premium.
Chevrolet offers the Volt in LT and Premier trims. Both are nicely equipped, with the Premier adding some luxury features. Edmunds can help find the perfect 2017 Chevrolet Volt for you.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.