2013 Holden Volt First Drive Review

Tony O'Kane | 34 Comments


Vehicle style: Range-extender EV small hatch
Price: $59,990 plus on-roads
Engine: 1.4 litre 16-valve petrol 4cyl, two electric drive motors, 16.5kW/h battery.
Torque: 111kW/370Nm | Fuel consumption (listed): 6.3 l/100km

The Holden Volt is on sale from November.


It can take you from home to work and back without burning a drop of fuel. You can also use it to run between capital cities. The ideal commuter vehicle; and a defining car for the times? Perhaps. It's the Holden Volt.

Although many will consider it a hybrid, the Volt is actually a battery-electric car with an on-board generator.

It's designed to spend most of its life being propelled by battery power alone, but when the electrons run dry, the Volt's engine kicks in to generate power for the electric motors, enough for around 600km of travel.

The Volt is a neat antidote for 'range anxiety' - that affliction suffered by those who think the 180km-odd ranges of current electric vehicles will one day leave them 'powerless' by the side of the road.

It is also, however, expensive for a small car. Retailing at $59,990 the Volt is a pricey thing, but after our first decent drive we reckon it’s the best eco-friendly vehicle around.

The Interior

The Volt’s interior is certainly futuristic.

A seven-inch LCD panel replaces the traditional instrument cluster, nearly every button on the centre stack is capacitive (ie, you don’t need to ‘push’ each button, but merely brush your finger against it), and shiny white plastics on the centre stack and front door trims look more “high-end appliance” than “automobile”.

Build quality is generally good, with things tightly screwed together and no rattles evident on the test. Material quality could use a lift though, with some of the hard black plastics on the centre console having roughly-finished edges.

Also, the junction between the door cards and dashboard had a few misaligned lines.

Inside, the Volt is quite confined. The front seats offer adequate leg, arm and headroom, but the back seats are bisected by a tall centre console (beneath which resides the battery pack). Leg and footroom is very tight and passenger's heads rest directly under the hatch glass, not the roof lining.

At 300 litres, the boot isn't especially big either. A retractable cargo blind also isn't fitted, however a fixed fabric blind offers some security for your belongings. Storage however is plentiful throughout the cabin, with plenty of lidded boxes, shelves and cubbies.


While it marries an internal combustion engine with electric propulsion, the Volt is otherwise quite different from the current crop of hybrid vehicles.

Under its bonnet is a 1.4 litre naturally-aspirated petrol engine, closely related to the 1.4 iTi turbo in the Cruze (which also shares the Volt's Delta platform) but with a lighter block, different head, fewer accessory drives and other efficiency-oriented measures.

2013 holden volt first drive review australia 11

It puts out a maximum of 63kW at 4800rpm, and in the Volt it never needs to rev higher than that.

In fact, a lot of the time it doesn't need to turn at all.

Most drivers will charge the car's battery at night using cheaper off-peak electricity, and commute the following day under electric power alone.

As long as the battery doesn't run out of charge (Holden says it's good for up to 87km of purely electric travel), the combustion engine stays switched off.

Contrast that with Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive system, which runs the engine until it is warm and whose battery only contains enough charge for approximately two kilometres of (very slow) EV propulsion.

In the Volt, the petrol engine only runs when the battery charge falls and more range is needed. So it can be all-electric during the daily commute, but has a petrol-powered range of over 600km for whenever you want to escape the big smoke.

In this, it offers the best of both worlds.

Better still, the 16.5kW/h lithium-ion battery pack can be charged from a regular household wall outlet - unlike the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi iMiEV, which require dedicated wall chargers connected to 15-amp outlets.

Charging time varies according to the type of wall outlet used, with ordinary 6-amp outlets charging the battery in 10 hours, while a 10-amp outlet drops the charge time to six hours.

Dedicated charge points can charge the Volt in as little as four hours.

At current household energy prices, the Volt can be charged for just $2.50. Better still, it can be set to charge using cheaper off-peak energy.

On The Road

So how does the Volt drive? Well, after spending time behind the wheel both in and around Sydney, we agree with Holden that it's quite different to a hybrid.

In effect, the Volt is an electric car that happens to have a petrol-powered generator aboard. The petrol engine's function is to charge a battery pack which, in turn, supplies power to the electric drive motors.

That means that the Volt's performance will remain consistent regardless of the state of charge of the batteries. And that performance is impressive.

Power is taken to the front wheels by a single 111kW electric motor initially, with a 55kW motor (which also acts as a generator) kicking in at higher speeds to supplement the main drive motor.

With 370Nm available right from idle, acceleration is brisk. The Volt might weigh just over 1700kg (200kg of which is the battery pack), but its mountain of torque allows it to shame a lot of more overtly-sporty vehicles in a stoplight drag race.

Performance drops off fairly quickly though, and while the Volt leaps off the line like a scalded cat, it runs out of puff the faster it goes. The result is a 0-100km/h sprint time of around 9.0 seconds.

But whatever it's doing it does it in sublime silence. Like most electric powertrains, the Volt's motors are smooth and spookily quiet when in operation.

The only apparent downside we found was that the car hesitated for a moment when the throttle was firewalled while cruising between 60km/h and 80km/h - almost like a traditional automatic kicking down a gear. Which is odd, considering the Volt's planetary transmission doesn't actually have "gears", but rather one continuously variable ratio.

The Volt’s brakes use both the resistance from the regenerative system and traditional friction brakes to slow the car down, with regenerative braking force increasing significantly when the transmission is place in “L” mode.

The system recoups energy that would otherwise be lost as brake heat, but pedal feel is atrocious.

The brake-by-wire pedal has a very spongy feel, making it hard to modulate the brakes properly. This is an area that could use a lot of improvement.

Dynamically, the Volt is a nimbler machine than you'd expect. It's heavy, but the battery's mass is contained within the wheelbase and is mounted very low in the chassis, which gives the Volt a very planted feel in corners.

That mass does induce quite a bit of understeer if you enter a corner too hot though, so don't mistake the Volt for a hot hatch.

Springs and dampers are quite soft and ride comfort, as a result, is excellent. Sydney’s sub-par roads can be punishing at times, but the Volt simply glides over bumps.

2013 holden volt australia 06

Comfortable it may be, but efficiency is this car's raison d'etre. When driven as it was designed, the Volt can potentially liberate its owner from the tyranny of petrol prices.

On the test route, which started with a fully-charged battery, we managed to return an average fuel consumption figure of just 4.1 l/100km.

When the petrol engine was running, fuel consumption hovered around 5.5 l/100km.

That’s about on par with many fuel-efficient small cars. But the Volt has a trick no other petrol/electric can match - the first 60-80km of driving (it varies according to driving style) can return a 0.0 l/100km consumption figure.

If your commute is around 30km each way, you theoretically need never buy petrol again.

First Drive Verdict

The Volt shows the way forward in eco-car design and engineering.

Pure EVs like the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i MiEV are fine for those who never leave the city (or who also have a petrol or diesel-powered car), but given their cost and limited range, only the most dedicated eco-motorists would buy them.

The Volt is different. Its all-electric range might be significantly less than the Nissan and Mitsubishi, but is ample for the average suburban commute.

Besides, even if you run out of battery power, the petrol generator will always get you safely home without a second thought.

In this way, the Volt is a car like no other.

And while Holden doesn’t expect to sell in great numbers, conceding that the purchase price is a daunting barrier for some, the Volt nevertheless shines a bright light on the path to truly green motoring.

We’re looking forward to putting the Volt through a much longer test and evaluating the owner experience. Stay tuned.

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Filed under: Featured, review, Green, Holden, EV, volt, holden volt, electric, petrol-electric, automatic, fwd, CVT, small, family, Advice, special-featured, 5door, erev, 4seat, 55-60k, 2013my

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  • laurie says,
    3 years ago
    1 like
    How much Tax is on this car?
    • wayne says,
      2 years ago
      1 like
      I truely dont think you people understand that the government will never allow ev vechicles.
      Think of the loss of jobs in mechanics and the service industries (no more oils no more filters need i go on)
      the only thig you would need is brakes
      they will never allow electric cars to work in this country.
      this is why they cost so much.
  • Damien says,
    3 years ago
    I can't wait for the government to start taxing "home car charging" etc.
    On the car itself, I like the front and side, looks good. The back looks quite tacky though, whoever designed that part should be fired.
    I'm glad it has the holden badge too.
  • gavstaah says,
    3 years ago
    1 like
    wow a 1700kg golf kart for 60k plus on roads. good luck trying to coax the meatheads that buy commodores into one of these holden you will need it
  • Roger says,
    3 years ago
    I think it was pretty cheeky that the Holden add for this car attempts to claim credit for its development, when it is actually a Chevrolet designed and built in the US. It sounds pretty good, but $60K....I dont think so. $35K is the most you could ask for this vehicle. It will go down as one of the many failures we have seen in this country.
    • Peter says,
      3 years ago
      If the car retails for about $40k in the US why so expensive here given the exchange rate is in our favour?bleh
    • Vanessa says,
      2 years ago
      Holden is a subsidiary of General Motors as is Chevrolet, so it's Chevrolet in the states, Holden in AU, Opel in EU and voxhal in UK but all run by General Motors, so they do almost all the same cars in each brand, only the huge SUVs favoured in the states may not sell in the EU where they favour the smaller cars.
  • Silvabak says,
    3 years ago
    if i read this right, the petrol engine only charges the batteries? If so, why does it need 1.4 litres? Would 1.0 litre or even 0.8 litre, being smaller and lighter be enough?
  • Observer says,
    3 years ago
    Hey the fuel economy you have listed is wrong. Isn't it listed at 1.2L/100km?
  • Bram says,
    3 years ago
    My concern would be that if you use E10 petrol and hardly use the engine, the fuel will stagnate and the alcohol separate and absorb water.
    This car will highlight the stupidity of E10 fuel, which cannot be used in boats and lawnmowers for the same reason!
    • Bruce says,
      2 years ago
      Then don't use E-10. it's an inefficient alternative fuel anyway. Why do you think it's cheap?
  • Jeffrey b says,
    3 years ago
    Why are they pricing the volt at $60K when it's selling at $35K in the USA. I like the car but wont pay double the price.
    • dan says,
      2 years ago
      1 like

      It's fully imported from the US. It can't be $35,000 there, AND here! Costs a lot to import cars. $25,000 worth? I dunno. But when you take all that into consideration, they certainly haven't just 'doubled the price'...
      • Nim says,
        2 years ago
        Importing isn't that expensive. I can privately import a car from Japan for a shipping cost of ~$2,000 (depending on port), 10% import duty, and 10% GST on CIF (customs) value. That would be $44,300, assuming US $35,000 sticker price (wat?), that Holden has to pay all the same import duties (Don't think it does), and that the cheaper volume import price make up for the extra distance (should do). Where's the extra $15,000 coming from?
  • Ross says,
    3 years ago

    Expected 20,000KM per year, comparing with 8L/100KM cars, then save 20000/100*8=1600L petrol annualy, times $1.5/L petrol then we can expect to save $2400 on petrol every year. Comparing with a $40,000 normal cars, it still needs 10 years to break even regardless of the time value of the money. What is the point to price such a green car, which is supposed to save people's money, at $60,000???sad
    • Mik says,
      2 years ago
      1 like
      So you expect that petrol will still be $1.50 in 10 years time do you??
      • blk says,
        2 years ago
        1 like
        when you take into account the general effects of inflation. The number may be much higher, but the relative price will likely be comparable to at most $2/L
  • mickslats says,
    3 years ago
    you'd be far better off to spend 25k on on a petrol powered, fuel efficient car and spend the 35k balance on other green products such as solar panels or marijuana. This car at that price makes not one bit of sense and only idiots who haven't done their maths will ever purchase one.
    • WRT says,
      3 years ago
      Given the price of other hybrids this makes no sense. We have a HL camry hybrid with all the goodies that this car has. We commute long range for work at a real world average of 6l/100.

      This test states an av of ~4l/100. at that difference you would need to cover 700,000km just to make up the $20,000 difference between these two cars.

      If you want to talk green don't forget the average person buying this and plugging it in will be charging by burning coal. That's without the implications of disposing of nearly a quarter of a ton of lithium cells every ten years.

      The only way of approaching green will be the rare buyer who will leave the car at home all day charging of their solar install.

  • FrugalOne says,
    3 years ago
    The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is where its at smilesmile
  • Geo says,
    3 years ago
    imiev and leaf EVSEs are 10A Panasonic units, but have 15A sockets put on them to encourage owners to install a dedicated EV power line in the garage.

    get this
    together with a bunnings 15A extension lead to legally charge on 10A power.

    just make sure that nothing else is on the circuit.

    my volt is tripping RCDs with these units
    a) http://evseupgrade.com/
    b) http://www.charge-amps.com/um-evse
    c) imiev panasonic EVSE

    holden EVSE is OK, but had to get it changed under warranty
    Red flashing LED
  • Dan says,
    3 years ago
    Nobody is going to buy this purely to save money, so the people talking about "do the maths - it's not worth it for $60k" are correct, but also kind of missing the point as they're not the target market.
    Having said that though, the annual cost of service & maintenance would have to be pretty low on an electric car wouldn't it? Brake wear would be miniscule, no oil, filters or transmission fluid to replace, no radiator to maintain, no exhaust system.
    Combine that with how quietly these things drive and I have to say that I'm pretty interested. Get them down to $50k and I reckon I'd seriously look at getting one.
  • mr weeny says,
    2 years ago
    1 like
    5th pic down side on it looks just like the prius.
    hmm has all the same technology as the prius. (except longer range battery)
    It's almost like they've just taken all the specs from a prius and just added their own feature.

    There's really no need to make this a $60K car. They only do this to push us towards their "cheaper" 100% fuel burning cars whilst still giving the impression they're trying to go green.

    Shame on you Holden. Shame!
  • Geo says,
    2 years ago
    base model imiev is now $29,990 at Bunbury Mitsubishi Western Australia
    check it out on Carsales.com.au

      AUSDAVIDZ says,
      2 years ago
      1 like
      base model imiev is now $29,990 at Bunbury Mitsubishi Western Australia
      check it out on Carsales.com.au

      If that is true then i would say they can become mainstream

  • Les says,
    2 years ago
    When it comes to electric cars, you have to ignore the high price. If you want it, then get it! It's an awesome looking car, super smooth and you get full power every time you press the throttle pedal. I don't think you can compare it to a Prius, as they have very different power trains (there are videos on YouTube to explain the differences). If you shop on just price and fuel economy will severely limit your choices. All the batteries are recycled at the end of life ( Honda and Toyota have already proven this). When batteries are below the limits for electric cars, they are still good for other jobs. Even running on coal electricity, electric cars are super efficient, which makes them still better than petrol. The volt has mechanisms to deal with petrol sitting in the tank too long. And finally, there is definitely no conspiracy to keep you purchasing petrol cars. New technologies are expensive, the price will come down in time. My Nissan leaf has done 23,600km using $879 of electricity (non off peak pricing). I ignore the cost of the vehicle, like buying a luxury brand instead if a corolla, cause figures don't add up to a car you love to drive every day. Happy car hunting.
  • Kevin brew says,
    2 years ago
    Just watched your advertisement during the state of origin rugby game , thought I would see how much they cost much to my dismay I got on a USA site and then yours only to find out that there is a $ 20000.00 difference , I won't be buying one what a rip off buy the government and you guys again
  • Graeme says,
    2 years ago
    Is there much of a cost to Chrysler/Holden in making a few export market RH drives rather than big run LH drives? Also, re local cost, the Chevy Volt is reported to have an ave $7500 subsidy per unit form the 2012 Obama budget (quite justifiable policy IMO). If a significant part of that were US tax or retail breaks, the Aust price would not benefit from that.
    • peter says,
      2 years ago
      Australia keeps bailing out Holden which is American owned, so where does all the money go, Its goes overseas to prop up the fat cats (management) to justify their mulit million dollar jobs. The profits don't stay in Australia they go overseas and Australians are paying the prices of inflated vehicles to justify managements worth, 60K for a vehicle is no go for me thank you. Bad management by Holden sees job losses. One issued that hasn't been pointed out is what happens the battery needs replacing and whats the cost of the new battery. “We are basically designing the battery for a 10-year or 100,000 mile (160,000km) life. At the end of that life … then the customer will have to bring (the Volt) into a dealer and get the battery replaced

      some sites are estimateing to replace the battery will cost up to $20,000AUS.

      New information has revealed Holden has received almost $2 billion in government funding since 2001 – almost twice that of other manufacturers.
      From the Federal Government

      $1.5bn - Automotive Assistance 2001 to 2010 Automotive Competitive and Investment Scheme

      $12.5m - 2001 Strategic Investment Incentive for the training of automotive industry employees and the development of industry relevant technology (Engine Plant)

      $6.7m - 2006 Safety Enhancement Project

      $150m - 2011 to 2012 Automotive Transformation Scheme

      $189m - 2008 to 2012 Green Car Innovation Fund Grants

      $3m - 2010 to 2011 Automotive Supply Chain Development Program

      $1,864,107,018 - Subtotal automotive programs assistance

      $215m - Not yet paid. 2012 New Generation Co-Investment Grant.

      $2,079,107,018 - Total Automotive Programs Assistance

      $78,640,619 - General assistance 2001 to 2012 under Tradex scheme where importers gain exemption on customs duties and GST on goods to be re-exported.

      $17,199,894 - Vocational education training programs.

      $2,174,947,53 - Total of benefits paid, gained or pledged January 1, 2001, to December 31, 2012.

      From the South Australian Government

      $30 million - Attracting production of Holden Cruze to Elizabeth.

      $5 million - Labour adjustment following the downsizing of vehicle operations (closure of third shift).

      $1 million - GM Holden secondary employment activity to assist workers to find employment while on reduced shifts.

      $2.2 million - Safety enhancement project.

      $38.2m - Total grants paid

      $50 million - pledged but not paid for the new generation vehicle. Due in 2016-17 and 2017-18 financial years.

      $88.2m - Total paid or pledged

      Why don't monagement take a pay cut and then instead of giving themselves million dollar salaries they could spend those millions of dollars keeping the people employed and jobs for the working class instaed of seeing the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.
  • John S says,
    2 years ago
    1 like
    Yes $33K in the US, should be $33K in Australia.

    In the US though they have $2500 state EV grant, and a $7500 federal EV grant, so the actual US cost is more like $43K.

    Cost of shipping and taxation on the Australian side is approx $5K shipping (not actual cost, but its what we would be charged). Say about $48K landed assuming par exchange rates + GST at 10% = $53K. Right hand drive conversion must be done somewhere, either in the US or in Australia (probably US), along the necessary safety checks and driving test and Australian regulation compliance would easily make up $7K.

    Australia needs to get on board and offer the same sort of incentives to buy environmentally friendly electric only cars. They could add a caveat, to use green energy only for these vehicles, in order to get the grants. 10K worth of grants would make the car $50K. If they threw in interest free finance over 5 years, you could have brand new electric motor car with no petrol costs (or limited petrol), for under $200 a week.

    While that still seems like a lot, given that some people spend $70 a week in fuel, suddenly it looks pretty good, and in 5 years you would own it outright.

    Also you have to compare what this vehicle offers compared with the Tesla, which hasn't delivered the free long range supercharging stations in Australia and probably never will, unless the demand goes through the roof.

    The price of a size comparable vehicle is about $160K. Pure quality (different market completely), but still all electric. Doesn't have the petrol capability though which I think is a get out of jail free feature, and would enable protection against running out of charge.

    I like the sound of the volt, but the government needs to step in a provide an incentive to purchase, and the car ideally needs to be made in Australia. With all the investment they have had, they have had more than enough money to tool up a local production line. Ultimately that could also drop the price to $50K or less as well, which would help sales.

    Wouldn't it be great if all cars could be replaced by EV's.

    In NZ some years ago the government gave incentives for ALL cars to be fitted with LPG tanks to minimise the reliance on fuel imports, and for a while there, NZ actually managed to become a net producer of oil.

    Wouldn't it be great if the Australian government stepped up and led the world in the production of EVs with a major political push towards petrol free motoring.
  • Paul says,
    2 years ago
    1 like
    I was genuinely excited until I saw the shocking price. Save ten grand on fuel but spend 30 grand more on the car, go for it early adopters.
  • ben says,
    2 years ago
    Paying 60k once will save more than that over time it would be better.
  • Peter says,
    2 years ago
    Can you tell use how many litres the car burns of petrol to power the car on long distances. the price is it's downfall, you could buy a Prius for around 15 grand cheaper and that 15 grand will buy a lot of petrol over the lifetime of the car. Perhaps a comparison with the volt and other hybrids over a vast distance would be a good test for the car. Holden and Ford are about 15 years too late with developement and foreseeing the changing economy in the world, perhaps that's why they are failing in this country.
  • pete rderzotis says,
    2 years ago
    My dream is to work and to bid on this project
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