Before looking at updates for 2019, the Chevrolet Volt starts off ahead of all plug-in hybrids when it comes to range (53 miles) at a price point below $35,000. That number won’t change in the next edition.
However, it’s not all about range in a plug-in, which we learned firsthand driving the Toyota Prius Prime in 2017. Quick charge times and overall efficiency also matter.
In the 2019 Volt, Chevy engineers took criticism of the charge times on its plug-in hybrid and did something about it. Meanwhile, the Volt that will hit dealerships this fall also got new regenerative features and an improved heating system.
Here’s how the updated Volt stacks up against the Prius Prime and Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid, the best models we’ve driven in the segment.
Big improvements in charge times, but only in pricey Premier
- The base Volt will keep the slower charging system.
While Chevy announced several updates for the 2019 Volt, the model’s new charge times will attract the most attention. Gone is the endless wait (4.5 hours) needed to charge the current model on a Level 2 (240v) power source.
Volt Premier models ($38,445 for a ’17) will feature a 7.6 kW onboard charger that fully charges the battery in 2.3 hours. Meanwhile, the base LT models will keep the slow (3.6 kW) system.
Another upgrade comes in the regenerative braking system. Chevy borrowed from the Bolt EV’s regen capabilities, allowing Volt drivers to work with one pedal only. (This heavy regen braking is also found on the 2018 Nissan Leaf and other EVs.)
Otherwise, a new infotainment system, power seats, and the option to stay in EV mode while using the heating system are highlights for ’19.
Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid
- Clarity’s EV range and interior space can’t be beat at the price point.
Since the start of 2017, we’d nominate the Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid as the best new green car to hit the market. For the first time, Honda brought Volt-like range (47 EV miles) and efficiency (110 MPGe) to a midsize sedan.
Meanwhile, this Clarity starts at $33,400 (lower than the base Volt) and takes even less time (2.2 hours) to charge on a 240v system. (As with Volt, buyers of Honda’s PHEV can claim the $7,500 tax credit.)
You might not love its drive character, but it definitely holds its own in the segment with 212 horsepower.
If you’re looking for a family car that acts mostly like an EV, the Clarity Plug-in Hybrid is the best call. However, Prius Prime offers advantages over both models if interior space is not a concern.
Prius Prime is still the most practical PHEV in a small package.
- It’s almost as small as a Volt, but Prime’s 133 MPGe and 54 mpg loom large at $27,100.
For consumers who use the back seat for storage or small children, Toyota Prius Prime is a very practical choice at $27,100 (plug-in hybrid incentives also apply).
On the fuel economy front, Prime can’t be topped. In electric mode, it cruises at 133 MPGe. After the 25 miles are used up, it switches into the Prius’s 54 mpg hybrid system. (We average over 100 mpg driving this car for a week in California.)
Because of its small battery, Prius Prime also tops the segment in total range (640 miles). Charging is quick if you’re using 240 volts (2 hours) and most of all convenient if you only have a standard wall outlet (5 hours).
While the 2019 Chevy Volt will mark a improvement over its previous model in several ways, the Premier trim’s price point — north of $38,000 — doesn’t make it a value play in the growing plug-in hybrid segment.
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