Power: 149 hp, 273 lb-ft
Engine: 111-kW electric drive motor powers the front wheels;
1.4-liter gasoline engine recharges the 16-kWh lithium-ion battery pack
Fuel consumption:
electricity only: 95 city, 90 hwy;
premium gasoline only: 35 city, 40 hwy;
combined composite: 60 mpg-e

Price as tested: $43,090, chevrolet.com
On sale: Now
Ideal for: Affluent, techy tree-huggers

Strengths:

 Lets cut through the hype and forget the fancy tech jargon: The main benefit of the Chevrolet Volt is that it can drive between 25 and 50 miles on electricity. If you have a short daily commute and can plug in the car at work and/or overnight, then you’ll never need a drop of gasoline to drive it. But wait, there’s more. Unlike the Nissan Leaf and other electric cars, the Volt has a small gasoline engine that acts like an onboard generator to recharge the batteries. A full tank of fuel gives the car a range of more than 350 miles, so there’s no anxiety in getting stranded when the battery drains. The Chevrolet Volt’s interior feels like the cockpit of a spaceship, with its high-res digital dash and glossy white center console. The ride is surprisingly sporty and there’s plenty of pick-up, thanks to the car’s torquey electric motor.

 

Weaknesses:

Price is this car’s biggest letdown, and it’s kind of unavoidable, considering how much new technology it’s packing. General Motors plays up the fact that the Volt qualifies for a $7,500 federal tax credit. But it’s non-refundable, so it only saves you the amount of taxes you owe—and if you don’t own any taxes, it saves you nothing. Other downsides that emerged during the test drive were minor: Headroom is tight; the smallish windows impair visibility and make the car feel claustrophobic; those seeking a plush ride might not like the Volt’s sporty suspension. It also requires premium fuel. The last catch: Finding a plug outlet can be a problem. At least it was for us in New York City.

 

Final take:

It’s too bad the Volt isn’t a Cadillac, because that would make the price more palatable. Cost aside, it’s a big win for GM. If I had the dough and a place to plug it in, I’d get one. Here’s what the dashboard readout said at the conclusion of my lead-footed test drive:

Miles driven on electricity: 23.5

Miles driven on gas: 6.8

Total miles per charge: 30.4

Miles per gallon: 91.7