2019 Chevy Volt quick spin driving review

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What a week. When we took delivery of this 2019 Chevy Volt just before the Thanksgiving break, we didn’t think it might just be the last time anyone on staff would get behind the wheel. Green cars are the future, and GM’s plug-in hybrid was one of the first to market roughly 10 years ago. There’s a lot of blame to go around, from poor marketing on GM’s part to the viability of a green sedan in an age of cheap fuel and big SUVs. Now, the isn’t the only car GM is killing off (and even this might not fix its manufacturing problems), but it is the most shocking.

The Volt itself is a efficient little sedan, with an estimated 53 miles of all-electric range and about 420 miles of range with the gasoline range extender. Unlike plug-ins like the BMW i3, there’s not a performance penalty to pay when the gasoline engine kicks on. The Volt packs features like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a wireless charging pad, heated seats, adaptive cruise control and active safety features like forward collision alert, lane keep assist and blind-spot monitoring. It’s a great little package, and we’re sure it won’t be the last dedicated plug-in from General Motors.

Senior Editor, Green, John Beltz Snyder: Man, I love this car. It’s genuinely fun to drive. I love the feel of the electric acceleration, and how it all happens so smoothly and quietly. It’s even quicker in Sport mode. It definitely makes the Volt feel more premium than you’d expect. I love that I can actually do my entire commute on electric power. Most PHEVs run out of range over the course of 40 miles, or the gas engine comes on automatically when I accelerate onto the highway. This was all electric, all the time, all the way home. I made sure not to charge it all the way overnight to experience the gas engine — it’s also fairly quiet.

I especially liked the feel of the car with the gear selector set to L, which provides aggressive regenerative braking. Still, if that doesn’t slow you down enough, the little lever/button thing on the back of the left side of the steering wheel will haul you down even faster. You still have to get on the brake pedal to bring the car to a complete stop, though. I was skeptical about the paddle-holding experience, but it was pretty engaging. I’d love to just have a complete one-pedal mode that didn’t rely on it, though.

My stint in the Volt this time around came just before the news of its demise, so the thoughts you see from me above were compiled before the sadness set in. I’ll miss this car quite a bit. It feels a little soon, but perhaps it’s time for GM — and the auto industry as a whole — to begin to move on from the plug-in hybrid. The Volt in particular is long in the tooth, and GM is moving on to bigger (literally bigger) and better things. Now that range and battery costs are reaching acceptable levels, it might be time for many of us to stop half-assing it, and go full-electric.

Associate Editor Reese Counts: Whelp, this sucks. If I had known this might be the last time I have a chance to the Volt, I might have given it more of a shakedown. Maybe a nice road trip to see how far I can eke out the range. That would have been nice.

As is stands, I spent nearly a week with the Volt over the Thanksgiving break and didn’t burn a single drop of gasoline the entire time. Between the level 2 charger at our office and the standard outlet at my house (about 8 miles away), I never went far enough to run out of range. In fact, even with the cold temperatures cutting down the range, I never came close to running out of juice, even with a full day of running around looking for Black Friday deals.

I like the Volt a lot. It’s the car that convinced me a plug-in hybrid is the perfect car for most people. It’s fun to drive, too, with lots of torque right off-the-line and a chassis that’s surprisingly lively. Keep the car in L and you get great regen braking. As John noted, there’s the paddle on the lefthand side of the wheel to kick that up even further. After a day of driving, it became second nature to press the brake and pull the paddle at the same time. I like the instrument cluster and all the little data points to help you improve your driving.

It’s just the wrong shape for what consumers are looking for these days. The rear seat and cargo area are both cramped, making it a poor choice for families. If the Volt were the size of a Chevy Equinox, I think the story would be a lot different.

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