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ROAM WITH THE BOWEN’S

From Late June

BOWEN DRIVES

FOUR NEW CARS A WEEK!

 

2012 Holden Volt v 2010 Toyota Camry hybrid – Retro review

April 6, 2021
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In my 40th year on the planet I’ve started to become rather nostalgic. Key events in life are no longer just a couple of years ago, instead they now fall in the “decades ago” category.

A few examples include high-school, the Sydney Olympics and my full head of hair. Heck I even spent a day at a car launch with a kid who didn’t know who Jimmy Barnes was.

On a more ominous note, no school aged child in 2021 was alive to witness a date that changed the world, 9/11.

So, I’m going to take you down memory lane with me, the year was 2012 and I was tasked with reviewing the Holden Volt v my Toyota Camry Hybrid.

Yes, I purchased a hybrid

November 12, 2012.

Given my two-year experience with what I consider to be the brilliant Toyota Camry Hybrid, I was super keen to get behind the wheel of the Holden Volt.

What a remarkable experience it turned out to be.

I never thought I’d be a hybrid man. I spent years scoffing at the dorky Prius drivers who whizzed around the trendy inner-city suburbs. Just the sight of one of those ugly but frugal sewing machines annoyed me.

Then along came the Camry Hybrid, it quickly became clear to me that this was a car not to be ignored.

Back then I was getting around in a V8 Calais, burning at least 14 litres per 100 clicks. When I moved to the fringes of Sydney and was faced with a daily 120km round trip commute, it was time to say goodbye to my beloved 270kWs.

For me, the Camry was close in size to the Calais but had the advantage of actual build quality with similar luxury appointments thrown in. The capability to get me 800km on a smaller tank of fuel than the Calais, well I was sold!

(Incidentally we only recently sold the Camry for $8000,00, it never missed a beat over 10 years).

The Camry Hybrid has been an excellent car. I could go on and on, $130 capped price servicing, 1.8 per cent interest rate finance, 6.1L per 100 km, surprising power and more.

But then I sat in the Holden Volt.

The Holden Volt

It almost seems outdated calling the Volt a “car”. I have jokingly labelled it an “iCar”. As soon as I sat inside its premium cabin it became immediately obvious this is like no other vehicle I’d encountered.

From the moment you push the start-up power button you’re greeted with a cavalcade of futuristic, albeit gimmicky, digital wonders.

There’s the reactor powering up or down sound effect, two 7-inch screens with brilliant colourful HD display, one replaces a tradition analogue speedo.

An all-important efficiency orb changed various colour palettes depending on your driving style.

For true tech geeks there’s a myriad of back-end data, allowing a deep dive into fuel economy and driving style just to name a couple.

But the most amazing thing about the Volt is its claimed 80-90km electric only range. I’ve never plugged a car into my home’s mains power supply before (who has?). So, standing there on my driveway doing just exactly that was a little surreal. A little green light on the dash is the only indication that after 5-hour charge 240 volts will tomorrow propel a car heavier than a Commodore without using a drop of fuel.

All I can say is that it works brilliantly. I’m used to the stop start silence of a Hybrid, but to reverse out of my driveway then start the morning commute with not even a hint of assistance from the petrol generator was simply remarkable.

 

The Drive

There’s enough power and instant torque on tap to really shove you back into the supportive leather seats. I found it deceptively powerful, certainly not blindingly quick but more than enough to keep up with traffic flow. Accelerating from 60 to 80 kph occurs very quickly, plus the lack of noise conceals how swiftly the Volt slips through the air.

If your round trip to and from work was within the electric only range, than filling up may occur about as often as a birthday. But in real world terms the Volt will extend the tank of fuel far more efficiently than other Hybrids on the market. The car I drove had a lifetime average of 3.4L. My best was 4.5L, but I did push it pretty hard.

When the enormous but hidden battery is drained the petrol generator will start to supply charge to the electric engine. In fact, the wheels are never driven by petrol. This is where the Volt even further removes itself from the norm. Throttle inputs do not correspond to the distant sound of the petrol engine. It only fires up when it determines the electric motor requires more charging. So basically, you could floor it and hear nothing, but then sitting a set of lights it may suddenly spring to life. It may sound disconcerting but it’s actually addictive.

Putting all that aside, to be a brilliant car it still needs to drive well. Guess what? It bloody does that too.  I found the Volt to be an extremely engaging car to drive, handling was precise but perhaps a little softly sprung.  However it was far more engaging drive than my trusty old Camry.

 

 

 

 

Wow factor

It feels like a high-end European car, fit and finish was very impressive. I’m in two minds about the white glossy centre stack fascia which also creeps over to the door arm rests. But I loved the dozens of touch control sensors that replaced the old-fashioned click buttons. They control anything from the single zone climate control to standard sat nav and premium Bose sound system. The layout looks extremely complicated at first glance, but it’s relatively simple to grasp.

There are numerous typical high-end options such as heated seats, although strangely electric seat adjustment was missing. There’s a collision avoidance system which sounds an alarm when the on-board sensors think a disaster is imminent. Lane drifting alerts also occur when its forward-facing camera sees you start to cross white lines without indicating, I found it calibrated a little too far on the sensitive side and turned it off.

One of the coolest functions was its pedestrian alert button at the end of the indicator stalk. All Hybrid owners will have at some stage been stuck behind some poor shopper oblivious to the fact you’re trying to silently navigate around the car park. Instead of a loud inappropriate toot of the horn you can now discreetly alert them via a serious of quick chirping sounds. It’s kind of like the modern-day bike bell!

On the outside I’m also very impressed.  It has a bold chrome grill at the front, appealing modern looking headlights with daytime running lights. The rear-end is essentially a hatchback affair with a long sloping rear window. It turned plenty of heads while I was getting around town.

The most public display of affection came from a passing tradie at a roundabout. “Mate is that all electric or a hybrid?” he asked. I responded, “Mate, it will take me a while to answer that…”

He took off and yelled “We’ll it’s a real beauty!”

And it is, simply sensational. I’d love one, but like all pioneering technology it will cost you. At $60K, perhaps I’ll wait a little while.

 

 

 

Bowen’s report card

I didn’t give the Holden Volt (Chevrolet) a score at time. However, with the benefit of hindsight it was a leader in the field of electrified cars. I reckon it was worth an 80 out of 100!