Chevrolet Volt vs rivals

Chevrolet Volt vs rivals
Credits: Otis Clay
18 Jun, 2012 12:00pm

We pit the new range-extending Chevrolet Volt against the hybrid Toyota Prius and the diesel VW Golf

The exciting new Chevrolet Volt is out to change the way we drive. As with its Vauxhall Ampera sister car, it uses a novel range-extending electric powertrain.

By combining an electric motor and petrol generator that stops the batteries going flat, the Volt can travel around 300 miles before it needs a recharge. Plus, at £29,995 it’s the cheapest way to get behind the wheel of a GM range-extender; the Ampera currently starts at £32,250.

Facing the Chevy is a formidable pair of family friendly eco rivals. The Toyota Prius is the original and most successful petrol/electric hybrid. Under the skin it matches the Volt for hi-tech running gear and kit, while sub-100g/km CO2 and good economy should make it cheap to run.

Better still, a recent facelift promises to sharpen the car’s looks and driving dynamics. We test it in top-spec £24,910 T Spirit trim. Our final contender is the evergreen VW Golf BlueMotion.The five-door hatch’s frugal 1.6-litre diesel, upmarket image and attractive £20,015 price will make a lot of sense for buyers looking to slash their motoring costs and reduce their eco impact.

What’s more, its traditional engine set-up and manual gearbox mean the driving experience is just like any other Golf’s. So which of our fuel-sipping contenders will take top honours in this battle of the eco warriors?


The Chevrolet Volt had it all to do here. Its clever range-extending set-up has already proven its winning credentials in our test of its Vauxhall Ampera sister car, but the Chevy is an expensive option in this company, with its £29,995 price.

However, it’s the Toyota that finishes third. While revisions make it better behind the wheel, the flaws still remain. It needs careful driving to deliver its best, while the CVT hurts refinement. The imminent plug-in version will be a better bet.

Separating the Golf and Volt is tougher. Plug it in to charge every day and the Chevy will return 200mpg-plus, while the petrol generator lets you take longer journeys without breaking a sweat.

It costs much more than the Golf, but if it fits your lifestyle the savings on company car tax and fuel will go some way to offsetting the price premium. It also comes with more standard kit.

Yet by the narrowest of margins it has to give best to the Golf. It undercuts its rivals on price and returned 58.9mpg in our hands. It’s also practical, good to drive and well built. And if you cover a big annual mileage, it’s the top choice.

Winner: VW Golf ★★★★

It's a close call, but the Golf takes the win. The BlueMotion drives like a normal Golf, delivers excellent fuel returns and is cheap to buy and run. It also demands the least compromises from owners. But its kit is sparse and it feels a little old-fashioned here. If the cost of range extenders comes down, the Golf’s position could be in doubt.

2nd: Chevrolet Volt ★★★★

The Volt’s margin of defeat is slender, but if you want an eco-friendly car for all occasions, it’s tough to beat. While it’s costly to buy and not as practical as rivals, it promises serious savings. If it fits in with your motoring routine, take the plunge.

3rd: Toyota Prius ★★★

There’s plenty to recommend the Prius. It’s spacious, well equipped and boasts improved driving dynamics. Yet its hybrid set-up doesn’t deliver the expected returns at the pumps, while the characteristics of its CVT damage refinement.

Disqus - noscript

1st is the Golf cause it makes the most sense, 2nd is the Prius because of price and 3rd is the Ampera because of price BUT the drivability and uniqueness of the Vauxhall is way ahead the others. It drives exceptionally smooth and strong from start to high city speeds, it makes you feel special around all that technology and it handles superbly for its class. I would love one, too bad it loses on the price.

Please, leave it out!

Why not compare "Like", with "Like", with "Like", why throw in a blatant "Unlike" into the mix, it makes no sense comparing the Golf to the other two vehicles.

Unless of course AE has an "agenda"?

What! are you trying to infer an AE VAG bias?

In a word............


Obviously the Prius has been driven with pedal to the metal everywhere on this test as 55-60 MPG is easily achievable with normal driving.

Also how you can compare a Manual gearbox on the golf to Automatic versions for the other contenders is beyond me.

Come on AE please don't treat us like complete motoring novices and give us some unbiased reviews for a change!!!

I have a Citroen C4 e-HDI and it churns out an average of 58-60mpg on a regular basis - even up to 68-70mpg on motorway stretches. Best purchase ever as a second hand car - not so good as new unless you can negotiate a big discount.

This was so predictable. VAG Group cars always win, because AE is so bias!

The Golf should be compared with the 3 Cylinder Focus, not these two, both are expensive, so it was obvious that the Golf would come top.

If there was a Golf Hybrid, which will be more expensive no doubt, then AE would still find a way to make it top.

The Volt and Prius are totally different.

And zee vinner is made in Deutschland! Second is Americano because anything, ANYTHING is in front of the Japanese.

A comparison of these cars needs a more in-depth explanation of the drive trains, which are significantly different.

AE does seem to have a bias towards German makes. Even the French and Italian cars can be in front of Japanese ones sometimes. It's a shame as I would subscribe to the magazine otherwise.
They really need to look at the reliability stats, I think.

I get 65-67 mpg in a MK II Prius per tank, 870 Kms on 37 litres of petrol. It takes practice, but once you learn it's 2nd nature. I don't know anyone who can achieve that in a TDI Golf. For the size of the Prius 65-67 mpg is brilliant. I don't know what this talk about cvt noise, sure it is, but only on hard acceleration and so is every car. In fact the Prius is so quiet in traffic that you begin to wish they made indicators and wipers much quieter and diesels didn't exist because all you hear in the Prius is the noise of other cars and trucks . I'm sure the Ampera is a good car, one thing for sure is I will never go back to diesel again!

30k for a milk float!..LOL.

I wish people would stick to reading the per tank mpg and not the per trip mpg which is meaningless!!!

Diesel is still king, but IMO, its crown was taken by the technology of the Chevrolet Volt. the Volt should be 1st place with the Prius and Golf Diesel that were tied in last place.

I get 65-67.2 mpg per tank in the Prius MK II, I do about 84 miles a day, out of the 84 miles per day about 25 or so are normal single carriageway roads between 55-70 mph. And I got it 2nd hand for around 3,000 Euro's cheaper than a diesel smaller car with about 30,000 more miles. When I get into traffic is where it really shines and what diesels may have got on the motorway is more than lost in traffic, again it's not what you may get on the motorway or per trip it's the average per tank is what matters. The fact the Prius is automatic too is fantastic, my 03 A4 TDI Automatic only averaged 48 mpg per tank!

I think that this test has been totally devalued by the specific Golf model used to compare against. The text states:-
While air-con, a trip computer and a DAB digital radio all feature, you’ll have to fork out for luxuries such as a leather steering wheel and electric rear windows – both are standard on the Chevy and Toyota.
Plus, the list of factory-fitted extras is surprisingly short, with no option to add sat-nav or leather seats. To get the same level of kit on the Golf, you’ll have to spend £24,095 on a fully specced and dirtier Match 1.6 TDI."
Since so much is made of the cheaper Golf price it would have been better to compare similarly specced cars - would the conclusion have still been in favour of the Golf?

Is the Golf is low emissions or do you mean low CO2? The Golf will emit more damaging pollutants than either of the others. No mention of that or that if used heavily in traffic it'll need to regenerate it's DPF more often which uses fuel or that diesel is more expensive than petrol.

Once again the Prius DOESN'T have a CVT gearbox, it's a power split device. How about putting an automatic diesel of comparable size in place of the Golf and then doing the tests again. You guys should be politicians....

Not sure if my comments are as practical as I'm an American and we don't have as many Diesels here. But to me the Volt represents a totally unique drivetrain. At the moment there isn't any other cars like it. The biggest differentiator is that its actual gas mileage is variable. For example I have a 30 mile each way commute to my job. If I had one of these I would only be using gas for 20 miles total per day. Some people on the other hand will only have a 10 mile commute and thus would probably hardly use any gas. For them their fuel usage would be completely different and the only time they would use any is when the car goes into "Maintenance mode" -aka- the engine kicks on occasionally to use some gas to ensure it doesn't go stale and to keep the engine in running order. Many of the early adopters here have beeing claiming they've hardly used any gas.

I am a lifelong Toyota owner myself, but I've driven and seen the Volt several times and its not like anything I've seen from an American car manufacture. The quality is absolutely top-notch and the interior is like being inside a space ship. I would have no problem buying one of these myself.

I have recently driven a Volt and it was the strangest thing ever. Wasn't bad though. If it were my money I would bag a Focus EV (when released).
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I DO NOT recognise your Prius review - my 11 reg Prius averages 65mpg in summer and 62mpg in winter, it is quiet, relaxing and everyone says the interior is really classy and space age. I know people with 40k+ Mercs and BMWs who admit that my Prius is a more comfortable (seats especially) and refined experience. WHY ARE YOU SO BIASED AGAINST THE PRIUS?

1st is the Ampera cause it makes the most sense and price and I'm biased towards the Volt and the Ampera, 2nd is the Prius because of the technology and 3rd is the Golf because of the bullshit diesel! I would expect that the Golf Diesel MQB will do better next year