2016 Chevrolet Volt Review

2016 Chevrolet Volt Review

Posted 4.26.2016 in Reviews by Christopher

REDESIGNED AND READY FOR MASS CONSUMPTION 

The totally redesigned second generation 2016 Chevy Volt was named the 2016 Green Car Of The Year at the LA Auto Show. Judges praised the vehicle's stylish new exterior, driver-friendly interior, and completely upgraded drivetrain.

The 2017 Volt continues the evolution with addition of adaptive cruise control bundled with a safety tech package on the Premier model. An new metallic green color is also available.

The new Volt now offers 53 miles of all-electric range versus 38 in the previous generation. That’s a 40 percent improvement in EV range. This improvement means Chevrolet expects most drivers will use the car in all-battery mode 90 percent of the time while going more than 1,000 miles between fill ups. By comparison, the first generation Volt was driven an average of 900 miles between fill-ups and operated in pure EV mode 80 percent of the time. 

Along with the increased EV range, the 2016 offers 420 miles of total range versus 380 of the first generation. The new model also sports an all-new 1.5-liter engine that delivers an EPA-estimated 42 mpg, which is up from 37 miles.

THE POWERTRAIN 

The original Volt was the first successful plug-in series hybrid to hit the street in 2010. Previous hybrids, like the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight, used their electric motors to supplement the internal combustion engine, but the Volt was primarily an electric vehicle (EV) that used the onboard gasoline engine to charge its battery and extend the electric motors' range.

True to that original recipe, the Volt still uses two electric motors. But, according to Chevy, there is not a single part number in common between the first- and second-generation Voltec powertrains. The first-generation car used one large motor and one small one. The new Volt's motors are closer in size and share the workload more evenly. Supplying the energy used by the new electric motors is an improved 18.4 kWh battery pack, that’s both 20 pounds lighter and has a 20 percent higher storage capacity. As before, the battery is designed to never drop below about 30 percent charge, which should give it a 10-year lifespan.

Chevrolet has  closely studied the way Volt drivers operate their vehicles. It’s all about energy management, and the new Volt offers lots of control options. Four driving modes are available including normal, sport, and mountain, which cuts the EV-only range to preserve the battery for expected long climbs. Plus, there's a hold mode, which lets you save the battery for whenever you want EV miles.

The engineers also adopted the “Regen on Demand” feature that was successful in the $76,000 Cadillac ELR, which was based on the previous Volt powertrain. Using paddles on the back of the steering wheel, when drivers let off the accelerator and flip the controls, the feature aggressively recycles energy and slows the vehicle while recharging the battery pack. The paddle regeneration supplies enough deceleration that the car's traditional brakes will see much less work during normal commutes.

When needed, the all-new 1.5-liter internal combustion engine provides power and recharges the battery pack. When fossil fuel is used, new Volt owners will spend less at the pump because they can fill up with regular unleaded gasoline, not premium, fuel like the previous model. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) directs all this energy to the front wheels.

The new motor combination produces a combined 149 HP and produces 294 lb-ft of torque dropping the 0-60 MPH time to 8.4 seconds from the first-gen's 9.2 second time. The 0-30 MPH time has also been improved dropping to 2.6 seconds. The time is faster than internal combustion sedan models like the Honda Civic and Ford Fusion. It also bests many battery and hybrid electric models including the Ford Focus and Nissan Leaf. It makes the car zippy and fun around town.

The first Volt’s, 1.4-liter, four-cylinder gas engine didn't sport the same level of high-tech as the rest of the car. It used an iron block, required premium fuel, and lacked leading-edge technologies such as direct injection. The new 1.5-liter is the first of GM’s new four-cylinder, direct-injection, aluminum-block engines used in North America. It provides all of the afore mentioned improvements in performance while being 100 pounds lighter than the first-gen Volt's engine. That weight saving is especially useful because Volt drivers generally prefer to drive electric so the engine is dead weight most of the time

GM has also addressed the Volt's handling. The 2016 is sporty but not sportscar-like. The center of mass is nice and low, which results in an improved steering feel and responsiveness. The suspension is tuned to make the car a soak up pot holes but remain crisp without without being harsh. 

EYE-CATCHING OUTSIDE AND IN

Even though the Volt's entire powertrain has been upgraded, it will be it's redesigned exterior that draws admiring looks from the public. The new look is curvier yet more sculpted than the outgoing model. While some original Volt owner's like the slab-sided look of the previous model, the new design looks wind-swept and contemporary. Slightly higher in the rear, it looks like a svelte cat ready to pounce at a laser pointing toy...fast, fun and ready to be enjoyed. It's conventional without being boring and should appeal to a wider range of buyers who are more interested in the looks than the technology under the hood.

The 4-door hatchback design was carried over from the previous model. This layout makes utilizing the interior space an easy proposition.

Along with the redesigned exterior, Chevy scrapped the previous model's interior and replaced it with  an all-new design that feels more upscale. Chevrolet listened to previous Volt owners and have replaced the white plastic center stack. In its place is a sculpted, better integrated center console with an 8-inch touchscreen display. It seems counterintuitive, but the new knobs and dials make the controls easier to use and more conventional, yet it feels more refined than the previous model. It makes the 2016 more inviting for all drivers. The use of chrome accent trim emphasizes that this is a GM design without being garish.

While the iPhone-inspired white plastic panels are gone the Volt features Apple CarPlay, which mirrors standard iPhone controls in the central display and allows for a wide range of functionality through simple touchscreen gestures (like pinch to zoom) or Siri-supported voice activation. Chevrolet’s updated MyLink system is there and offers straightforward graphics and touch controls. Android Auto is scheduled for availability in the Volt in the coming months. It will require a short trip to the dealer for a computer re-flash to add it when its ready. Both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto allow for hands-free texting and a range of apps for music and sports news. The new Volt also comes with OnStar 4G LTE with 3 years of service and a standard, built-in Wi-Fi hotspot. The driver’s instruments are displayed on another multicolor screen with four selectable configurations.

The new battery pack no longer bumps up into the rear seats, so Chevy has been able to squeeze a third seat between the two outboard positions in the back. It's a tight fit for an adult but will make the car even more appealing to families with kids. The battery pack still runs through the rear seat leg area, so whoever sits in the middle will have to straddle the bulge the whole time. Just make sure to put the shortest guy from work in the middle if you're taking everyone to lunch.

Two trim levels are available on the Volt: the base LT and the Premium LTZ. The Premium comes standard with parking assist, ambient interior lighting, heated steering wheel, heated front and rear seats, wireless charging for portable devices and upgraded wheels.

THE COMPETITION

The first-gen Volt is the best-selling PHEV in America. The upgraded 2016 should continue this tradition. But, the new Volt's updated looks and improved new powertrain technology gives it the potential to compete for American shoppers looking for a cool new car but aren't necessarily shopping for an eco-friendly hybrid. Its looks will appeal to buyers cross-shopping a Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, or Ford Fusion. Hopefully Chevrolet is training their sales force to explain the benefits so they can steer buyers to this EV who might not be aware of the technology and it's environment and financial benefits. The new tech under the hood will make it stand out when compared to other PHEVs like the BMW i3 Rex, Audi A3 e-Tron, Volkswagen e-Golf, Hyundai Sonata PHEV and the soon-to-be-released redesigned Toyota Prius PHEV. The Volt's eye-catching redesign suggest this might be the first mainstream alt-fuel vehicle people buy solely because of its looks. Toss in the cost-savings from lower fuel costs and less maintenance, and this might be the first PHEV to capture the attention American mainstream consumers.

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