Cars

Published on March 29th, 2016 | by Nicolas Zart

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2016 Volt Is A Clear Winner! (CleanTechnica Video Review)

March 29th, 2016 by  

You might have heard the raving accolades the press has given the new 2016 Volt. CleanTechnica confirms this after a week-long test drive. The 2016 Chevrolet Volt is a clear winner in our book. However, a word of warning: much like any Apple products, if you own a previous Volt, the new Volt will give you serious Volt envy and will make your original Volt feel… quaint. All in all, we’re giving the 2016 Volt 5 stars out of 5.

2016, Chevrolet Volt Class: PHEV

Curb Weight: 3,543 lbs.

Base Model: $33,995
Lease: $357/m
As Tested: $37,520
Drivetrain: 1.5L Gas. Engine, 101HP, 18.4-kWh lit-ion battery pack, Combined 149HP, 294 lb-ft Torque City/Highway/Combined Range: 43/42 Highway Hybrid mode, we got 80 MPG.
Engine/Electric Motor: 111 hp/81.696 KW, 147 lb-ft/199 NM MSRP as tested: $ 37,520

2016 Chevrolet Volt Test Drive

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2016 Chevy Volt Overview

What hasn’t been said about the new Chevy Volt? Perhaps, if you only drove the first generation, you will be very surprised and very impressed with the 2016 Volt. Not only is its Voltec platform updated, with 8% more battery capacity, but also the engine dropped about 140 pounds while boasting more horsepower. The exterior has been completely redesigned, as well as the stunning interior. Still, the best part about it is that it feels good, and drives very well.

The 2016 Volt will not make you feel awkward next to a European sedan. We drove the Volt through Los Angeles traffic in complete serenity, and all the way up to San Luis Obispo, cruising on beautiful scenic nature roads on nothing more than electricity. Even the grazing cows enjoyed our presence, and some even came up for a closer inspection of this peaceful vehicle. The car was simply fun to to live with, with a touch of luxury and futuristic highlights not previously seen, nor felt, but certainly not “over-doing it.”

In a few words, the 2016 Chevrolet Volt is a rolling computer platform and owns the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) market.

2016 Chevrolet Volt Test Drive-7 2016 Chevrolet Volt Test Drive-8 2016 Chevrolet Volt Test Drive-9 2016 Chevrolet Volt Test Drive-10

2016 Chevy Volt Competition

Finding the exact competition to a PHEV is always a little difficult. For instance, as much as we enjoyed the Ford Fusion Energi, which comes in at $33,000, it only has a 7.6 kWh battery, which only gives it a 20 to 22 mile range on electricity. Also, most of its trunk is taken away by the battery pack. The Hyundai Sonata PHEV starts at $34,600 with a bigger battery pack, 9.8 kWh, and longer range, 27 miles, but that doesn’t compare to the Volt.

The Honda Accord PHEV impressed us a lot the first time we drove it in 2013, but its short 13 miles of electric range falls drastically short of the Volt’s. Finally, we might consider the Toyota Prius PHEV as competition, but it’s very limited 11 miles of electric range makes it feel more like a conversion than a bona fide PHEV. The new version is due to be announced today, March 23rd, by the way.

The Audi A3 Sportback e-tron might be a closer match with its 8.8 kWh pack. Although, its electric range is still under half of the Volt’s, at just 16 miles. The ride level, however, comes closer. The A8 e-tron would also be a contender, but at $95,000, that is way out of the Volt price point.

We deliberately left out the Cadillac Volt, since it rests on an older Voltec platform, and sources are starting to hint at a version based on the newer Voltec 2.0. Also considered: Volvo V60 PHEV, but we don’t have as much personal experience with it.

2016 Chevy Volt Strong Points

As we mentioned earlier, the new Volt is a complete redesign, and a car you need to study a little before jumping in and driving it. We usually like driving our test cars without studying them too much to see if the vehicle is intuitive. The Volt is intuitive, but it packs a lot of technology you might want to familiarize yourself with first. And after all, this is GM at its best engineering, something we might not have seen for a very long time.

2016 Chevrolet Volt Test Drive-12 2016 Chevrolet Volt Test Drive-112016 Chevrolet Volt Test Drive-13 2016 Chevrolet Volt Test Drive-142016 Chevrolet Volt Test Drive-15

The interior feels good – real good. It shows the right balance between luxury and futuristic touches, with a definite quality improvement. The ride feels solid, with no heavy body rolls.

Accelerations are frank and will have those front wheels spinning in no time. You will surprise a few “sports” sedan with the new Volt. Another nicety is that there is no need for high octane, as the 2016 Volt takes in 87 grade. It was a pleasure to drive in traffic due to its inherent silent modes, and equally comfortable on longer highway trips.

2016 Chevy Volt Weaknesses

2016 Chevrolet Volt Test Drive-16

There isn’t really much to fault with the new 2016 Volt. We might wish for a beefier onboard charger than the 3.6 kWh. We did find some light reflections around noon on the plunging front windshield. The brushed chrome, although eye pleasing, can also reflect sunlight.

Test Period Length and Limitations: We had the car for eight days and drove it under various conditions. 25% highways, 50% city, and 25% cruising between cities on moderate speed roads. We drove a fun 800 fun miles with it.

Conclusions

If you ever had doubts that GM could produce a car that can look good, feel great to drive, that can also show the company has a complete handle on electronics, PHEV drivetrain, and can produce an elegant interior that is well built, the 2016 Chevrolet Volt is that car you need to check out. This shows GM finally owns the PHEV market with what could arguably be the best PHEV car out there. We give it a 5 plugs out of five and feel this is the company’s best work in many decades. Congratulations GM on the 2016 Volt — it is now a worthy global contender.


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About the Author

Born and raised around classic cars of the 1020s, it wasn't until Nicolas drove one of the first Tesla Roadsters that the light went on. Eager to spread the news about those amazing full torque electric vehicles, he started writing in 2007. Since then, his passion led to cover renewable energy, test drive many cars, do podcasts and film everything that is new and efficient. Nicolas offers an in depth look at the e-mobility world through interviews and the many contacts he made in those industries. "There are more solutions than obstacles." Nicolas Zart



  • ev

    Plug-in range is what it’s all about. All-electric driving is the goal, and Volt owners have proven they like passing up gas pumps.

  • Great update to the Gen1 Volt. I just wished they had found a way to repackage the battery to make room for a real 5th passenger. A certified preowned 2018 Volt or CPO model 3 will be my next car in the 2020-2021 timeline.

  • Lynne Whelden

    Two questions….when he says combined range is 80 mpg, does he mean MPGe? Or does he mean he’s getting 80 mpg from the ICE?

    • Good question, I should have clarified. Yes, it meant MPG. I don’t take MPGe into consideration. MPG is already such a loose calculation, MPGe takes it another level. And that MPG was city, highway and rolling hills driving after three days spent in San Luis Obispo from Los Angeles.

      • Lynne Whelden

        Wow, that’s unbelievable! I mean, I thought I was getting good mileage on my Toyota Echo, rated at 38 mpg but typically getting mid-40s over the 13 years I’ve owned it. So to be able to DOUBLE the estimated milage….WOW!

        • Well, just to be clear, the highway MPG is about 44. You will get better on the highways with a Hybrid Impala. The Volt excels overall in all conditions on an average.

          Yup, these cars are like those Apple computers you buy. Six months down the road, there’s something better for the same price. Makes it tough to chose sometimes…

          • Lynne Whelden

            Do you think that’s typical of Japanese-made ICE vs. American-made ICE…the former underestimating actual real-world mileage by ~25 percent whereas the American product is pretty much right on the mark?

          • It would seem like it, and especially so with the European cycle. I don’t why they do it knowing the discrepancies.

          • Lynne Whelden

            My commute is 80 miles. For me it’s come down to the Prius Prime vs. the Chevy Volt. Either way I’ll always be depleting the battery before getting home. Considering the ICE, I stand to get in the 60-70 mpg range with the Prime easily. The Volt, low 40s at best. It’s not quite “six of one, half dozen of the other,” just guesstimating.

          • I’m pretty sure you will enjoy the ride and feel of the Volt better, as well as the overall feel, especially the interior. Let us know what you decide in the end. Good luck!

  • Matt

    Base Model: $33,995 as tested $37,520
    We are no longer in the innovators, high end lux (mega $) market.
    We have entered the early adopters and soon it will be early majority!
    The demand is there, and the price point is coming down!

  • John

    Anyone know if a mtn bike would fit in the back with the front wheel removed? Or is there a tow hitch available to mount a bike rack on?

    • Ash45

      I think some volt owners on facebook took pictures of being able to do that. They were also able to fit a 60 inch screen tv in the back as well.

      I think you can probably get a hitch as well, but don’t quote me on this.

    • I didn’t do it with mine, but it looked very possible.

    • Frank

      I had a 1.25 hitch added to my Prius without brakelight or blinker wires so I can carry a couple of bikes. The Prius has 0 towing capacity. This was a third party hitch, not Toyota.

    • Wade

      I put my Giant Reign in back of my 2012 Volt all the time. But I do have to remove the front wheel. Alternatively, I use a Seasucker Bomber roof rack when I carry multiple bikes.

  • neroden

    My only only only dislike is that central “transmission tunnel”. If the car had been rearranged to open that space up, it would be a much roomier 5-seater.

  • eveee

    The new Volt is a complete redesign. Improvements abound in mpg, EV range, aero, and Cd.

    • neroden

      I don’t know why they left the space-waster block running down the interior; in a complete redesign, you’d think they’d figure out how to move the battery somewhere else… oh well.

      • That T shape is pretty crucial to the integrity of the car. Moving it would have meant redesigning a new car. At least, that’s how I see it.

      • eveee

        Yes. You nailed the one thing they messed up.

  • Brian

    Very nice, but still way to expensive for me. I’d rather buy a used Nissan Leaf or Mitsubishi I-Meav for $10,000. For less than a third of the $34,000 base price for a 2016 Volt, I could drive an all electric vehicle. It would be nice if all cars could be either plug in hybrids or electric. This would cut our usage of dirty oil, in half overnight. Most car trips are 10 miles or less, so plug in hybrids like the Volt, which gets 50 miles of all electric range, would eliminate most trips to the gas station.

    • Ash45

      I had that train of thought too, but settled for a used Gen 1 Volt instead because I also take long trips to visit friends and relatives that live hours away from me.

      But the Gen 1 Volt’s EV range does cover my 38 mile work commute entirely on electric, except in winter, when I might burn about a quarter of a gallon of gas due to shorter range and using the heater.

      Though Gen 1 owners kind of got shafted on depreciation (but not as badly as Leaf owners), this also translates into awesome deals for the 2nd owner looking to get some EV experience without the range anxiety until charging stations are more robust and widespread, and EV’s come down some more in price and increase in range.

    • Interesting. Here in Ontario Canada, the Volt is similarly priced to the Leaf. The i-MiEV is non-existant in these parts. My Smart ED was almost $20K with rebates applied, and the Volt would run about $35K, but a lot more car for only $15K more…

  • Mike333

    The 2017 Volt is the one to buy, with high speed collision prevention.

  • Jim Smith

    why a 2016 when the 2017’s are out. I have slightly over 800 miles on my 2017 and i must say this is the best car I have ever owned. I sold my 2007 Infiniti G35x for this. It drives much than I thought it would. Sure, it lacks the power of my Infiniti, but the Volt is not a sports sedan, and no, you will not surprise any sports cars in the slow Volt. But that is not what the Volt is about.

    The only faults I have found so far is the cheapo plastic used on the back doors, and the onstar/media system software is absolutely terribad.

    • Those are good points Jim. It’s not at the Infiniti level, or M% and AMG, but it does carve a nice niche right below that. And yes, I promise you I did surprise a few Beemers with it in full EV mode and spinning wheels.

  • John

    As an experienced EV owner, the 3.6 kw (not kwh as the article states) on board charger is a deal breaker for me. Charge times are too long with this charger.

    • Mod Mark

      Is fast charging an issue with PHEV owners? My impression, most Volt owners charge up at home and don’t worry about charging on the road or while at work.

      • Kyle Field

        Even normal Level 2 charging is slow at 3.6kw. It’s nice to be able to top up…especially in a car with 53 miles all electric range. I could see this being an issue for people though you are right…the vast majority of charging will be at home.

        • Steve Grinwis

          Three hours for a full charge isn’t a big deal, especially when slow charging can’t strand you anywhere.

          If anything, make it an option that people can pick up if they’re overly worried about it, but I doubt anyone wants to pay a grand to do a 1.5 hour charge, instead of burning an extra $1 of fuel for that one time you didn’t have time to do a full charge this year.

          • Like you said, for most people are charging at night and it isn’t a problem.

          • John

            Except it’s not a 3 hr charge with a depleted battery. The math is: 18.4kwh/3.6kw=5.1h This is the minimum charge time and it may take longer as the charge rate will slow as the battery nears full charge.

          • Steve Grinwis

            Except you don’t get to use all 18.4 kWh, you only get to use the bit that GM lets you use, which IIRC is around 13~ish kWh, which gives you about 3.5 hours to a full charge. And because the battery is never fully charged, it charges at full rate, right up to it’s fully charged limit.

          • John

            Ah, thanks! I wondered why the range was so low for that battery size. I get about 4 miles per kwh with my Leaf and 53m/13kwh would be similar.

          • Steve Grinwis

            Ya, it’s part of the GM super-conservative about battery life thing they have going on. The plus side is that we’ve seen examples of 500k km Volts with no observable battery degradation.

          • I wonder if anyone ever managed to hack the system and unleash the entire, or most of the battery pack capacity. Anyone heard of that being accomplished?

          • Mod Mark

            Or use more of the battery as the millage of the car increases.

          • The idea was to be in line with California’s 10 year warranty. I feel anything done to tap into that extra battery capacity will have to be done outside the warranty.

            This sort of reminds me how Toyota dragged its feet with its PHEV Prius and how many regular Prii were converted to PHEV by independent shops.

        • Mod Mark

          “It’s nice to be able to top up”

          But that is why they bought a PHEV, no worries if they exceed the 50 mile electric range.

          Free charging may be distorting the market, I expect charging station cost to be much higher than my home rate.

          Anyways, I am glad consumers have a choice between EV and PHEV.

          • Kyle Field

            I can’t wait for public charging to go up in price! That will correct so much of the snotty behavior we see out on the town…

          • that’s exactly the point here, it’s a choice and this car really caters to those who are still not sure they can go electric 100%. And most of the time, the Volt is driven in EV mode only. I think roughly 90% of the time, or something like that. Volt owners don’t have range anxiety. They gasoline anxiety 🙂

      • I’ve never heard it being an issue. At least no one mentioned it.

      • John

        I think the Volt is a wonderful transition car. It meets the needs of most peoples commutes with electric drive while filling the current gap of short ranges of affordable EVs and a lack of fast charging (20 min or less). I think the Volt will help transition more people to EVs because it will provide the range crutch that gas mobile people think they need.

        Since I’m already an EV owner, my position is this: I don’t want a gas engine. I don’t want the complexity of one. I don’t want to burn fossil fuels for too many reasons to list. I don’t want to change the oil. I don’t want to maintain one. I don’t want the extra weight. I don’t want to give up space. I don’t want to leak oil on the roadway that washes into streams and lakes.

        I presently have a Leaf (84 mile range). I love driving it. It has a 6.6kw charger and DC CHAdeMO fast charger which charges at about 50kw. The 6.6kw charger is ok if you have the time to wait. It will provide about 24 miles range per charge hour for the Leaf. The Volt 3.6kw charger is only going to provide about 14 miles per hour charge. Most (level 2) public chargers provide about 6kw. There are a few CHAdeMO DC fast chargers around my area. Two in Colorado Springs where I live and about 6 in Denver. That’s not enough to be useful. Locations that have them, have only one, and in Denver they always seem to be out of order. That limits my range to a 40 mile radius to allow for out and back without a long wait to charge before returning. If you are commuting and running errands or get home and want to go out again the faster the charger the better. The Leaf would be nice if it had greater range, but here is the secret: It doesn’t need more range if there are DC fast chargers everywhere. It makes a lot more sense to have a smaller battery that can charge quickly lots of places than to haul around a huge battery that can only be charged over night at home. Just think how small a battery would be needed if there were wireless charging built into the roads.

        Tesla offers a high performance car. More importantly though, Tesla offers a supercharging network that charges at up to 120kw and they are spaced within reach of each other. That makes the range virtually unlimited while slowing you down only slightly to charge along the way. Tesla drivers speak in terms of miles per hour of charge. Even with a 300 EV mile range, you’re not going to drive across the state if it takes all night to recharge along the way. Tesla has figured this out. The problem with Tesla is that they are priced out reach.

        We need a second vehicle. I want an EV. I don’t want a gasmobile. I would consider a compromise with a Volt because I see the Volt filling the 2 year gap until a proliferation of fast chargers are available, or until Tesla delivers an affordable car that can utilize it’s fast charger network. I really want to drive the Volt as much like a pure EV as possible. Electronics are cheap! For $35k+ Chevy can put a 6.6kw charger on board! Perhaps there is an after market product opportunity here… Oh, and I’d like a bicycle to fit in the back, although a hitch rack would be acceptable.

        • Mod Mark

          My situation.

          I only need extended range (>50 miles) 4-10 time/year, these are 400-500 mile trips (one way). One solution, use rental cars which we current do and I love it! But…

          Assuming batteries are a near linear watt-hour cost, should I buy another 200 mile battery range or an on-board generator?

          For the Tesla S, this would require 2 charging stops due to the location of the changing stations, one trip I could not use the Tesla at all. A PHEV mean no worries about recharging and can use for all situations. I do have nightmares about long lines at changing stations during holiday weekends.

          So a PHEV such as the Volt meets my needs far better than a Tesla and I would reduce my gasoline consumption by ~90-95%. For personal enjoyment, I prefer sailboats on Lake Ontario over luxury cars, $50K in savings buys alot of sails.

          I also drive my cars to 200,000 miles, a PHEV has huge advantage here as the battery loses capacity. Nears it’s end of life, just use the generator.

          Note: three of my cars died due to transmission failure. Replacing a transmission on a car with 200,000 miles is not a wise investment.

          • The rental suggestions is still the best bet. Take into consideration insurance and maintenance, it’s best to rent a Volt in your situation and save a bundle in the meantime. This was the argument we were making back in 2008 when most cars didn’t inch past 60 miles. It made sense then, it makes even more sense today.

        • Frank

          Can’t wait to read about the Mod 3 this evening.

    • Yes, John, I noticed the typo. Sometimes my dictionary takes the best of me. Thanks for pointing it out.

    • Jim Smith

      has not been for me. I plug in my 2017 when I get home and it is fully charged well before I have to go to work in the morning. Even if i do not get home until 9:30 or so, it is ready for me before i leave around 7.

  • We love GM

    There is a very good review on Engineering Explained chanel on youtube, all 53 electric miles recorded in real world conditions. It really made it, without diverting any power to climate control though.

    • Ash45

      Wayne Gerdes, a champion hypermiler, managed to eke out 111 miles out of the Gen 2 Volt’s battery. He said if the weather was warmer, like in the 70-80 degree range, he probably could’ve gotten 120 miles.

      Of course, he also drives very, very conservatively, aka “slow” to regular people. Most others have reported easily hitting 60-80 miles of EV range with mostly regular driving, which is creeping into Nissan Leaf territory there.

  • Shane 2

    Nice clean lines. It makes the Bolt look ugly.

    • eveee

      So was the Bolt and exercise in making the Volt look good?

    • I think it will boil down to those who like the original lines might not care about this one, but a new market segment will like the subtle class and sporty hints. Overall GM did a good job with aerodynamics with the new Volt.

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