Toyota Prius vs. Chevrolet Volt

By

Automotive Editor

John Diether has been a professional writer, editor, and producer since 1997. His work can be found on TV, radio, web, and various publications throughout the world.  He is a graduate of Northwestern University and has a 1992 Cadillac Brougham d’Elegance in his garage. 


, Automotive Editor - April 20, 2018

Electric power doesn't get any more mainstream than the Toyota Prius and Chevrolet Volt. The Prius was one of the first hybrid vehicles on the street, not to mention the most efficient. That tradition continues, stronger than ever.

The Volt takes a different approach, using an all-electric powertrain that owners can recharge at an outlet. A gas-powered generator is on board to recharge the battery pack once they've run out of power from the electrical grid – the Volt has a gas tank, but it technically never runs on fossil fuel.

Both cars have loyal followings and millions of own-driven miles to their credit. So, which do we find more appealing?

See a side-by-side comparison of the Prius & Volt »

What the Prius Gets Right

The Prius gets its power from a 1.8-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and a pair of electric motors. This setup delivers 121 horsepower to the front wheels. Every model uses a continuously variable automatic transmission. As expected, efficiency is stellar. The Prius is EPA-rated at 52 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving. The available Eco trim achieves an astonishing 56 mpg combined.

While the Prius has never been about performance, the current model is energetic enough for most buyers. It can even be fun to maneuver through city streets and gentle curves. The futuristic interior offers fine leg room all around, and there's a crossover-like 25 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat. The engine and electric motors go about their business in peace. The inside is quieter than we expected.

What the Volt Gets Right

The Volt houses two electric motors, which can run together or independently depending on power needs. Peak output is 149 hp, funneled through a single-speed automatic transmission. It takes about four hours to recharge the battery on a 240-volt home charger or nine hours on a regular household outlet.

With a fully charged battery, the Volt can travel up to 53 miles on electricity alone. When the juice runs out, the generator starts up to keep the motors humming. With the generator in use, the Volt is EPA-rated at 42 mpg combined. Since the propulsion itself is purely electric, the Volt operates in near silence at all times.

Although it looks like a stylish sedan, the Volt is actually a hatchback with 10.6 cubic feet of stowage space behind the rear seat.

Different Paths to Efficiency

When it comes to hybrids without a plug, the Prius is as efficient as it gets. Drivers can count on exceptional fuel economy no matter how long or far they drive. Add that to generous cargo space and a bullet-proof reputation, and it's clear why the Prius is so successful.

Volt has no need for gas whatsoever for the first 53 miles or so, and the onboard generator eliminates any range anxiety. Once the Volt starts using gas, it's not as efficient as the Prius, but that deficit is offset by the Volt's significant power advantage.

Our Verdict: Chevrolet Volt

So long as there's an outlet handy, the Volt is a better match for how we drive today.

Take a closer look at the Toyota Prius »

Take a closer look at the Chevrolet Volt »

Side-by-side comparison of features, pricing, photos and more!

, Automotive Editor

John Diether has been a professional writer, editor, and producer since 1997. His work can be found on TV, radio, web, and various publications throughout the world.  He is a graduate of Northwestern University and has a 1992 Cadillac Brougham d’Elegance in his garage.