But GM's innovative range-extended electric car also has its share of annoyances. We found several features irritating, or (to be more diplomatic) perhaps not-quite-entirely-thought-through yet.
That's probably inevitable, given the quick development schedule, the unique nature of the powertrain, and other little factors like a global recession and the bankruptcy and U.S. government rescue of General Motors.
Still, this is the "can do better" section of the Volt's first report card. Some are quibbles that can be fixed, others are endemic to the car.
(1) Lousy visibility
This is hardly a problem unique to the 2011 Volt, but it's particularly bad in this car. With a drooping roof angle, a rising beltline, and no third side windows, there's a huge blind spot over the driver's right shoulder.
Even worse--actively dangerous, in our opinion--are the gigantic windshield pillars. We know roof-crush strength standards are increasing, and we know that pillars now have airbags.
2011 Chevrolet Volt cabin
But that's no excuse for a left-front pillar so thick that it blocked an entire car turning out of a driveway as we made a left turn. That required an emergency stop so sudden it launched everything off the rear seats onto the floor.
(2) Premium fuel "recommended"
We're good, and we try to play by the rules. So we filled our test Volt with premium fuel both times it needed gas, which cost us all but $4 per gallon.
But why that requirement? The 2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco we reviewed last week uses a variation of the same engine, but works just fine on regular. Granted, you're not putting a lot of premium in (we maxed out at 8.1 gallons), but still ...
(3) Dashboard buzz
Pre-production cars are usually presented as such, but our Volt (serial number 0397, as it informed us on the display) was a full production vehicle.
Which is why we were disappointed to hear a distinct buzz from somewhere behind the dash during certain combinations of engine speed and road speed.
It wasn't a deal-breaker, but it was definitely noticeable, and an owner who just paid $41,000-plus for a brand-new Volt wouldn't like it one bit.
(4) No proximity locking and unlocking
Unless we missed instructions on how to set it up in the manual, the Volt doesn't automatically unlock its driver's door as a driver nears the car with the key fob in a pocket.
2011 Chevrolet Volt drive test, March 2011
It's a simple thing to program, and one of the little niceties that cars at this price level often include. And it makes a keyless ignition much, much nicer if the driver doesn't have to fish the thing out of a pocket, find the right button to unlock, and then store it back again.
Chevy: You can fix this one, easily. Right?
(5) Flimsy charge-port and gas-filler doors
We understand that weight reduction is key to fuel efficiency. And we'll grant that the paint color on the oval plastic doors that cover the recharging port and the gasoline filler was a perfect match to our (very nice) Viridian Joule clearcoat.
Still, the doors and their hinges were both made of plastic, and there's only one word to describe them: flimsy. Again, fine for a compact economy car, not so great on a car at this price level.