Hybrids

2019 Chevrolet Volt

f you’re scratching your head while looking at pictures of the 2019 Chevrolet Volt thinking, man, that looks an awful lot like last year’s car, you aren’t going crazy. While some mid-cycle refreshes are mostly limited to design tweaks, Chevy’s 2019 model year update instead focuses on making the Volt an even better plug-in hybrid.

Beneath the skin

Much as I would have liked to see a few visual changes, really, a design update wasn’t essential. The Volt certainly isn’t off-putting, with its Cruze-like front end and silver grille inserts giving it kind of a Transformers vibe.

Packed within the body is a carryover powertrain, comprised of a 1.5-liter I4 gas engine, 18.4-kilowatt-hour battery pack and electric motor, for a combined output of 149 horsepower and 294 pound-feet of torque. The EPA says the 2019 Volt has an all-electric driving range of 53 miles, which bests other PHEVs like the Hyundai Ioniq (29 miles), Kia Niro (26 miles) and Toyota Prius Prime (25 miles). Factor in the gas engine and the Chevy’s driving range grows to 420 miles.

A new 7.2-kW charger is among the more substantial 2019 model year changes, available as a $750 option on the base Volt LT model and standard on my Premier trim tester. It drops 240-volt charging times from 4.5 hours to 2.3. Those planning on powering up on a standard household wall outlet still have to strap in for a 13-hour wait.

What will make electrons disappear at an alarming rate? Sport mode, with its more hyperactive acceleration. Thankfully, a Hold mode can be used to maintain the battery charge on longer stretches of highway cruising, for example, letting the range-extender gas engine do the heavy lifting, saving electricity for your stop-and-go stuff.

Not-so-dynamic handling

The Volt’s lively powertrain is matched with a soft and mostly comfortable chassis. Ride quality on smoother roads is excellent, making for a pleasant and quiet round-trip from Detroit to Columbus, Ohio. The suspension easily takes the edge off of impacts from occasional bumps. However, bad pavement with consecutive potholes and poorly packed patches cause the back end to skip around, revealing the shortcomings of the torsion beam rear suspension.

Tipping the scales at 3,543 pounds, the Volt is no lightweight and is far from a corner-carving fiend. There’s some dive under braking, lean through corners, vague and lightly weighted steering and low-rolling-resistance 215/50R17 Michelin Energy Saver A/S tires. The Volt is a perfectly capable daily commuter for rounding regular turns and cloverleaf interchanges normally, but pushing the envelope will have the front tires washing out before long.

Cabin makeover

Heading inside, the biggest news is the updated tech in the center stack with Chevy’s Infotainment 3 system housed in an 8-inch touchscreen. Graphics are crisp with intuitive menus and snappy response times. On my Premier tester, navigation is standard, as is an eight-speaker Bose audio system, Wi-Fi hotspot and both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The Premier’s wireless charge pad is also relocated from under the armrest to a more convenient location at the base of the center stack. Other charge points include two USB ports and a 12-volt outlet up front, while backseat passengers have a 12-volt outlet between the seats.

The rest of the Volt’s cabin is unchanged, with a relaxed seating position, adequate room up front and decent legroom in back, though rear headroom leaves a lot to be desired. In the very back there’s a 10.6 cubic feet trunk that will handle weekly grocery trips, but folding down the rear seats enabled me to cram four packs of Owens Corning R-13 insulation into the hatchback.

How I’d spec it

I always like trying to save a few bucks when building my ideal vehicles. In the Volt’s case, its $34,395 base price, including $875 for destination, climbed a little too high with options. After adding the 7.2-kilowatt onboard charging system and heated seats and steering wheel to cope with Midwest winters, the price savings over the $38,995 Premier version that gets those items standard isn’t drastic. The Bose sound system and wireless charge pad also included on the Premier are nice bonuses.

The only option I’ll add is the $990 Driver Confidence II Package mostly for blind-spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert. That brings my Volt Premier’s price tag to $39,985, which slightly undercuts the $40,830 tester pictured here.

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