2019 Chevrolet Volt review: Making a stronger case for itself

Starting at $33,520
  • Engine 4 Cylinder Engine
  • Drivetrain Front wheel drive
  • MPG 42 MPG
  • Passenger Capacity 5
  • Body Type Hatchbacks

Roadshow Editors' Rating

8.0 Overall
  • Performance 8
  • Features 8
  • Design 7
  • Media 9

The Good Updates for 2019 give the Volt even faster 240-volt charging times. Electric driving range dwarfs its plug-in hybrid competitors. New high-definition backup camera finally lets you clearly see what's behind you.

The Bad Styling is on the boring side. The torsion beam rear suspension has difficulty dealing with bumpy roads.

The Bottom Line The plug-in hybrid champ gets even better for 2019.

If 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.

For city commuting, the 53 miles of electric range seems very much in reach. The brake regen components replenish the battery along the way, causing electric range to drop slowly. Even more energy recuperation is possible using the on-demand regen steering wheel paddle, though it intervenes sharply enough to make passengers' heads bob forward when activated. Pedaling around in Normal mode offers a pleasing mix of gallop off the line and thrust to whip past slower traffic, while not decimating battery charge.

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.

A 53-mile electric driving range is impressive, but it quickly disappears on the expressway.

Nate Reed/Roadshow

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 cabin layout is unchanged, but center stack tech is updated with the latest Chevy lnfotainment 3 system.

Chevrolet

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.

On the safety front, the backup camera is now a higher-definition unit and a new pedestrian alert system with external speakers emitting a subtle tone at low speeds are standard. Forward collision warning with low-speed automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning with lane-keep assist and rear cross-traffic alert are available as options.

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.

Folding the Volt's rear seats down will let you carry a lot of fiberglass insulation.

Nate Reed/Roadshow

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.

Stepping up to the Premier trim level is worth it for the faster charger and creature comfort features.

Rob Weber/Roadshow

The plug-in hybrid champ

With its 2019 updates that bring faster charge times and stronger infotainment tech, it's even more difficult to overlook the Volt when it comes to plug-in hybrids. Combine that with its 53 miles of electric driving range that bests all of its competitors, and you have a very appealing electrified car.

Downsides? The Volt is a bit boring to look at and has a higher starting pricing than the $26K Ioniq Plug-in Hybrid, $29K Niro Plug-in Hybrid and $28K Prius Prime. But those two shortcomings may be worth it to some who like the idea of realistically making few and far between gas station visits without ever suffering the range anxiety that comes with a full-fledge EV.

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