GMI Drives: 2013 Chevrolet Volt Long Term Review

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Thread: GMI Drives: 2013 Chevrolet Volt Long Term Review

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    GMI Staff Member Premium Member TaHoE's Avatar
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    GMI Drives: 2013 Chevrolet Volt Long Term Review

    Does the Volt live up to the hype?
    www.GMInsideNews.com
    January 17, 2014
    By: Jordan Marmara
    Photos: Laurence Cutrone



    It’s not very often that a car is introduced that turns the world on its head. It’s difficult to recall a vehicle that was launched with as much rumor, fanfare and drama as the Chevrolet Volt was back in 2010. Launched on November 30th (the same as your author, although I believe my mother would prefer I resist using the term ‘launch’ to describe my birth) the Volt represented a whole new way of thinking when it came to driving. The economy was in the grasp of what we now call the great recession, and “new GM” needed some positive PR after exiting a highly publicized, and government aided bankruptcy and reorganization. But honestly, it’s not really about the drama with this car. In fact, it’s all about how drama free the Volt really is.

    Conceived as not only a Prius fighter, but a Prius beater, the Volt showed the world that the General could think outside of the box every now and then. It represented a big leap forward when it came to what we know as hybrids today. Much has been made of what to actually call the Volt. Is it a plug-in-hybrid? Is it an extended range electric vehicle? Well the answer is in a word, both. I would really rather avoid the whole “definition drama” because honestly, who cares? This is a vehicle that transcends traditional definitions of the automotive world, so much so that the EPA had to create its own way of evaluating fuel mileage for it. The Volt doesn't like to be put in a category, and it defines this with every mile that you drive it.

    Based on GM’s Delta II architecture, the Volt is certainly not a very large car. Its compact dimensions have presented several positives and negatives in its year with us. The Volt’s small overall footprint makes it pretty easy to park and maneuver in tight spaces, however there are several blind spots that are worth mentioning. Over the driver’s shoulder, the large C-pillars present a challenge when negotiating traffic on the highway, and the enormous A-pillars do the same for front outward visibility. During a few drives to the mountains of eastern North Carolina, they made negotiating the tight mountain roads much more difficult. The positives behind these massive A-pillars is a chassis that feels extremely solid and a “Good” overall safety rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

    Looking out the back is made more difficult because of the large spoiler (necessary to make the Volt more aerodynamic) which bisects the rear glass horizontally. This hasn't been such a problem thanks to our Volt’s optional rear view camera. However, and this needs mentioning, the rear view camera is merely adequate in its quality. With grainy image quality, lack of “guide lines” and the camera’s uncanny ability to get super dirty, super fast, there is some definite room for improvement down the road.



    Inside, the Volt’s cabin is meant to remind its owner that it is something special. The Volt comes standard with many creature comforts like power windows, power door locks, auto dimming mirror, automatic climate control, cruise control, automatic headlights, LCD instrumentation, touchscreen controls for HVAC and radio, CD player, electronic parking brake, heated front seats (cloth too!) and USB and 3.5 mm AUX input. The most dramatic part of the interior is most certainly the almost completely touch sensitive center stack.

    Although I still find knobs to be far superior for certain functions (Volume and Menu Selection/Tuning knobs are included in the Volt), I definitely see the reason behind including touch sensitive buttons here. Sometimes it’s all about the image you are trying to convey, and for right now it’s all about touch sensitive controls. Be it in your smartphone, tablet or even your thermostat, touch controls are the current rage and they project the personality of the Volt’s tech-focused drivetrain to the interior of the cabin. During the past year, the touch-based system has only frozen once, which was quickly solved by quickly restarting the car (which is definitely drama free thanks to the Volt’s electric drivetrain and push-button start). It doesn't feel natural to use these buttons, and it takes some concentration, but it's certainly not the deal breaking frustration that I recently experienced with a Ford SYNC system that I used recently. The addition of haptic feedback would be a welcome addition to the second generation car. I say yes to the touch buttons, they serve a purpose and give GM’s technological masterpiece that much more tech cred, just get it right!




    The remainder of the interior is decidedly more pedestrian. Outside of the controversial 2 + 2 seating arrangement, there really isn't too much that is special about the inside of the Volt. Our model came with cloth seats which are durable and actually pretty comfortable (however enhanced lumbar adjustment and power seat controls would be fantastic). Front leg room is more than adequate, but those who prefer shopping at the big and tall section might find the Volt’s head and hip room more of a challenge for them. Rear legroom however is pretty tight, even for me at 5’10”. It’s not completely uncomfortable, especially on short trips, but the Volt could definitely stand to gain a few inches of rear legroom for its redesign. That being said, on one trip from Charlotte, NC to New York and back, our adult rear seat passenger had no complaints. The Volt’s cargo area was actually a bit more generous than expected, fitting three pieces of full size luggage along with some smaller bits as well. The load floor is flat and actually pretty large, with only the slanted rear glass impeding on storage capabilities. The Volt’s cargo carrying abilities are aided by the fact that each of the Volt’s rear seats can fold flat separately, meaning you can carry a rear passenger, and that skateboard ramp that you couldn't say no to.


    Outside, the Volt features the traditional mix of a short, angled hood and high rear spoiler that have been featured for years on the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight, but there is something about the way that these features come together on the Volt which makes it simply look better. The Volt’s fascia features projector beam headlights, with separate fog-light-esque assemblies for the turn signals (the Volt does not have fog lights, even as an option), and a stylish sealed off upper grill to enhance aerodynamics. The Volt's deep front splitter also helps the Volt's aerodynamics, much to the dismay of any driveway or inclines more aggressive than 2 degrees and people around that have to hear the racket that is created. Daytime running lights are of the now ubiquitous LED type at the far edges of each headlight, and add a bit of “techiness” to an otherwise clean and handsome front end. Following the chromed character line along the side will lead you to standard side-mirror mounted LED turn signals and push-button lock/unlock on the door handles. The rear end features LED taillights with a low mounted center backup light, a la Cadillac (or formerly Saturn Sky). The rear hatch is clean, and does not feature a windscreen wiper, which is fine because We never really needed it anyway. The rear hatch is a bit heavy but easy to operate using the touch pad lock/unlock button. A power operated lift gate would be a big "WOW!" factor here. The Volt’s exterior, as different as it is from the concept, is purposeful but also quite handsome. It’s arguably easily the best looking hybrid vehicle except for perhaps the Tesla Model S and the now defunct Fisker Karma.

    The Volt’s real party piece isn't about a touch sensitive radio or a bunch of LEDs, it’s all about the drive. Thankfully there is very little to be disappointed about with the Volt’s drive system. The instant torque from the Volt’s motor, which is capable of 149 hp and a whopping 273 lb-ft of torque, is gasp inducing. The acceleration from a standstill (especially in "Sport Mode") has been described to me by passengers as "being launched by a roller coaster". This may be a little dramatic, because the most the Volt can muster are sub 9 second runs to 60 MPH, but the feeling of acceleration is undeniable, even if it tapers off after about 30 MPH. Needless to say, I did actually beat a Dodge Challenger off the line once, probably because he was distracted by the touch buttons on the center stack. Speaking of buttons, pressing the "Drive Mode" button a few times will toggle between a few separate driving modes (Note to GM: It would be great to have a knob to select between Normal, Hold and Mountain with an embedded "Sport" button to initiate and maintain sport mode, similar to how some HVAC systems have a knob to direct airflow and when pushed toggle the recirculating air feature). Normal is exactly what it sounds like, a normal electric-based driving mode with a slightly reduced throttle input. Next is "Sport" which is still electrically motivated, but the throttle mapping is altered to allow a much more aggressive acceleration feel, with what we found to be little increase in energy use - this is the mode you will want to drive in all the time. Then we have "Hold" mode which is actually extremely useful. When driving on the highway, it's actually more efficient to save your electricity for in town driving. "Hold" will allow you to hold onto the current state of charge in your battery, and use the gas generator to maintain that state of charge. Finally "Mountain" mode is useful when you know you will be traversing some steep inclines. "Mountain" mode will charge the battery to roughly 60% charge and maintain that charge so that both electricity and gasoline will have you climbing up that mountain with smooth efficiency. It is important to note that "Mountain" mode will run the engine at slightly higher RPMs, there is nothing abnormally wrong with this. That being said, at lower speeds and at super steep inclines, the Volt's generator can get a little noisy, and this is not a noise that is particularly pleasant. However, at highway speeds the passengers will struggle to tell a difference between the Volt and a normal car, unlike city driving where the generator delays its reaction to the accelerator pedal by a few seconds.


    Stopping the Volt isn't quite as fun, but then again it rarely is in a normal car also. The Volt's regenerative braking system is very obvious, and was the biggest detractor to most people who drove it. Although it's purpose is valid and honorable, the brake pedal's feel is a bit too "touchy" for us. Initially, the electric is motor is used to slow the vehicle down, but as more pressure is added, the mechanical brakes engage and there is a sudden increase in braking ability. It's very difficult to modulate initially, and traffic jams become a nightmare, but overtime it does become a bit easier to master those smooth stops. If braking smoothly is a concern of course, there is also "Low" mode, which can be engaged using the transmission shifter. "Low" mode ups the ante when it comes to regenerative engine braking, so once you let off the throttle you will sense an immediate deceleration process. This is great around town because it basically allows you to drive the Volt with just the accelerator if you time it right. Not to mention the benefit of all the extra electrons you will be grabbing in the process! That being said, the deceleration is strong enough that it may cause those driving behind you to become annoyed that your brake lights aren't coming on, so caution should be exercised.

    One of the most fun aspects of driving the Volt, however, is its amazing ability to seamlessly switch over from pure electric power to gas powered mode when the battery is "worn out" (the Volt won't actually completely discharge its battery in order to preserve battery life, and that buffer also creates a temporary "crawl mode" if you run out of gas). I have had several passengers look over at the gauge cluster, and wonder what will happen when the battery runs out. "You do realize that you only have two miles left, right?". This is the beauty of the Volt's system. You need not worry about running out of juice. Since electricity is still the only motivating factor for the Volt, the transition is compete seamless as the generator comes on to charge, and then turns off when its not needed. It will be fun to see how this system evolves over time. A diesel variant, like the Opel Flextreme concept, would be a great next step. I even think with a more potent battery with a roughly 50 mile range, the gas tank could shrink quite a bit and a smaller and a more efficient engine could take the current four banger's place.


    What’s really more interesting though is how seamlessly the Volt blends performance with efficiency. The whole purpose of the Volt is to save money at the pump, and during the past year, our Volt certainly has done this. By charging every night exclusively using the standard 110V charger, we have managed to drive mostly (72%) on electricity, and this means savings at the pump. Over the last year our Volt has traveled over 10,075 miles. During this time (which included one round trip from Charlotte to N.Y. and two trips to the mountains) the Volt only used 76.28 gallons of gasoline. That equates to $281.47 when using the national average premium fuel price from 2013 ($3.69). Our electric bill was only slightly affected by charging the Volt with an average increase of $13 per month leading to an estimated total cost of $156. Combine the two together, and the total cost of fuel for one year at roughly 10,000 miles of driving was an astonishing $437.47. Keep in mind, this is in an area with very little charging capability, when charging regularly at each stop, the savings should increase even more. If we had driven the same amount last year in a vehicle rated for 25.63 MPG (the average MPG rating for compact vehicles), our fuel costs would increase to $1,450.52, this represents an annual average savings of $1,013.05. This number will vary greatly for each person based on their driving habits, local fuel costs, and which vehicle you are leaving behind.

    When it comes to Volt ownership, it really boils down to two possible reasons. You could be coming off a lease, and you want to try something completely new that could save you money at the pump. Or, you could be a techno maniac and you are interested in the latest and greatest technology available at your price range. When we picked up our Volt we walked out with a $252 a month cost for 36 months at $3,000 down. If your lease rate is near this amount, you are doing yourself a disservice in not at least giving the Volt a chance. It’s fantastically fun to drive, it gets 'thumbs up' everywhere it goes, and you will likely visit the gas station a lot less while driving it (we only went to the gas station 9 times in one year, and that is including three non-electrified road trips). The Volt’s ability to fit into your daily routine while making feel like you’re driving the future is its trump card. It’s something you must experience for longer than a test drive. GM would be wise to offer a week long test drive event to allow consumers the opportunity to see how the Volt fits into their life, because chances are it will and those customers will never look back to the days of fiddling with knobs and pumping gasoline again. Save that drama for your mama.


    2013 Chevrolet Volt Specifications

    Assembly Site Hamtramck, Detroit, Michigan
    Starting Price (Before Federal Rebates) $39,145
    Options Enhanced Safety Package 1, Comfort Package, Cargo Net
    Price As Tested $40,905 $40,905
    Platform Delta II
    Wheelbase 105.7 in /2,685 mm
    Overall Length 177.1 in / 4,498 mm
    Overall Width 70.4 in / 1,788 mm
    Overall Height 56.6 in / 1,438 mm
    Curb Weight 3,781 lbs / 1,715 kg
    Headroom 37.8 in / 960.12 mm (front)
    36.02 in / 914.91 mm (rear)
    Legroom 42.05 in / 1,068.07 mm (front)
    34.10 in / 866.14 mm (rear)
    Shoulder Room 56.52 in / 1,435.61 mm (front)
    53.90 in / 1,369.06 mm (rear)
    Hip Room 53.73 in / 1,364.74 mm (front)
    51.20 in / 1,300.48 mm (rear)
    Engine (Generator) 1.4-liter EcoFLEX I4 (LUU)
    84 hp (63 kW) / 93 lb-ft (126 Nm) torque
    Electric Drive Motor Permanent Magnet Electric Motor
    149 hp (111 kW) / 273 ft-lb (370 Nm) torque
    Transmission/Drive FWD CVT Voltec 4ET50 Multi-mode electric transaxle
    EPA Ratings 35 /40 MPG (City/Highway Gasoline)
    98 MPGe (Electric)
    Observed Fuel Economy 132 MPG (28% gasoline/ 72% electric miles driven)
    Recommended Fuel Unleaded Premium
    Maintenance Costs $21.45 (7,500 miles - Tire Rotation)


    What Works:
    -Outstanding efficiency potential
    -Solid handling and driving feel
    -Attractive styling

    What Needs Work:
    -No 5th seat possible
    -Touchy "hybrid style" brakes
    -Touch sensitive center stack is an annoyance to some
    Last edited by TaHoE; 02-07-2015 at 09:49 AM. Reason: Updated IMG URLS to fix broken images.

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    Re: GMI Drives: 2013 Chevrolet Volt Long Term Review

    That was an awesome read, Cheers Mate!
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    Re: GMI Drives: 2013 Chevrolet Volt Long Term Review

    Best review of the Volt I've seen...thanks for the great write up!
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    Re: GMI Drives: 2013 Chevrolet Volt Long Term Review

    That being said, the deceleration is strong enough that it may cause those driving behind you to become annoyed that your brake lights aren't coming on, so caution should be exercised.
    A guy over at gm-volt.com measured the Volt deceleration at around .13G (or just below brake light illumination requirement) and then further measured a Mustang GT downshifting at .3G or twice the Volt. Read the full story here

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    Re: GMI Drives: 2013 Chevrolet Volt Long Term Review

    Great write up TaHoE. The Volt is a lot of fun and better still a great car after the novelty passes. There are compromises, but they all balance out every time you sneak up on a pedestrian and hit them with your mini horn (braaaap).
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    Re: GMI Drives: 2013 Chevrolet Volt Long Term Review

    Very good write up TaHoE, much more than what I expected when I first saw the header. This long term review shows up some little niggles that can be improved. Overall the Volt is a supreme effort from GM judging by those who own Volts here on GMI and others its a fine electric vehicle. Looking forwards to new generations of Voltec technologies.
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    Re: GMI Drives: 2013 Chevrolet Volt Long Term Review

    It’s fantastically fun to drive, it gets 'thumbs up' everywhere it goes, and you will likely visit the gas station a lot less while driving it (we only went to the gas station 9 times in one year, and that is including three non-electrified road trips).
    That's great!

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    Re: GMI Drives: 2013 Chevrolet Volt Long Term Review

    Quote Originally Posted by BerettaZ View Post
    Best review of the Volt I've seen...thanks for the great write up!
    Fully agree. This is easily the best overall review I've read.

    Only comment I would have is on the brake feel. I personally like the brake feel on the Volt and I'm rather impressed by it. However this might just come down to personal preference.

    The Volt is by no means a sports car however the accelerator is very responsive (especially in sport mode). So much so that every time I get into a gas powered vehicle I'm now annoyed by the delay between my right foot and the response.
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    Re: GMI Drives: 2013 Chevrolet Volt Long Term Review

    the lack of 5th seat i am sure is costing some sales. hopefully they correct that on the next generation. i have not been in the back of a volt to really look at it. but when i was a kid, RWD cars had a hump in the middle of the floor of the backseat. and we just spread our legs if we sad in the middle
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    Re: GMI Drives: 2013 Chevrolet Volt Long Term Review

    Great review. The only issue I find with the brakes is the occasional brief transition when nearly stopped as the regenerative brakes seem to disengage leaving the job to the friction brakes and you have a brief feeling of loss of braking. Otherwise I find braking just fine.
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    Re: GMI Drives: 2013 Chevrolet Volt Long Term Review

    Quote Originally Posted by gopedxr7 View Post
    the lack of 5th seat i am sure is costing some sales. hopefully they correct that on the next generation. i have not been in the back of a volt to really look at it. but when i was a kid, RWD cars had a hump in the middle of the floor of the backseat. and we just spread our legs if we sad in the middle
    battery tech is always improving... I'm sure Voltec 2.0 will have a much smaller battery.
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    Re: GMI Drives: 2013 Chevrolet Volt Long Term Review

    I love my Volt. Tomorrow will be my 1 yr anniversary of having it. I had a few longer research trips around MI for my masters thesis but am still averaging 123 mpg lifetime at 10,600+ miles. I put gas in about every 3 months I think. I agree with this review. Touch buttons are pretty annoying - especially with gloves! And I find the heating system is lacking for MI winters. Other than that it's awesome. I have 4 kids and never need a 5th seat. How often does anyone really have 4 other people in their car? Looking forward to leasing the next-gen Volt or something like it in 2 yrs.

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    Re: GMI Drives: 2013 Chevrolet Volt Long Term Review

    Quote Originally Posted by gopedxr7 View Post
    the lack of 5th seat i am sure is costing some sales. hopefully they correct that on the next generation. i have not been in the back of a volt to really look at it. but when i was a kid, RWD cars had a hump in the middle of the floor of the backseat. and we just spread our legs if we sad in the middle
    This. Grew up in G-bodies, and yes we sat 3 across in back seat and either you raise your legs on top of the hump or you spread them to each side. It never even crossed my mind as a CONCERN! I was a KID. The car deserves 3 across rear seating, even if the middle position has a hard cushion, tight in hip space, and low on leg room. Still good for families in a pinch when I need to bring a friend home.
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    Re: GMI Drives: 2013 Chevrolet Volt Long Term Review

    Quote Originally Posted by MechEng View Post
    Fully agree. This is easily the best overall review I've read.

    Only comment I would have is on the brake feel. I personally like the brake feel on the Volt and I'm rather impressed by it. However this might just come down to personal preference.

    The Volt is by no means a sports car however the accelerator is very responsive (especially in sport mode). So much so that every time I get into a gas powered vehicle I'm now annoyed by the delay between my right foot and the response.
    Agree as well, my brake pedal feel is perfect on mine. What is not is the heater - module
    Probably still faulty and the fogging up with condensation of the rear tail lights and reflectors - it is GM so doubt will see a recall Lol!

    However I'm extremely happy with the car as I've done 11 months before needing fuel, not many cars can do that or provide the amazing drive experience.

    GM just has to work on the minor things that frankly should not be a problem in the first place. Sad really as all the complex items are reliable and perform exceptional well let down by some basic items that should have been disgned and made right.

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    Re: GMI Drives: 2013 Chevrolet Volt Long Term Review

    Quote Originally Posted by briandors View Post
    This. Grew up in G-bodies, and yes we sat 3 across in back seat and either you raise your legs on top of the hump or you spread them to each side. It never even crossed my mind as a CONCERN! I was a KID. The car deserves 3 across rear seating, even if the middle position has a hard cushion, tight in hip space, and low on leg room. Still good for families in a pinch when I need to bring a friend home.
    you can't do this because the battery compartment is waist-high when sitting and the two rear seats are buckets, not a bench. The rear compartment is bisected and there isn't room as the rear roof is so low.

    The rear seat is also a little cramped compared to Cruze as the battery compartment is behind it. the biggest thing I missed is a proper parcel shelf hinged under the hatch. The stretch cover is a poor substitute and looks and is cheap.

    But yes, I agree the biggest achievement is how 'normal' it feels, and good and competent to drive. It's fun, spritely, responsive, smooth, modern and endlessly entertaining with it's space shuttle feel. I believe it will be one day seen as revolutionary. And the fact there's really been tiny issues is remarkable. Still the best thing GM has done.

    Even if you're lazy and never charge it, it will just keep going so long as it has gas and still be economical especially around town due to regen, . And if you are motivated it won't even take an oily rag to run.
    Last edited by BBDOS CV8; 01-17-2014 at 06:28 PM.

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