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Review of: 2016 Chevrolet Volt 5dr HB Premier
2016 Chevrolet Volt: New gen brings new tech, better performance
By Dan Heyman
Jul. 14, 2016
If you’re surprised reading that this is, if fact, the second-generation Volt, I don’t blame you. I know that when I first encountered the car, I wondered how it could look so different from the outgoing model.
That car was as futuristic-looking as you got in showrooms at the time; it made the all-EV Nissan Leaf – which had beaten the Volt to market after a seesaw battle to launch day – look positively pedestrian by comparison.
Here’s the thing, though. More than just a styling update, the way the Volt now looks is representative of Chevrolet trying to get their EV to appeal to a broader market, which the Leaf has done well as its sales lead in both the U.S. and Canada indicates.
It’s a new day at Chevrolet, however, and the upgrades to the Volt for 2016 go much farther than skin deep.
Pros & Cons
- + Ride comfort
- + Interior materials
- + Good fuel efficiency
- - Limited charging options
- - Price of options
We’re still going to start with the skin, however.
The ’16 model still bears a striking forward-leaning stance, with subtle creases on the doors giving a bit of a “moving while standing still” impression. The creases are echoed on the hood, although I feel the two centre examples are more a case of styling for styling’s sake, and could easily have been left out. The outline on the hood edges, however, looks great both from outside and when sat behind the wheel.
The rear fascia is where we see the most change from the outgoing model. The lamps no longer sit flush with the tinted rear glass; they are now fairly aggressive taillight lenses. Those, along with a more rounded hatch make for a less slabby look overall. It’s all slightly at odds with the stylistic subtleties found elsewhere on the car, including the conservative headlight lenses. Chrome grill and y-spoke alloys are nice touches, though, and you still get the familiar “Volt” badging set against a black background ahead of the wing mirrors.
The interior styling is actually even more divergent from the old car. Gone is the Apple-esque white environs, replaced by a classier-looking dash that’s available in a variety of cloth colours, and a choice of two leather combinations. It looks especially sharp when given our car’s jet black/brandy treatment; I know that when I take it all in, it’s more representative of The General’s junior-luxury Buick brand than it is most Chevrolets.
The other big thing inside is that there’s now seating for three in the back, as the rear seating area gets a bench as opposed to the quasi-buckets it had previously. I still wouldn’t recommend stuffing three adults back there as the 909 mm of headroom and 881 mm of legroom would make for a snug fit.
Up front, however, it’s nice and airy thanks to the big expanse of the windshield. It’s not quite on the level of the Tesla Model X – nothing is, really — but it’s big enough to provide a good view forward. The steep rake, however, does make for some blind spots when looking forward left and forward right.
The seats are a real highlight. Usually I’m not one to require the fattest, cushiest seat cushions as I find that often compromises the support they offer, but the items found in the Volt both front and back don’t suffer from this issue. There’s a good amount of cushioning, but it’s not to the point where you feel as if you’re being pushed off the seat. It’s just a great mix of support and comfort. Our car’s leather seating comes as standard on the Premier trim level, and it’s an $1,185 option on the base car.
Provided you’re willing to tick a lot of option boxes, there’s plenty to choose from. I was surprised, however, to find that other than special Bose audio, everything else on the tech front is shared between the two existing Volt trims. That includes Sirius sat radio, automatic climate control, eight-inch touchscreen display and a configurable gauge cluster.
The infotainment screen doubles as a power flow meter if you choose, while the main gauge provides a good, clear look at your range, charge level, power flow and so forth. It’s all nicely intuitive as well as nice looking, thanks to a bright colour palette and big, easy-read graphics.
A heated steering wheel and heated front seats also come as standard, which is some nice kit to have on colder fall and winter days.
If you are looking for electronic driver aids, however, you’ll need to choose from a selection of packages which we’ll discuss in a later section.
The Volt’s EV range is quoted by the EPA at 53 miles (about 85 kilometres), thanks to a battery pack that can store more energy than previously, but actually discharges more power and weighs less than the old unit. It remains installed in a t-formation underneath the floorboards, ensuring the Volt keeps a low centre of gravity.
That, in turn, provides some nice handling. The car remains surprisingly flat through bends, while the ride does a good job of reflecting the luxuriously-appointed cabin. It’s firm without being jarring, and nicely quiet, too. Quiet, that is, beyond the inherent silence you get from cruising in EV mode. Which is something we did a lot of.
In addition to the new battery pack, the gas/electric powertrain also receives new drive modes that make it easier to manage your power. If you’re on the highway and know that you’ll be heading for some gridlock, you can temporarily lock out the EV motor using the powertrain’s “hold” setting. That way, you can keep using the 101-hp gas motor when it’s at its most efficient – on the open highway – saving your EV power for the gas-wasting grind of stop-and-go traffic.
There’s also a mode that forces hybrid power for when you need more power such as climbing or passing, and on and on. We saw it in the Cadillac ELR last year, and the fact that the tech has moved down to The General’s bread-and-butter points to how serious they are about growing the Volt up a bit. There’s even a sport mode which noticeably increases throttle response. Bit surprising, that.
Without really even thinking about it, we used just 1.5 Litres of fuel during our entire time, which took us over 213 kilometers. If you’re conscious about your charging, you should be able to drive in EV mode all the time, assuming you’re using the Volt mainly for city work. Which sounds about right for a compact hatch like this. As far as charging goes, 0-100 percent on a standard 120-volt trickle charge takes about 13 hours, while a stage II 240V system will take about half that.
As much as I like the new powertrain tech, I do wish that they’d been able to install a fast-charge system like that on the Nissan Leaf, Kia Soul EV and Tesla Model S. I guess the comparison to the latter is a little unfair – that’s a $70,000 luxury car, after all – but the Leaf is right in the Volt’s wheelhouse, and so is the Soul EV. Then again, the Volt is a range-extended EV, so its gas engine can help you charge the batteries, which is a luxury the Soul and Leaf don’t have, as they are full EVs.
Those cars don’t hold a candle to the Volt in the interior quality department, however. The leather is nice, the displays are properly modern looking (they make the items found in the Soul look like a video game circa 1990) and the styling is on-point. It’s clear Chevy has really taken the time to get the interior right.
The Volt starts at $38,490, which is up on both the Soul EV and Leaf, but the Volt is all-new this year, and comes better equipped at base. You do lose that fast-charge, but if you select that option for your Kia, the price comes level with the Volt.
As mentioned before, however, I do wish there was a little more on the driver aids front at the Premier level. If you want blind spot alert, lane keep assist and rear cross-traffic alert, you need to buy a package. Navigation? Different package. What about forward collision warning and auto-dimming headlights? Yep, new package there, too.
In the end, our car cost $46,845 with options; that’s a fair chunk of change, but if you’re in BC, Ontario or Quebec, the Volt makes you eligible for government rebates. Plus, you’ll be paying a whole heck of a lot less for fuel. Also, the options on our car added $2,755 to the price, and one of the packages is more geared towards highway driving. While the Volt drives fine on the highway, its strengths are in town. Use it for its strengths, and you can forgo aides like distance cruise control, and lane-keep assist.
Chevrolet has hit the mark with the Volt. Its EV system works as advertised, with the addition of the new drive modes help ease the transition to more efficient driving. It also just feels so solid, more so than you’d expect from what is essentially a compact hatchback.
The styling may be toned down a little, but the fantastic interior fit and finish and ultra-modern tech all ensure that this new Volt will continue to stand out from the crowd.