2016 Chevrolet Volt: Electricity Is More Attractive Than Ever

Strong points
  • Attractive new looks
  • Cockpit layout more in line with the rest of Chevrolet’s products
  • Increased range in EV mode
  • More upscale than before
Weak points
  • Ridiculously small middle back seat
  • Wind noise at highway speeds
  • Not necessarily fun to drive
Full report

When Chevrolet launched the first Volt, its styling was not only very different from the other cars on the market, but also from the brand’s own product line-up. In 2010, the compact EV shared the showroom floor with the Cobalt, the Aveo and the HHR, all models that didn’t exactly shine with modernity.

Beside these cars, the Volt stood out with its technological prowess and with its shape, which looked more like a spaceship than a Silverado.

Its unique styling was beneficial to the Volt’s popularity, as many buyers were attracted by its aerodynamic wedge shape, its pointy snout and its cockpit trimmed with a white centre stack. In addition, the Volt had the advantage of being immediately perceived as a fuel-efficient vehicle, as its sleek bodywork is typically associated with hybrid vehicles (such as the Toyota Prius).

For the second generation of the Volt, Chevrolet changed its strategy somewhat. Instead of creating a radically different car, the automaker decided to give its electric car a style that’s more closely related to its other products, while improving its powertrain and feature content.

A modern-day Chevy

What changed most compared to the last year’s Volt is obviously the car’s looks. The new generation is lower and longer in a stylistic attempt to make it look more upscale – and in my opinion, their designers succeeded in doing so. Its shape is no longer dictated solely by aerodynamics, and now includes a few forms and curves destined to make the car more beautiful. As with the vast majority of vehicles on the road, the 2016 Volt now includes standard LED headlights.

Under the skin lurks the same basic powertrain configuration of two electric motors, a T-shaped battery pack and a four-cylinder engine that serves as a generator. However, the system has been improved; the generator is now a bigger 1.5L engine, the batteries have a capacity of 18.4 kWh (up by 8%) while being lighter, and the main electric motor is 12% more efficient, but 45 kg lighter. All this gives the Volt an EV range of 85 kilometres and a total range of 650 km.

The cockpit will surprise no one who has set foot inside a new Chevrolet product in the last two years. The climate control buttons, the steering wheel and the door-panel switchgear is shared with other models. The prominent centre stack has disappeared, replaced by two eight-inch screens in the 2016 Volt. The first one is installed in the middle of the dash and is used to control navigation and sound systems, among other things, and several submenus display powertrain and battery information. The most recent generation of Chevrolet MyLink is included, which integrates the latest novelty, Apple CarPlay (Android Auto capability will be added later). The other screen is located in front of the driver, replacing the traditional analog instrumentation. It displays vehicle speed, state of charge and remaining battery range, fuel level and average fuel consumption, and all the presented info is simple and user-friendly. Happily, the impression of piloting a UFO hasn’t been toned down in the new Volt.

Between Malibu and Sputnik

As soon as you press the start button and hear the electronic humming that lets you know the car is ready to go, you’d think that the car would require a different way of driving. However, I was pleasantly surprised to realize that the 2016 Volt drove pretty much like a regular sedan. The electric power steering makes the wheel very easy to turn, the 295 lb-ft of torque (!) help the Volt accelerate swiftly around town, and outward visibility is better than ever. And thanks to improved aerodynamics, the car is even quieter inside.

During the first 85 kilometres, the Volt runs on battery power alone, even if you mash the accelerator pedal. Afterwards, the generator engine takes over; it’s quieter than the old 1.4L unit and can now run on regular gasoline. The car borrows the Regen on Demand feature introduced in the Cadillac ELR, a wheel-mounted paddle that the driver can pull to send a little energy back into the batteries.

Even if Chevrolet says the 2016 Volt is sportier, no one will mistake it for the Corvette. However, the four-mode drive system is appreciated, and includes Normal, Mountain, Sport and Hold settings. Mountain activates the gas-powered generator for climbing long and steep inclines, Sport sharpens throttle response and Hold keeps the battery pack at its current state of charge and can be used for highway driving before arriving in town.

Chevrolet smartly chose to make the 2016 Volt more attractive for the average shopper. The redesigned EV should interest not only those who want a very fuel-efficient vehicle, but also those who are seeking a modern and stylish compact car, with fuel economy being an added bonus.

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