Chevrolet has taken an aggressive tack to move units of its revolutionary Volt, selling a fair number to government agencies, offering really fantastic lease deals and marketing the hell out of the car. After a week of driving (and generally enjoying) the 2013 iteration of the extended-range hatchback, I tend to think that customers should just take advantage of the current confluence of market forces rather than bemoaning the larger state of affairs with General Motors as a whole.
After all, one of the biggest knocks on the Volt has always been that its MSRP is too high, a fact that largely negates the very low running costs once the car is in your garage. Well, a $260/month lease eases that pain a lot (even if that rate is for the 2012 car, and not the 2013 I tested). And what you're left with is a very nice to drive, forward-looking if fractionally flawed car.
The slightly revised 2013 Volt offers a "Hold" driving mode that allows one to conserve the battery power for optimal efficiency. For those that have long commutes - and might want to let the gasoline-powered generator do its thing on the highway, while saving the EV juice for around town - this new software makes a lot of sense. I didn't find much chance to make use of it, in my city-centric daily errands.
I live in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which is, I will admit, fairly progressive as far as Middle America goes. With that said, our city has recently been fitted with quite a large number of 240-volt stations in parking lots and parking structures. Driving the Volt for the week, primarily around town (I live about a mile from the city center), I was able to keep my charge going using these sometimes-free chargers to great effect. In fact, I got more juice from Republic Parking than I did from my own house. Cheers!
When the Volt's batteries were topped-up, I usually saw about 32-miles worth of charge on the car's central display. Over eight days of driving - no single trip was farther than 15 miles, one of the benefits of working from home - I used 0.1 gallons of gas for around 120-miles traveled.
So, I'll admit, the usage-case for me is a little bit different than normal. But general observation, logic and some quick statistics hunting tells me that more and more people will work out of home offices as time passes. Long story short: I could almost certainly use a car like the Volt without having to use the gas-powered generator/engine for two-thirds of my driving year. And that's being conservative. Better still; if I'm charger surfing, using public power or parking structure power to fill up, the individual cost to me is reduced even further.
The Volt is an exceptional vehicle for music lovers, even without some ultra-high-end, 38-speaker English sound system. Why? Number one: the audio system is pretty respectable. Number two: the car is simply so quiet, even at speed, that you have a better soundstage in the Volt than you do in pretty much any other car on the market. You don't truly realize how much even very-good audio setups are fighting car-based noise pollution until you jam out in a Volt for the first time.
The front lip, completely designed for maximum aero aid, makes the Chevy almost unusable in certain situations. The approach from the street to my driveway is not particularly steep, but it's a sharp enough angle that there is no consistent way to get the car up and down without rubbing the bottom of the lip on the concrete. I know that in my neighborhood - with houses from the 1940s and 1950s - most driveways are more aggressively raked than mine, too. Anyone living in an older part of town, or in a city may have to seriously consider if they can drive the Volt close enough to their garage or house to charge it, without damaging the car each time. Aero be damned, it's silly for the Volt to sit lower than most supercars.
A quick followup to the point above: get used to hand-washing your Volt if you take the plunge. I don't know of any automatic car wash with tire guide rails low enough to accommodate the front lip of this car.