Lo and behold, the blokes at Top Gear actually – maybe even reluctantly – gave the Volt fairly good press yesterday.

Yes, the extremely popular media enterprise dedicated to all things automotive, and known to be critical of aspects of the initiative toward electric vehicles, gave the most nonchalant of written Volt reviews online, but it did not crucify it either.

“In short, the Volt is a very pleasant surprise, proving that loving EVs doesn't mean you have to be a slave to them,” wrote Top Gear's Matthew Jones. “At the very least, cars should offer a sense of unbounded possibility, which, thanks to pitiful range and little resources to sustain them, most EVs don't. This does.”


From the Oct. 18 Top Gear home page.

Although mixing in criticism where possible, the review at least got some of the info right.

“It's called an extended range EV. That means it's powered by electricity, but to compensate for the dismal lack of charging infrastructure,” Jones wrote, “it's also got a 1.4-litre petrol engine on board. But this doesn't drive the wheels directly - it fuels the electric motor, working as a generator. Hence extended range.”

Unlike the highjacking job it did to the Tesla Roadster on its TV episode when it pitted that electric car against a gasoline-powered Lotus, Top Gear gave the Volt the nod because of its redeeming attribute: a petrol engine.

“The other benefit is that the petrol lump works as a generator, not a direct engine. Because it doesn't rev beyond a few thousand RPM, you get colossal fuel economy and hyper-eco carbon credentials - 235mpg and 27g/km CO2,” Jones wrote. “Chevrolet admits that these numbers are best-case scenario – i.e., rather optimistic - but not wholly unachievable.”

We’re not so sure the fuel economy numbers are "optimistic," as Top Gear says, but then this is a publication that makes its bread and butter on being contrarian, borderline controversial, and as cheeky as possible.

Aside from the episode in which Top Gear allegedly ran the Tesla out of power, then staged a push-it-to-the-charger scene, it has more often than not taken an unfavorable stance against electric vehicles.

The humorous and uniquely British show was no more friendly to the Nissan Leaf.

But the Volt cannot be hung out to dry so easily and Top Gear mildly praised it for its performance.

“Because of the clever generator/full-time EV setup, the instant thrust that's endearing about watt-powered kit is always on tap. Even when it's being powered by petrol. And it's a fair old whack of torque to deploy: 273lb ft, to be precise,” Jones wrote. “The world doesn't tumble out of the rear window when you prod the accelerator - 0-31mph takes 3.1 seconds - but it's endearingly pokey. That's 0.7 seconds slower to 50 km/h than the new Audi TT, and in complete silence.”

Top Gear similarly commented on the ride, handling and infotainment system bringing up nitpicks, but not outright disapproving of the car.

That Top Gear managed to speak pretty well of the Volt is yet another feather in its cap.

Top Gear