In order for the 2011 Chevy Volt to be a success, it has to simply work well as a car. Sure, it's full of technology and its very existence tends to draw out people's political views on energy and the environment, but if the Volt isn't a great car, precious few will buy one. Things like seat comfort and available options will ultimately be more important than battery technology or charge times. So let's take a look at how the Volt shapes up as a car. Today we'll take a look at some of the Volt's features and tomorrow we'll assess the driving experience.
The Volt is a midsize, four-door hatchback that appears to be a little smaller than a Malibu. The exterior look of the car doesn't break any new ground, though design details like the lightning bolt logo and blacked-out rear are nice touches. Overall, from the outside, the Volt doesn't seem like a whole lot.
But once seated behind the multi-function steering wheel and color LCD display screens it's immediately clear that the Volt is a step or two beyond similar green machines like the Toyota Prius and Nissan Leaf. The large center stack looks like it was designed by Apple. Many of the traditional buttons are on the touch-sensitive screen, which gives the car a high-tech feel. In terms of interior materials, features and even price, the Volt most closely resembles a hybrid like the Lexus HS250h.
The front seats in the Volt are comfortable and supportive, feeling almost sporty, and both are height adjustable. One slight disappointment is that the seat controls are manual, rather than power. Still, there's plenty of headroom and although the car feels slightly narrow, it's not cramped. The backseat passengers will enjoy ample leg, head and hip room too. Behind the rear seat is a modest cargo area that can hold 10.6 cubic feet of stuff. That's only slightly less than the Lexus HS250h and Ford Fusion Hybrid but considerably less than the Toyota Prius.
There is one notable drawback to the Volt interior, which is that it seats just four, rather than five like most cars its size. Since the Volt's battery pack runs up the middle of the car, the rear seating area has just two seats with a console and two cupholders between them.
Considering the Volt's price you'd expect plenty of standard features and Chevy does not disappoint: 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, heated outside mirrors, remote start, keyless ignition, automatic climate control, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, carpeted floor mats, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, Bluetooth, five years of OnStar, touch screen navigation, Bose audio, auxiliary jack, iPod/USB port, 30-gig hard drive for storing music, and a 120-volt charge cord are all included in the car's base price. An eight-year, 100,000-mile battery warranty is standard as well. In fact, there are only a few options. A Premium Package adds heated leather seats, colored door panel inserts and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. There's also a package with a rear parking camera plus front and rear parking sensors. Polished wheels are also available as an option.
Standard safety features of the Volt include stability control, anti-lock brakes, dual-stage frontal, side-impact and knee airbags for driver and front passenger and side-impact airbags for front and rear passengers.
The dual LCD screens you see in so many Volt photos are also standard. The one in front of the driver shows information like vehicle speed, range, fuel level, and the odometer. The center screen is for climate control and entertainment information but each can be customized by the driver to show the information they want.
Airbags and iPods may seem mundane when talking about a car that's as advanced as the Volt but it's precisely those kinds of features that customers will expect. There are so many ways the Volt could have gone wrong and yet the end result is impressive. The Chevy Volt is a well-made, attractive, comfortable and functional car that delivers on every front.