Holden Volt Review

By: Nathan Ponchard

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Holden Volt Holden Volt Holden Volt
Holden Volt Holden Volt Holden Volt
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Road test: It's far from cheap, but Holden's electric Volt is the future

Holden Volt Review
Driven: Holden Volt

 

Holden Volt

"Silence is golden, but my eyes still see", warbled The Tremeloes way back in 1967, yet they could've easily been referring to the 2012 Holden Volt. In terms of overall refinement and whisper-quiet operation, GM's petrol-electric poster child is indeed golden. But if only the Volt's visuals matched its technological prowess.

For those not up to speed with the Volt's genesis, here's a quick recap. Built exclusively at GM's Hamtramck plant in Detroit, Volt was seen as so crucial to the company's future that its development remained fullsteam-ahead during GM's 2009 bankruptcy. It's now sold across the global General Motors empire wearing a variety of badges (Chevrolet, Holden, Opel, Vauxhall) and is the reigning European Car of the Year - an impressive validation of GM's effort.

Unlike Toyota's Prius hybrid, the Volt is essentially an electric car with a supplementary petrol engine acting as a range-extender - not the other way around. Volt's battery pack is also a latest-generation lithium-ion type and Holden claims it can provide a range of up to 87km on pure electric propulsion, with around 50km being easily achievable. A full charge takes less than six hours from a regular household outlet.

Given GM's dire situation during Volt's gestation, it's no surprise that the petrol engine is simply whatever was available - an ageing 1.4-litre four producing an underwhelming 63kW at 4800rpm that requires 95 octane fuel. But the Volt's small 35-litre fuel tank demonstrates just how far down the list of priorities the petrol engine is. This car is all about electric.

Despite weighing a girthy 1721kg, the Volt carries its heft low. The batteries sit in a T shape at the back of the car - enhancing weight distribution and lowering its centre of gravity - and progress is both swift and eerily silent. Battery torque delivers loads of off-the-line punch, and when you combine this with the transmission's seamless operation, the suspension's superb ride and the Volt's excellent refinement, the sense of luxury is tangible. If only the Volt's cabin plastics achieved the same. While the screen graphics are clear and quite classy, the rest of the interior is far too Cruze-like for $60K.

Seating restricted to four also does the Volt no favours, and when the batteries have been working hard, the lack of a luggage cover means you can hear the cooling fans whirring away. But generally, the way the Volt drives is far beyond expectation. It has a Sport mode, a hold function that can store the remaining battery charge, and its handling balance is seriously impressive.

Given the exalted price, you'd expect everything but the kitchen sink, and the Volt delivers. But it just doesn't look like 60 grand's worth. Its electric drivetrain, its dynamics and its refinement are so bloody good that you just wish GM didn't ask its IT department to sketch the details.

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Holden Volt

 

Engine: 1398cc 4cyl, DOHC, 16v

Battery: lithium-ion

Power: 63kW @ 4800rpm

Power: 111kW (battery)

Torque: 370Nm @ 250-2800rpm

Weight: 1721kg

Gearbox: CVT automatic

0-100km/h: 9.0sec (claimed)

Top speed: 161km/h (claimed)

Price: $59,990

 

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