Chevy’s second-gen Prius killer

The first-generation Volt came thundering into Chevrolet dealerships for the 2011 model year. Not only was it an all-new model for Chevy that competed with hybrid stalwarts like the Toyota Prius, the Volt helped carry GM through the desperate rough patch of 2008 and 2009. GM executives already had the Volt on the books at the time, and were able to convince the right people in Washington to extend a helping hand. Those loans, or what everybody called the GM bailout, helped the struggling automaker get back on its feet.

Fast forward to the 2016 model year, and Chevy has an all-new Volt rolling off the assembly line. Not one part number carries over to the new car, making it a ground-up re-think of the range-extended electric vehicle. New, bolder looks with a more conventional yet modern interior pushes the Volt into the mainstream while keeping its standout qualities. It might not be the prettiest thing on four wheels, but it looks better than its predecessor.

Looks aside, the 2016 Volt has a slew of upgrades, namely with the powertrain. An all-new 1.5-liter four-cylinder uses direct injection, an Atkinson combustion cycle, and an aluminum design to increase efficiency and cut weight. A larger battery pack now offers a longer range, with the total gasoline-electric range pegged at 420 miles – a marked improvement from the first-gen’s 379-mile range.

What’s more, GM has made the Volt more accessible. Its base MSRP drops by roughly $1,000 to $33,170. Federal tax credits can drop the price another $7,500, making the Volt as inexpensive as $25,670.

So what’s the Volt like to live with? Well keep reading for the full run-down.

Continue reading for the full driven review

  • 2016 Chevrolet Volt – Driven
  • Year:
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
  • Transmission:
    Electric Drive
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
  • Torque @ RPM:
  • Energy:
    Direct Injection
  • Displacement:
    1.5 L
  • 0-60 time:
    8.4 sec.
  • Top Speed:
    100 mph
  • Layout:
    Front Engine; Front Drive
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • body style:

Video Review


2016 Chevrolet Volt – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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2016 Chevrolet Volt – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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2016 Chevrolet Volt – Driven High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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Not only does the 2016 Volt not share any parts with the previous generation predecessor, the car’s design theme is new. While some cues shine through, the car’s looks are mostly a fresh start, moving away from the boxy, mid-2000s look of the previous Volt. The grille and headlights especially have a more organic appearance, harking to other sedans in the GM fleet. In fact, its appearance can be linked to the updated 2016 Chevy Cruze, a car that shares its Delta II platform with the Volt.

[The Volt] looks more like a conventional car than some sort of high-tech science experiment

One of the key carry-over cues is the Volt badging under the side mirrors. The piano black accent still surrounds the chrome lettering, but the black accent doesn’t travel rearwards under the windows as prominently as the last car’s. This gives the new Volt a more conventional appearance.

Out back, the 2016 Volt loses the Tron-and-Prius-like rear hatch, in favor of a more traditional body-color liftgate. Still, a thin strip of piano black plastic runs beneath the spoiler as a hark to the original car. Adding to the difference is a black lower valance. Besides easily showing dirt, the dark accent helps cut visual weight from the rear, making the car look lighter.

Brightwork includes the 17-inch alloy wheels, chrome trim around the side windows, clear taillights, and platinum-colored plastic grille inserts. LED fog lights/daytime running lights complement the clear-lens headlights.

Overall, the 2016 Volt looks more approachable – looking more like a conventional car than some sort of high-tech science experiment. This, combined with the extended range coming from the Volt’s new drivetrain, should help increase sales.


2016 Chevrolet Volt – Driven High Resolution Interior
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2016 Chevrolet Volt – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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2016 Chevrolet Volt – Driven High Resolution Interior
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Like the outside, the interior of the new Volt is completely reworked. The dash takes after the 2016 Chevy Cruze, sharing similarities, but not its overall design. Chevy stayed away from a complete mirror-image remake and gave the Volt its own personality. That character is one of high-tech futurism with large display screens, circuit board design details, and mood lighting for nighttime driving excitement.

Behind the wheel, the driver is met with an eight-inch color display screen that serves as the gauge cluster. It features a reconfigurable layout for personalization, with logical bar-style graphics representing both battery and fuel levels. A digital-style speedometer is extremely simple to read. In the center, the screen can toggle through menu functions, radio presets, Bluetooth phone information, and turn-by-turn directions from the navigation system.

Topping the center console is another eight-inch display. This one is touch sensitive and holds Chevy’s MyLink software. Like other Chevy vehicles, the MyLink system is extremely intuitive and easy to use – even for non-computer people. The software uses app-style soft buttons that pull up programs. These include, audio, phone, navigation, settings, fuel economy, OnStar, Traffic, weather, and Pandora radio. Hard buttons along the bottom of the screen bring common functions to the forefront. These include Home, rewind, fast forward, back, and a knob for radio volume and power. What’s more, MyLink includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Below the radio lies the HVAC controls. As I mention in my video review, the Volt does not offer dual-zone climate controls – a bit disappointing at this price range – though the controls themselves work well. The buttons are logically placed for easy use. Under that is a large opening for storage and device charging. Two USB ports, an AUX input jack, and a 12-volt power plug give a wide range of power options.

Unlike the first-generation Volt, the 2016 car offers room for three in back

The center console includes the gear shifter, a cell phone or spare change perch, two cup holders, and buttons that control the drive modes, parking sensor, parallel parking system, and traction control. The center armrest opens up to reveal a wireless cell phone charger and room enough for the typical odds and ends.

The front seats offer good support, though the bottom cushions could be longer. The seats don’t offer power controls, so manual operation is required to get comfortable. They are adjustable for height, fore and aft, and seatback recline. The back seats are just as comfortable. Tight leather is stretched over soft cushions and a padded center armrest makes inboard elbows happy. The rear door panels are hard plastic, however. Cup holders just ahead of the center passenger are within easy reach, as are the seat heater buttons for the outboard positions. Unlike the first-generation Volt, the 2016 car offers room for three in back, though you’ll certainly want to limit that to very occasional uses.

The Volt lives up to its hatchback designation with an impressive 10.6 cubic feet of cargo room in the trunk with seats up. Lay them down, and the cargo area doubles. This makes the Volt very easy to live with and use as a daily driver.


2016 Chevrolet Volt – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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2016 Chevrolet Volt – Driven High Resolution Interior
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2016 Chevrolet Volt – Driven High Resolution Drivetrain
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The Voltec drivetrain doesn’t escape upgrades as the Volt moves into its second generation. The powerplant, the electric motors, and the battery are all three upgrade, giving the Volt more power, longer range, and more efficiency. Up first, the engine – or as it’s called here – the range extender is all-new. Gone is the old iron-block 1.4-liter, replaced by a Volt-exclusive 1.5-liter four-cylinder. It uses direct injection and an Atkinson combustion cycle to help conserve fuel, while its aluminum construction cuts 100 pounds of weight from the previous engine. By itself, the engine produces 101 horsepower and 103 pound-feet of torque.

The other power source is the lithium-ion battery pack. The unit is upgraded with new cells that are more powerful. Since they generate more power, there can be fewer of them, 96, to be exact, leaving 192 battery cells to do the work. Nevertheless, the battery jumps from a 17.1 kWh rating to 18.4 kWh, while weight falls by 21 pounds.

The Volt has an all-electric range of 53 miles, while its total range is 420 miles

Mated between the range extender, the batteries, and the wheels are two new electronic drive motors. They are said to be 12 percent more efficient than before, while cutting another 100 pounds off the Volt’s curb weight. The motors and engine are separated by three clutch packs, allowing the car to be drive by one motor, both motors, or the engine.

During normal electric driving, the larger motor receives power from the battery and powers the car forward. When accelerating hard, both electric motors can work in conjunction. Once the battery has been depleted, the range extender kicks in. It isn’t connected to the wheels, however, but rather generates electricity via the second, smaller motor that charges the battery. The battery then sends power to the larger, main drive motor. All this works seamlessly without the driver’s help or knowledge. Only a very conscience driver can feel when the engine kicks on.

Thanks to the more efficient motors, Chevy says the 2016 Volt has a 19-percent improved 0-to-30 mph time of 2.6 seconds, while the 0-to-60 mpg time is improved seven percent to 8.4 seconds.

All this translates to the 2016 Volt having a 53-mile, all-electric range while its total range is 420 miles with both a full charge and a full take of gas. Speaking of gas, the new 1.5-liter does not require premium unleaded like its predecessor. It runs on good ole 89 octane. The EPA rates the Volt at 106 MPGe while its gasoline-only operation is rated at 42 mpg. Annual fuel costs are estimated at only $700.


2016 Chevrolet Volt – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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The Volt comes with a host of active and passive safety features. Available as options are Side Blind Zone Alert with Lane Departure Alert, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Keep Assist, Front Automatic Braking (low speed), and Forward Collision Alert. Coming standard are the passive systems, which include dual stage front airbags, front occupant knee airbags, curtain and side impact airbags, ABS, traction control, and stability control.

As of this writing, neither the IIHS nor NHTSA has tested the 2016 Volt for crashworthiness, however, the previous generation Volt scored “Good” ratings in all categories except the small front overlap.

Driving Impressions

2016 Chevrolet Volt – Driven High Resolution Interior
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Behind the wheel, the Volt is an interesting car to drive. When fully charged, the battery does all the work, giving the car an effortless wave of power as it silently pushes forward. A tiny bit of high-pitched whizzing can be heard, but it’s more of a pleasant sound than something your dog will bark at. In my experience, it’s actually rather satisfying. Once the battery is depleted to a preset level, the range extender seamlessly kicks on. Only when driving with the radio off and windows up can you feel this happening. The casual driver might not ever sense a change.

There is one odd aspect about the range extender: since it only acts as a generator, its revs are unrelated to speed. There’s were a few times I looked down to check the gearshift, ensuring I hadn’t accidentally engaged a lower gear, making the engine’s revs run high. (And by high, I mean a guestimated 2,500 rpm.)

The steering feel is surprisingly good given its electronic nature. The brakes are even more impressive, not letting on when they regen power back to the battery. Speaking of which, the Volt now comes with a “Regen on Demand” paddle on the left side of the steering wheel that allows for instant power regeneration from the brakes. I’d guess the paddle is programmed to induce 40 percent of the brakes full power. Simply pull the paddle back and the brake lights come on, the brakes engage, and the car slows down. This simply helps charge the battery while underway.

Outward visibility is good, though I was thankful for the blind spot monitoring system and rear cross traffic alert.


2016 Chevrolet Volt – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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The 2016 Volt comes in two trim levels and carries a base starting price of $33,995 for the bottom LT trim. Opt for the range-topping Premier trim, and the starting price jumps to $38,345. Adding options makes the price grow even more, just as my tester proved.

My Premier tester came with the Driver Confidence 1 Package ($495), which includes the Side Blind Zone Alert with Lane Departure Alert and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Also present was the Driver Confidence 2 Package ($495), including Lane Keep Assist, Front Automatic Braking, IntelliBeam headlights, and Forward Collision Alert. The navigation function within the MyLink infotainment system cost another $495.

Add to that a destination charge of $825, and the total price of my tester came to $39,850. Of course, that’s before the U.S. Government helps with tax breaks and incentives. Chevy says the Volt’s price can be offset by a $7,500 maximum tax credit. Play your IRS cards right with a Volt LT with no options, and you could pay as little at $25,670.


Toyota Prius Plug-In

2014 Toyota Prius Plug-in - Driven
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The Prius is synonymous with the hybrid craze and has basically defined the market. However, Toyota hasn’t fully pushed the plug-in version of its Prius. Offered for only a few years, the Plug-In Prius is on hiatus for the 2016 model year as the new generation of Prius rolls out. We expect the Prius Plug-In to reemerge for 2017 or soon thereafter. Anyway, the car works basically like the Volt, using its battery pack to deliver an all-electric driving range while the gasoline engine acts as a backup. However, the last Prius Plug-in we tested (a 2014 model), the car only provided a 14-mile all-electric range, which was also limited to 25 mph. Anything over or beyond that, the gas engine kicked on. That’s very short of the Volt’s 53-mile range and 100 mph top speed.

Of course, the Prius Plug-In was much less expensive, with a starting price of $29,990 for the 2014 model year.

Read the full review here.

Ford C-Max Energi

2013 Ford C-Max Exterior
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Yet another player in the plug-in game is the Ford C-Max Energi. Like the Prius Plug-In, the C-Max Energi is a plug-in version of its respective nameplate. The C-Max Engeri uses a 7.6 kWh battery pack to deliver 19 miles of all-electric range with an electric top speed of 85 mph. While not nearly as impressive as the Volt, it does beat out the Prius Plug-In. When not fully charged, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder sends 141 horsepower and 129 pound-feet of torque through a CVT transmission to power the front wheels. The EPA rates the C-Max Energi at 40 mpg city, 36 mpg highway, and 38 mpg combined.

Prices start at $31,770 for a 2016 model and grow with options.

Read the full review here.


2016 Chevrolet Volt – Driven High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
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The 2016 Chevrolet Volt is an impressive car. It addresses many of the concerts from the first-generation Volt while propelling the car into the mainstream thanks to more conventional looks inside and out. Its new power generator and electric motors are lighter yet more powerful and efficient, helping the Volt to lose some 700 pounds in its generational change. Helping in the weight reduction is a lighter body and improved construction techniques. All told, the Volt weights a mere 3,543 pounds. Match that with a base price that’s roughly $1,000 less than the previous Volt, and Chevy should have a hit on its hands.

After living with the Volt for a week, it doesn’t seem like full-time ownership would be a hassle. I’d certainly spring for a 240-volt charging station to be install in my garage in order to decrease charging times, but otherwise, using the Volt as Chevy intended is simple. Remember to plug the car in when at home and you’ll always have a charged battery ready to go. Chevy even says Volt owners can expect 1,000 miles of driving distance between gasoline fill-ups if they continually charge the car.

While I’ll be the first to protest automakers doing always with mighty V-8 engines and manual transmissions, the future does seem brighter knowing things can only get better from here. The 2016 Volt is certainly a bright star in GM’s lineup.

  • Leave it
    • Really needs the 240-volt charger
    • Several missing creature comforts
    • Needs more sound insulation in rear cargo area
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