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2012 Chevrolet Volt Walk Around

The Chevy Volt's stand-out qualities start with the way it looks. We'd call it a handsome car, with a lot of presence for a small, five-door hatchback.

At an overall length of 177.1 inches, the Volt is actually four inches shorter than the Chevrolet Cruze compact sedan, though they both ride on the same 105.7-inch wheelbase. The Volt occupies about the same amount of floor space as a compact Ford Focus, and substantially less than mid-size sedans such as the Chevy Malibu or Ford Fusion. Yet, thanks its 435-pound battery pack, it weighs some 300 pounds more than the larger Malibu or Fusion.

The Volt is an exceptionally aerodynamic car. Its low hood, raked windshield, long roof and high deck lid create the most aero-efficient Chevrolet ever, with a drag coefficient of only 0.28. That makes it one of the slipperiest sedans in the world. As a result, it takes less energy to keep the Volt rolling as it slices through the air at highway speeds. GM engineers say the careful aerodynamic tuning increased the Volt's range by eight miles for each plug-in charge.

In the design sense, the Volt is more forceful and less neutered looking than some other low-drag, high-mileage sedans and hatchbacks currently available. It's clearly cast in the current Chevrolet theme, most particularly in front, where it shares traits with the Cruze and Malibu. Yet the Volt makes excellent use of lighting as a design element, and its various aero-enhancing spoilers are integrated into a relatively sleek, holistic shape. Its 17-inch wheels are bold, and fitted with Goodyear Fuel Max P215/55R17 low-rolling-resistance tires.

A black-trimmed wheel option, new for 2012, makes the Volt look even bolder. There are also two new exterior colors for 2012: Summit White and Blue Topaz Metallic.

Interior

The Chevrolet Volt seats four, rather than five. It's laid out with two bucket seats in front, two in the rear and a center console running the full length of the cabin.

The Volt is as different inside as it is on the outside. No other vehicle takes quite the same tack when it comes to interior treatments, yet the Volt is not so far out as to be dysfunctional or just plain weird. The center stack of switches is finished in glossy, lacquer-like white. The door pulls, window switches, vents and front cupholders are trimmed in bright silver. The Volt offers more interior color, lighting and trim options than the typical Chevrolet sedan, and the cabin looks very modern. The build quality is excellent and the materials and graining are well done.

Expansive glass brings light into the car. The Volt feels quite roomy in front, and we'd venture that only humans beyond perhaps the 80th percentile in stature will feel squeezed in any fashion. The front buckets are handsome and very usable, comprising some of GM's best seats ever. They're very snug and comfortable, but supportive and never numbing. They fit people of average build nicely, though we wonder if those 80th percentile bodies might find them a little small.

The Volt's gauges are, well, engaging, but gauges may not be the right word. In fact, they are more like video screens: Two seven-inch, high-resolution full-color LCDs. One is a user configurable cluster in front of the driver, while they other shows audio, climate and navigation functions at the top of the center stack. The screens are so engaging that, especially when you are first getting used to the car and evaluating the various display options, they can divert attention from the task of driving.

Between these two screens, the driver can find every kind of technical information about the Volt's operation. A large speedometer dominates the driver's screen, with other conventional gauges like fuel level arrayed around the corners, a battery depletion gauge on the left, and a floating virtual Earth on the right-hand side. The idea is to keep the Earth centered at all times for the best battery life and least energy usage.

The center stack has 18 or 20 touch buttons that adjust the Volt's heating, ventilation, air conditioning, entertainment and navigation functions. Actually, these are more like touch areas, without a mechanical button to operate. It's a little bewildering at first, mostly in terms of locating the touch points where the switch actually works. The driver must use a carefully pointed fingertip to avoid hitting the wrong button or area, but with a bit of time and familiarity, the various operations get easier and the switch collection becomes fun to use.

A minor gripe applies to the gear selector. It stylishly parks itself in an indent or cut-out in the bottom of the center stack, but here the style gives up a bit of practicality. There isn't a lot of space in the cut-out to get a hand around the shifter, and we wonder whether drivers with large hands will find it a tight squeeze.

The rear bucket seats are separated by a console on the floor, with cupholders and a storage tray, and by open space to the cargo area between the two seatbacks. The seats themselves are nicely contoured and nearly as good as those in front. Access is easy through large rear door openings, and there is as much space for rear passengers as there is in the roomiest compact sedans.

Behind the rear seats, though, the Volt has just 10.6 cubic feet of cargo space. That's substantially less volume than the trunk in the typical compact sedan (Chevy Cruze offers 15.4 cubic feet), and more like what you'd expect in a sports car or coupe. The saving grace in this context is the individually folding rear seat backs, which open up a lot more space for boxes, suitcases and other stuff. Alternatively, we might think of the four-seat Volt as an everyday two-seater with more cargo space than the average mid-size.

Access to the cargo area is easy through the large, high-swinging tailgate, though the lift-over height to put things inside seems a bit higher than the average sedan. Chevy dealers offer various devices, including nets and organizers, to tailor the Volt's cargo space to the owner's needs.

The prices and incentives shown above may vary from region to region and are subject to change. Inventory is subject to prior sale. Vehicle information is based on standard equipment and may vary from vehicle to vehicle. Please contact us via phone or email for specific vehicle information. All prices plus tax, title, license, dealer adds and documentation fee.

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