The Chevrolet Volt is an important trendsetter as the first mainstream model to establish the plug-in hybrid segment as a viable answer to long-range EV driving. That same segment it created, however, is now bursting with new entries three years after the Chevy first hit showrooms.
The Volt shows how far the level of technical knowledge has come in just a few short years, as the latest models have little difficulty topping the Volt’s MPGe scores and do so with conventional three-man back seats and traditional trunks for luggage.
At the time of the Volt’s development, its Chevrolet Cruze-based platform could only accommodate the giant T-shaped li-ion battery pack if it was laid out under the center console and back seat bases – creating a cockpit much tighter than most are willing to accept in a $35,000-plus new car.
Therein was the Volt’s other major critique at launch: prices that mean buyers could afford almost two fleet-spec Priuses for the price of one loaded Volt. Luckily, time has caught up with the Volt’s technology and the pricing of competition from the Honda Accord Plug-in Hybrid, Toyota Prius Plug-in and Ford Fusion Energi.
For 2014, the Volt gets a (very slightly) larger-capacity battery pack, detail trim and color changes, and a simpler opening mechanism for the EV charge door on the front fender.
Where does the Volt fit in today’s eco-confused market? Does its battery-plus-generator powertrain still rank as a world-beating first or more of a barrier to purchase among buyers who need a big trunk and seating room?
The exterior design of the Volt has always been a wide miss for most consumers, despite some techy design elements and functional aerodynamic enhancements. The biggest problem for the production Chevy Volt was, in fact, the striking design and rear-drive proportions of the original Volt concept car. Where that car had a distinctly long hood-to-axle ratio, the production model lost all of the concept’s elegance.
In fact, the cars are so different that only the power of the Volt name carried through to production. Short-wheelbase and front-drive proportions instantly show the Volt as an economy car, while the blocked-off upper grille area tries too hard to look like a regular air intake of the Chevy bow-tie face.
Things get worse in profile and from the rear. The Volt’s profile is extremely awkward with a gloss black faux window-line running inches below the full length of the actual glass. This is a misguided styling nod to the original concept’s high-shoulder design and slim window graphics. It just looks odd and cheap on the road.
The gloss black trim panel extends forward into the front fenders with Volt badging on both sides. This area was the charge door port of the concept, but made it to production despite large round doors serving for charging and fuel needs. The pointed black spear is especially bizarre because it could have been rounded off to make a smooth front window-line that also disguises the black side-mirror stalks.
In back, the tail is faithful to the Prius-style hybrid silhouette archetype with a flowing roof glass that also opens up as the cargo hatch. Linear aerodynamic spats appear on the rear corners of the car and the high-mounted LED taillights are certainly modern versus the rest of the Chevy lineup. A center-mounted white reverse light lives in the lower bumper but fails to disguise the extremely thick bumper and trunk surfaces.
A body-color roof and trunk panel were new last year, replacing the gloss black roof and lower trunk panels with painted surfaces.
Overall, the Volt is a mismatched clump of styling themes that do not get along well together. LED running lights in the top corners of the headlamps help give the Volt a unique signature, and the low roofline shows off how smoothly air can pass by the Chevy. Unfortunately, these highlights are not enough to make the Volt’s looks a selling point on their own.
2014 Chevrolet Volt – Exterior Dimensions:
|Track – Front (In.)||61.2|
|Track – Rear (In.)||62.1|
2014 Chevrolet Volt – Standard Exterior Features:
- Headlamps, bi-functional halogen projector
- LED running lights
- LED tail lamps; LED center high-mounted stop/brake lamp
- Outside heated power-adjustable, body-color mirrors
- 17-inch 5-spoke painted aluminum wheels
- Rear spoiler
- Low rolling resistance tires
2014 Chevrolet Volt – Optional Exterior Features:
- 17-inch 5-spoke polished aluminum wheels
- 17-inch Sport alloy wheels with Black inserts
The interior of the Volt is a fantastic and futuristic expression of technology, and remains one of the most stylish from Chevrolet models in recent decades. Additional glossy plastic colors add some coolness to the doors and trim colors and look great with both the Apple-inspired white center stack or the dark charcoal-colored stack.
The Volt stands apart versus all other General Motors vehicles as the first to use electrostatic switches and buttons. These controls register clicks and taps without a separate button piece that needs to move in and out. Braille-style bumps let drivers know where to press, but it can still be a learning experience for new passengers.
Twin square displays are both high-mounted in the dashboard to provide the main gauge cluster displays as well as the touchscreen-controlled central infotainment unit.
The Volt’s tight interior dimensions are most noticeable in front/rear headroom measurements as well as rear legroom and hip room – all of which tighter than many compacts. The trunk does better with a total of 10.6 cubic-feet behind the rear seats, and more than double that with the two rear seatbacks folded.
The cargo area is a good shape but is let down by the flimsy cargo cover that can cause bags to overflow into the opening between the twin rear seats. A dealer-installed panel can correct this issue.
2014 Chevrolet Volt – Interior Dimensions:
|Front Seating Capacity||2|
|Rear Seating Capacity||2|
|Headroom – Front (In.)||37.8|
|Headroom – Rear (In.)||36|
|Legroom – Front (In.)||42|
|Legroom – Rear (In.)||34.1|
|Shoulder Room – Front (In.)||56.5|
|Shoulder Room – Rear (In.)||53.9|
|Hip Room – Front (In.)||53.7|
|Hip Room – Rear (In.)||51.2|
|EPA Cargo Volume (Cubic-Feet)||10.6|
2014 Chevrolet Volt – Standard Interior Features:
- Chevrolet MyLink touchscreen radio; SiriusXM Satellite Radio with 3 trial months with Travel Link; 6-speaker audio system
- Audio interface, USB port, located in center console; Audio interface, Auxiliary input jack, located in center console
- Rear-window electric defogger
- Automatic climate control with air conditioning
- Rear seat, 40/40 split-folding
- Leather-wrapped steering wheel – Standard for 2014
- Interior door panel storage with dedicated umbrella pocket; Map pockets, driver and front passenger seatbacks
- Cargo cover; Dedicated covered storage for portable vehicle charge cord
- 7-inch diagonal reconfigurable color LCD screen instrumentation
- Driver mode control switch; Operating efficiency screens, Programmable vehicle charge control
- Touch-sensitive center stack controls
- 3-Channel Universal Home Remote
- Steering wheel-mounted controls for audio and cruise control; Steering column, tilt and telescopic
- Power programmable door locks
- Three auxiliary 12-volt power outlets
- Keyless ignition with electronic push button start; Remote Keyless Entry, extended range; Keyless access
- Remote vehicle starter system
2014 Chevrolet Volt – Optional Interior Features:
- Chevrolet MyLink radio with navigation ($895)
- Premium Trim Package: Leather heated seats ($1,395)
- Premium Bose Energy Efficient Series sound system ($495)
- Enhanced Safety Package 1 ($575): Auto-dimming rearview mirror that helps protect drivers against excessive glare for improved visibility; Rear Park Assist that alerts drivers when certain stationary objects are less than 8 feet away from the rear bumper; Rear Vision Camera that projects images from a rear-bumper-mounted camera within the instrument panel display, showing drivers what may lie immediately in their paths
- Enhanced Safety Package 2 ($595, requires Safety Package 1): Front Park Assist that helps drivers navigate into parking spots; Forward Collision Alert that alerts drivers of possible collision threats; Lane Departure Warning that uses camera-based technology to alert drivers of impending lane changes by detecting traffic lane markings