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.
2011 Chevrolet Volt
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.
2011 Chevrolet Volt dashboard
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.
2011 Chevrolet Volt cabin
Braking is generally good, though we experienced an unusual sensation when bringing the car to a halt. Under a constant pedal pressure for a smooth stop, the car takes it upon itself to brake additionally over the last few meters (regardless of what you do with the pedal) which makes pulling up smoothly a little difficult. This could be as a result of the regenerative braking, and the brakes seem fine the rest of the time.
All the controls are easy and smooth to operate and the steering is direct enough for all but the most enthusiastic of drivers. We only had the car for a short distance so were unable to test high speed running, but it gave us no reason to believe it'd be anything other than a pleasant freeway companion.
2011 Chevrolet Volt charging port
The drive was brief but the Volt still managed to impress. First impressions count for a lot and the Volt ticked the right boxes, but in Europe at least it will still have its work cut out to attract the buyers when economical diesels are so easy to come by and so much cheaper.
Nevertheless, if the money isn't a problem for you then the Volt should prove a pleasing ownership proposition. For a more in-depth review, head over to GreenCarReports for their full impressions.
For more information on the 2011 Chevrolet Volt, why not head over to our Ultimate Guide?