Comparison Tests

2017 Chevrolet Volt Premier

First place: Tortoise and the Hare.


There are some major differentiators between the Volt and the Prius Prime. First and foremost is the way the Volt drives. Judging by the Chevy’s steering, brakes, and ride, it’s clear that someone involved in the Volt’s creation shares our values. The primary controls are ­suffused with accuracy and consistency. Clear feedback comes through the steering, the body roll is kept in check, the damping has the right dose of starch, and the structure stands up to any assaults from the road. The 403-pound battery that runs through the middle of the car lowers the center of gravity, keeping the car glued to the tarmac. Highway stability is excellent, and wind noise is minimal.

Driving made us believers. But handling isn’t your priority, you say? Well, the Volt is also a better electric car than the Prius Prime. The Volt’s larger battery provided a 45-mile range and an overall efficiency of 60 MPGe in 150 miles of driving. A recharge takes about 10 hours on a normal household outlet, dropping to five on a 240-volt charger.

Sending electricity back to the battery when decelerating is made easy, too. Leave the shifter in D or L and pull the paddle behind the wheel to activate the most aggressive regeneration mode. Lift off the accelerator, and the motors rapidly decelerate the car while increasing the amount of electricity generated. It’s so effective at erasing speed that the Volt becomes a single-pedal machine. Touching the brake pedal is only necessary for emergencies and coming to a complete stop. The Prius’s B mode is conceptually the same, but it’s not as aggressive; we found ourselves toeing for the brake pedal far more often in the Prius.

The Chevy is significantly quicker and more powerful than the Toyota, and the Volt’s performance is essentially the same whether it’s in EV or hybrid mode. A run to 60 mph takes only 7.6 seconds as an EV and 7.4 with the gas and electric power sources working together.

The Volt’s interior makes this plug-in hybrid feel like a regular member of the GM family. So, thankfully, do the chassis and the powertrain.

Still not convinced? Take a long look at the Prius and the Volt. While the Volt might look a bit generic and too much like a Hyundai Elantra, at least it doesn’t look like a protest against taste. Inside, the Volt is similarly conventional. We’d call it ­Malibu-plus for the way it mimics the approachability of a ­family sedan’s interior. Gone is the first gen’s capacitive touch switchgear; instead, you get real buttons. An eight-inch touchscreen is a familiar sight in GM cars and trucks, and it works well. Overly firm seats didn’t impress, however, and although the rear seat theoretically can hold three, there’s not much leg- or headroom back there. A small door opening makes getting in and out of the back seat difficult, too. For Uber duty, the Prius has the Volt licked.

Everywhere else, the Volt is the clear ­winner. It doesn’t require any sacrifices in driving pleasure or performance in the name of economy. Its styling doesn’t make an anti-car ­statement, and it certainly doesn’t have a large back seat, but it’s a more mature plug-in hybrid and a more satisfying car. The Volt quali­fies for a federal tax credit that’s $3000 more than the Prius Prime’s ($7500 compared with $4502). That narrows but doesn’t close the Toyota’s price lead. We’d be happy to pay the extra money for the Volt. It’s worth it.

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