Hybrid Showdown: Prius vs. Volt

Toyota Prius vs Chevrolet Volt

Toyota Prius vs Chevrolet Volt

Hybrid technology in modern cars, whether you agree with it or not, is here to stay.  While many  manufacturers have delivered hybrid cars built upon existing platforms, two companies have stood out in the development of hybrid specific rides;  Toyota with the Prius and Chevrolet with the Volt.  While these two rides are not the only hybrid specific on the road today, they do stand to compete with each other in every way.

Heading into its third generation, the Toyota Prius can now be had in three different versions, designed to bring a bit of versatility and updated looks to the line.  In this test, the Prius tested was the standard version with the common design carried over from the previous generation.

Inside this updated Prius is an updated dash, with a great center console coming out of the dash, offering a more familiar car feel while driving.  The center information center is still present, but is updated as well with more information and a better layout that keeps the driver’s eyes focused more on the road.  The heads-up display on the glass also provides the necessary information necessary for safe and economical driving.  Overall, with the more conventional dash space and common driver controls, the update is a step in the right direction for the Prius.

The 2012 Prius is powered by a 1.8 liter gas engine connected to Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive, allowing the car to be powered up to 30 mph on electricity alone.  The combination drives the car with a total of 134 hp, allowing it to get to 60 under 10 seconds.

The rest of the styling of the Prius is very clean and updated, especially over the aging design of the previous generation.  What has been described as ‘space age’ the Prius brings new headlights and tail lights, as well as great driver assistants that allow the driver to focus more on driving than fidgeting with the systems.  The navigation is still a bit outdated compared to other vehicles on the road, but is a bit faster in transitions than most.

Its domestic competition comes courtesy of Chevrolet, with the introduction of the Volt in 2011.  This vehicle, a plug-in hybrid, is a different vehicle than the regular Prius in that it will run on pure electric up to 100 mph for up to 50 miles without a drop of gasoline.  After the battery runs out, the gasoline powered 4-cylinder motor kicks in, powering the Volt for another 300 miles.

The styling of the Volt is very updated modern, from the outside in.  The design is very sleek and aerodynamic, with big glass all around for great visibility.  The lines on the body are swooped back, which carry over inside the cabin for a continued modern look.  Unlike the Prius, the interior of the Volt is not necessarily trying to reinvent the modern car, but provide updated and futuristic touches to show the direction cars are headed without breaking the comfort zone of many everyday drivers.

From the touch dash, with no physical buttons on the dash, along with the HD screen in showing power consumption and general driving information, the cockpit is extremely comfortable and filled with just about every bit of information necessary in a hybrid.

The rest of the vehicle is laid out nice and comfortably, and while the back seat is a tad cramped, the front seats are sporty in their feel, continuing on the sleek styling.  Unlike the Prius, the materials inside the Volt feel normal, not specific for the hybrid, and bring an upscale feel to the whole ride.

So with all that in mind comes the  question of which is a better buy when in the market for a hybrid car.  The 2012 Toyota Prius has a long standing reputation behind it, heading into its third generation, while the  Chevrolet Volt is only in its first 2 years of life.  For some, this might seem like a risk as the Volt has not had time to mature on the road, but honestly, it is refreshing as the Volt brings known technology to the table in a platform that is both realistic, futuristic, and good looking.

Ride quality is much better in the Volt as well, with its handling and acceleration characteristics much more in tune with regular sedan, while the Prius feels lagging off the line.  One major advantage the Volt has over the Prius is engine noise as well, with very little heard inside the cabin whenever it was on.  The opposite is true with the Prius, especially under acceleration when the engine produces a high-pitched sound comparable to an over revving, underpowered lawn mower.

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Overall, even with all the development that has come with the Prius over the past decade, it still feels behind the curve, especially with the Volt on the market.  The Volt provides a more natural feeling to the driving experience, while the Prius seems to be attempting to reinvent the whole concept.  And while the Prius is successful, it’s only a stepping stone into the direction it needs to head to keep up with something and fulfilling, and honestly fun to drive, as the Volt.

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23 Comments on "Hybrid Showdown: Prius vs. Volt"

  1. Anonymous

    Actually, this article is a hype for the VOLT…The VOLT does not go 50 miles on electricity for one of many mis-leading statements. When you take into consideration the "Prius-c" at $19,000, there is no comparison.

    Prius is well developed technology and VOLT isn't…plain and simple. The VOLT engineering is dead end technology…nowhere to expand except by adding more expensive batteries.

    • HappyVoltOwner

      , you’re wrong, wrong, and wrong. I get 54 miles per charge during the spring, summer and fall months in my Volt. In Winter, I get about 38 miles. Let’s do some math: $40,000 base minus $7500 federal rebate minus $4000 state rebate minus $7500 gas savings over 5 years = $21,000. Not bad for a beautiful car that drives beautifully. (You can subtract your gas savings from the $19,000 prius price, but it in no way would be $7500. And the Volt’s quality and owner satisfaction has been unprecedented.

      Anywho, uninformed people annoy me.

      • Dalmightyvolt

        Disagree OWLAFAYE. I am an owner of a volt for only 2 weeks, and I have exceeded 50 miles on electric only the majority of my round trips on my 55 mile commute back and forth to work. In the 2 weeks I have used 1 1/2 gallons so far for over 600 miles. The Volt has exceeded my expectations and is fun to drive not like the boring Prius. Can’t complain about 368 MPG

    • SM Boss

      More misperceptions about the Volt with no facts. I get close to 50 miles a day on a single charge. The ‘Prius C’ — you get what you pay for with that — so you’re right, there is no comparison….it’s cheap, lacks features and drives like a low horsepower car that sips gas. This person is grossly uninformed to presume Volt’s are not well developed, finely engineered, highly advanced and revolutionary technology. One has only to check Wikipedia to see so.

    • ViperRT10Matt

      You are correct, there is no comparison. Every automotive review has said just how crappy the Prius C is to drive, with pathetic acceleration and sloppy handling, whereas they all say the Volt drives like an upscale sedan.

  2. owlafaye

    Since the VOLT uses its gasoline engine to propel the vehicle’s generator when not in battery electric mode, a smaller, more economical engine is not in the VOLT’s future.

    The VOLT has to go through numerous energy conversions (e.g. engine to generator to electric motor to wheels)

    The Prius energy conversion is engine to wheels or electric motor to wheels. Vastly superior economy.

    • ViperRT10Matt

      When the Volt is running on the gas motor above 62 mph, it directly drives the wheels and there is no conversion loss.

    • Smurf

      So what????

      I am running 100% electric 90% of the time (Fleet average is 67%). I don’t care if the Prius is more efficient during the type of driving that I do less than 10% of the time. I would rather be more efficient 90% of the time.

      I’ll settle for a few less mpg during long road trips to have the luxury of “never” using gas when in town…

      Now in a Prius, where you are always using the engine, it is more important to make sure you are using it in the most efficient matter……

  3. SM Boss

    A very fair assessment of each vehicle’s features. I bought a Volt May 30th, but only after doing a careful test drive, feature comparison and analysis of what car best fit my daily commute pattern. For example, if you drive 100 miles round trip every day and can’t plug in at your destination, a Prius is the gas mileage choice. However, if you savor your driving experience, there is no comparison — and in that debate a Volt reigns! Everything else — price, capacity, etc. just depends on your tastes and budget…but only one of these cars has the potential to stretch months between your gas station visits.

  4. owlafaye

    Quote: “highly advanced and revolutionary technology. One has only to check Wikipedia to see so.”

    Actually the Owen Magnetic automobile had the same drive train with 1920’s technology…nothing new under the sun…

    I realize the respondents here are owners and not engineers….but now that you have paid big bucks for GM’s clown car of the 21st century, you are not about to admit anything negative about it.

    • SM Boss

      You know what owlafaye, lets say you’re right. All those computer circuit boards that control the Volt are nothing new and 1920’s technology. And the fact NO other car exists that’ll run purely on battery and then kick in and let you drive 300 miles on gasoline…Ancient concept. And that J.D. Power study ranking the Volt highest in its segment for 2 years? Complete crap!…rigged by ‘Obama’ motors and the UAW I bet. Those researchers and car buyers don’t know what they’re talking about. (Not!)

    • HappyVoltOwner

      You know what, the Volt isn’t perfect, but I can’t see myself driving anything else but an extended range electric for the forseeable future. Chevy hit the bullseye with the Volt so amazingly, I love to share my experience.

      That being said, I wish it was a 5 seater instead of a 4-seater. (Of course, I new this when I bought it, so it’s not like I was surprised that it seats only 4 after I bought it). I’m not s huge fan of the buttonless middle console. It looks cool, but I’m always accidentally hitting the wrong button. I like the feedback of a “click”.

      Um, that’s pretty much all I have for negatives.

      What I don’t understand is why whenever there are articles on the Volt (most of them glowing, btw), there’s always some douche hater leaving ridiculous false comments. I feel compelled to dispel the misinformation you, owlafaye, are spewing out. I mean, have you even test-driven one? I mean, what kind of standards do you live by?

  5. Smurf

    How can you call it a “hybrid showdown” when only one of the two vehicles is a hybrid?

    – Only one of the two vehicles is capable of driving 100% electric at 100 mph for up to 40 miles
    – One of the two vehicles has a transmission, while the other has a direct drive electric motor

    I had a Prius before, and now have a Volt.

    The Prius cut my gas usage 50% compared to my ICE vehicle. My Volt cut my gas usage by 90% compared to my ICE vehicle.

    Add in the fact that the Volt is a much better looking, faster and handles better and it is really no comparison …….

  6. Dalmightyvolt

    I think owlafaye is think twice about his put put pr-prius. Again I am averaging 368 MPG on my 55 mile commute. Today I got 54 miles on electric only. A Plug in prius, lets see. 11 miles on a charge, then 44 on the gas. 1 gallon of gas $3.50, vs $.72 for my 12 KW charge. I can do the same run almost 5 times for the costs it took with the prius.

    • owlafaye

      Take a 1000 mile trip and get back to me. The VOLT is in no sense of the word a “primary” vehicle.

      If you only use it for commuting then buy an all electric vehicle. (and save many $$$$$$$)

      • Dalmightyvolt

        How many 1000 mile trips you take a each day. Might as well drive a semi if you do that. 95% of your driving is going back and forth to work. The Volt is the better answer for a 50 mile commute than a dog ass slow prius. Also, if I want to take a 1,000 vacation. So be it..

      • HappyVoltOwner

        On gasoline only during long road trips, my Volt has averaged between 45 and 50 mpg. And that was going between 65 and 70 mph.

  7. droberts

    Thank you all for the comments. I want to make an objective decision of whether I should buy a Prius or a Volt.
    Volt is American and Prius is Japanese. If I want to be politically correct about the brand, I should get a Volt.
    If I want to be practical, Volt is cheaper for me in the long run because I drive less than 35 miles/day and I keep my cars for a decade at least. There are only 4 people in my household.
    If I want to be environmental and less dependent on gasoline, then the Volt is still a better choice for my driving conditions.
    If I want to be prepared for disasters, I may be able to use my volt as a generator for electricity. Solar panels can directly charge a Volt.
    Over-all, the Volt’s engineering is more advanced. The Volt’s “serially-induced powertrain” hybrid concept is better imho. The ride of the Volt is more smooth and quiet. The Volt’s acceleration is more superior than the Prius.
    After test-driving both cars, the only thing I do not like about volt is that it scrapes my driveway. If I buy a Volt, I am at risk of being branded as an idiot by fellow Americans.
    I can understand why Americans do not like GM because of its track record. I cannot understand why the Volt as a product is hated so much despite its innovation. Should Toyota produce the Volt instead and just pay GM some royalty?

    • Dalmightyvolt

      The problem is people don’t understand the Volt. Now that I have one, so many people ask me about them, and how it works. Once I explain it to them, many start calculating themselves the savings. State of Illinois, you get $4,000 credit as well. The dealers are knocking $3500 off the top. $40k-$3,500-$7,500 Fed-$4,000 state= $25k for a volt. then you save on gas $2100 a year. It pays for itself. Rather have my $25k volt than a $30k prius.

  8. Robert Hadley

    I have a Volt, and yes, it will go 50 miles on a charge, I have actually gotten 52 miles on a regular basis, and to quote the article" The opposite is true with the Prius, especially under acceleration when the engine produces a high-pitched sound comparable to an over revving, underpowered lawn mower" the Volt also rides nicer and handles better than the Prius…it is a car that you don't have to be afraid to accelerate in or merge into traffic…I have driven both of the last 2 generations of Prius, they are not for me at any price. Drive a Volt but only if you are prepared to trade in your driving appliance for a real car.

  9. Tires Las Vegas

    The volt seems like an outstanding car. I feel like it could be a viable option for my next purchase, considering all of the credit money you get from them.

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