Holden Volt an electrifyingly impressive effort from GM.
What we like:
- Steering and handling
- Equipment levels
- Build quality
- Interior ambience
- Electric range sufficient for daily commuting
Not so much:
- Only four seats
- No cover for luggage area
- Poor rear headroom
- Dated satellite navigation
- Uncertain resale
The Holden Volt is General Motors’ interpretation of a plug-in electric vehicle with a supporting petrol engine. It is sold in Australia in one highly equipped specification-a five-door hatch with four individual seats that wears the Holden lion badges front and rear. The Holden Volt has a recommended retail price of $59,990.
Price and Equipment
General Motors has thrown virtually everything it can at the Holden Volt: blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, a suite of airbags, heated leather seats, a fantastic BOSE stereo that includes an on-board hard drive, satellite navigation, crash avoidance technology and a clever device that measures the time between the Volt and the car in the front. All this on top of the car’s defining feature-its plugin electric drivetrain. The Holden Volt is priced at $59,990.
“Futuristic” is the best way to describe the Holden Volt’s cabin. There are no conventional gauges, rather the instrument cluster is a 7’inch rectangular digital readout that displays road speed in a large, clear font along with other essentials such as fuel and battery charge levels, a diagram that illustrates the amount of power that is being sourced from the engine, a device that measures the distance between the Volt and the car in front, tyre pressure monitoring as well as satellite navigation instructions and a graph that encourages environmentally friendly driving.
The centre stack does away with traditional buttons. Rather, it acts as a giant touchpad-simply tap the label or icon and the vehicle will perform the desired function. While a compelling idea in theory, we found some commands-such as adjusting seat heating and the stereo a little fiddly.
The 7’inch satellite navigation touchscreen is easy to use and is mounted well within the driver’s line of vision. However, the maps are a little dated in that they failed to accurately acknowledge traffic jams and road accidents.
When the satellite navigation is not in use, the screen shows an image of the drivetrain and power sources, charging, fuel consumption and audio information. It also provides secondary controls for the single-zone climate control which also has a number of efficiency settings.
The sound output from the BOSE system is powerful and satisfying, with a 30GB hard disk, CD/DVD player and iPod USB connectivity. Unfortunately, Bluetooth is for the handsfree phone system only.
The touchpad and overall helps to add to the car’s personality, along with a host of bongs, whooshes and beeps which not only made us smile, but hint that the Holden Volt is an electric vehicle that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The charging cord is neatly stowed under the boot floor.
One area the Volt’s cabin falls short is space and practicality. All four individual seats are very comfortable, but passengers over 6 feet tall seated in the rear will find head at a premium. Similarly, the two back seats are separated by a handy console. However, this can pose safety questions as object from the luggage compartment may enter the cabin under hard braking.
Engine and Transmission
Performance from the Volt’s 111kW electric “Voltec” drivetrain is strong. On a full charge, we found battery life is good for around 57km-Holden quotes over 80km-which is enough for the daily commute. So you can drive to and from work (provided you live within a reasonable distance!) with zero tailpipe emissions and easily keep up with traffic.
There are three different driving modes: Normal, Sports and Hold. With the Hold mode only engaging the petrol generator. There is regeneration braking, but the Holden Volt does lack some of the on-board charging trickery of newer PHEVs such as the Mitsubishi Outlander.
When the battery life is depleted, the petrol generator provides electricity so that the generator motor can keep things moving.
The petrol engine can be a little noisy and gravelly, but it was more than up to the task of allowing the Volt to perform and behave like a normal car. When the internal combustion engine was responsible for most of the power, returned fuel consumption was about 4.5-5.0 litres per 100 kilometres.
Ride and Handling
The Volt’s driving experience matches its performance. The steering is light, yet direct and communicative and the handling is planted and confident. It surprised as a thoroughly enjoyable drive, both when negotiating congested inner suburbs and on the open road at freeway speeds.
Only reservations would be the slightly spongey brake pedal and the ride’s fragility over rough roads and the front apron which is part of the aerodynamics that scrapes on virtually everything, speed bumps inclusive. This could wear and may need to be replaced later in the car’s life.
Safety and Servicing
One of the most interesting safety features of the Volt is the pedestrian horn mounted on the end of the indicator stalk-to help avoid people and car collisions (a similar system is fitted to the Outlander). Inside, passengers are protected by: a strong safety cell, front and knee airbags, driver and passenger airbags, curtain airbags and side impact airbags.
Electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, electronic brakeforce distribution and traction control are all standard fitment, along with collision alert-which beeps when you get too close to the car in front-and lane departure warning that beeps when you drift over lines without indicating. The battery pack is also protected in a crash and overall, the Volt has been awarded the maximum ANCAP five star safety rating.
Under Holden’s capped price servicing program, owners pay $185 per service for the first three years or 60,000 kilometres, whichever is accumulated first.
Make and model: Holden Volt
Engine type: 1.4 litre, four cylinder petrol engine
Power: 63kW @ 4,800rpm
Total maximum torque: [email protected]
Drive: Electric, two-wheel, front-drive Motors (two): drive motor, 111kW; generator motor, 55kW Transaxle: Voltec electric drive system Power: 111kW (total)
Battery Type: Lithium-ion
Battery Energy: 16.5kWh
Charging: 240 V 6A (normal power point-under 10 hours-approximate), 240 V 10A (normal power point- under six hours-approximate) and 240 V 15A (charge spot-under four hours-approximate)
Transmission: Electric drive unit which incorporates: Auto Transmission – Electronic ratio select
Electric range: 87km (max) or 600km electric and a full tank of fuel combined.
Fuel consumption: 1.2l/100km combined cycle
Dimensions: 4498mm long, 1788mm wide, 1439mm high and 2685mm wheelbase
Suspension: Front:Independent MacPherson strut-type with side-loaded strut modules, specially tuned coil springs, direct-acting hollow stabiliser bar; hydraulic ride bushings Rear: Specially adapted compound crank (torsion beam) with double-walled, U-shaped profile at the rear; specifically tuned coil springs and hydraulic bushings.
Steering: Rack-mounted electric power steering with ZF steering gear
Country of Origin: United States