The 2011 Geneva Motor Show has come and gone and was a real treat for electric car fans. Not only could you get close to cars like the 2011 Nissan Leaf and smart fortwo electric drive, but some were even available to test.
One of the cars attracting a lot of attention was the 2011 Chevrolet Volt. For much of the European press it was their first opportunity to have a good look at the car that has been making headlines in America and will soon be appearing on European shores both in its original form and as an Opel and a Vauxhall - GM's U.K. and European brands - as the Ampera.
Earlier this month we took a look at the differences between the Volt and Ampera, but with only the Chevrolet available to test, we took one for a drive.
Things didn't get off to a smooth start, with our test delayed a few hours after the Volt picked up a puncture on the rough and ready surface around the back of the Geneva Palexpo exhibition center.
New tire fitted, we got the call and after a little wait, the car was ours, though due to time constraints our drive was shared with a German journalist called Martin. Still, it would provide us with a useful second opinion over the all too brief drive.
First impressions of the car are good. On the outside it has a chunky and squat appearance that has a real Germanic aire of solidity. It's certainly no economy car in look and feel, though you'd certainly hope so given the price. We don't find it as attractive as its Ampera cousin, but it has a character of its own and it's definitely better in the flesh than in photos.
Installed in the driving seat, the impression of solidity continues. The driving position is good and all the controls fall easily to hand. The seating position feels quite low - even sporty - though this could be an effect of the high belt line and relatively small glass area, as the seats cetainly aren't difficult to climb into.
The Volt is easy to get to grips with. Starting is by a traditional key and a prod of a tactile blue starter button, though as with other electric vehicles starting is signalled only by an eerie silence and musical jingle rather than the sound of an engine. We were unable to sample the car with the range extending motor running as it still had plenty of charge when we drove it. The Ampera will allow you to fire up the engine right from the start to save battery charge for inner-city areas.