The 2013 Chevrolet Volt has a lot going for it.
It can travel up to 50 miles on all-electric power and has a backup gasoline engine for longer trips, is a recommended buy of Consumer Reports magazine and adds new features, including a new Hold mode that lets drivers set the Volt for gasoline-engine operation only, thereby saving the electric range for later in the trip, if needed.
For the first time since the Volt's introduction as a 2011 model, the black-colored roof and liftgate are gone. Buyers now can get those parts painted the same color as the rest of the Volt body. And Chevrolet added global positioning satellite-based navigation for 2013. It's part of an $895 option that also adds $495 in optional stereo sound equipment.
Meanwhile, the 2013 Volt earned top, five-out-of-five stars in overall crash protection for occupants during federal crash tests.
But the Volt's electric plug-in system for charging remains less adaptable to some regular, 120-volt outlets than do the plug-in systems for the all-electric-only Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi MiEV and plug-in hybrid competitors like the 2013 Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid and 2013 Ford C-Max Energi.
Simply, the test 2013 Volt — like the 2011 Volt tester two years earlier — would not charge via the regular 120-volt outlet in my circa 1970s residential garage. It would only charge at the 240-volt charging stations located at a city-owned, downtown parking structure.
The local public utility said I'd need to install a dedicated charging station for the Volt in my garage, at a cost of more than $1,500. This charging station would ensure the Volt fully recharges in just four hours.
But the Leaf, MiEV, Prius Plug-In and C-Max Energi charged just fine — albeit slowly — at my garage at home, using the regular outlet.
Starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, of $39,995 for a 2013 Volt is at the high end of non-luxury, plug-in vehicles. As an example, the 2013 Toyota Prius Plug-In has a starting retail price of $32,795. Ford C-Max Energi — a five-passenger, plug-in, gasoline-electric hybrid hatchback — has a starting MSRP, including destination charge, of $34,140. The 2013 Nissan Leaf starts at $29,650.
The federal government and some states provide income tax credits of varying amounts for purchases of certain electric and hybrid vehicles. The federal income tax credit for a Volt is a hefty $7,500.
With a federal government fuel economy rating of 98 miles-per-gallon equivalent in all-electric mode, the Volt is the top Chevrolet in mileage. But when the Volt travels via its 1.4-liter, double overhead cam, four-cylinder gasoline engine, the mileage rating falls to 37 mpg.
The test Volt traveled 30 miles, on average, in all-electric mode before automatically and seamlessly switching to the gas engine.