2016 Chevrolet Volt: Monthly Update for December 2016
by Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor
Where Did We Drive It?
After a spell in Fresno, California, with editor Brent Romans, our long-term 2016 Chevrolet Volt returned to Edmunds' Santa Monica base only briefly. I was then off on a voyage to Corvallis, Oregon, and back a week later. My trip north was the first time we've driven our Volt in conditions with plenty of precipitation, including snow. Then I ventured southeast to Temecula, California, for more rain, and back. In total, we drove almost 3,000 miles in December.
It was an engine-heavy month because there were scant few charging opportunities in between. Such is the beauty of the Volt, though. It can do the daily commute grind solely on battery power and still provide the convenience of a conventionally fueled car when the need arises.
What Kind of Fuel Economy Did It Get?
As always, tracking fuel economy on a plug-in hybrid such as the Volt is not straightforward. We do our best to separate miles driven solely via battery power versus those motivated by gasoline. It's not a perfect system since it means diligently (and accurately) recording the battery-gasoline switchover point when applicable, plus other factors. But here's what we've observed so far:
Average lifetime mpg: 37.2 mpg
Best fill mpg: 45.1 mpg
EPA combined mpg rating: 42 miles
Average electric range: 52.8 miles
Best electric range: 75.0 miles
EPA electric range rating: 53 miles
Best range between gasoline fills (electric fills + gasoline): 681 miles
Current odometer: 19,377 miles
On the 2,000-mile road trip to Oregon and back, the Volt ran exclusively on gasoline and returned 34.6 mpg.
Maintenance and Upkeep
"One annoyance is related to the handshake between the Volt and the iPhone 6. The Volt has Apple CarPlay, which is fine, but CarPlay doesn't put Waze on the Volt's screen. No big deal since Waze alerts come over the car's speakers if the phone is plugged in.
"But what happens next is where the annoyance sets in — immediately following a Waze alert (or, I suspect, similar such actions from apps running natively on the phone), the Volt's audio system always switches over to playing your phone's music. Doesn't matter if you were on FM or XM, you're now listening to your phone's music. Constantly switching back to XM after every Waze alert grew particularly aggravating on my long trip. Eventually I simply unplugged my phone. In fairness, this hiccup might be an Apple issue and not a Volt issue." — Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor
"One of the supposed advantages of the new-generation Volt is its three-person backseat, as opposed to the original Volt's two-person seat. It's supposed because there's no way you can fit three adults in back. But kids are a different matter. My family currently includes my wife, 5-year-old son, 9-year-old daughter and 17-year-old female foreign exchange student living with us. I had to drive them to a local event recently, so I put my daughter in the middle (without a booster seat), with my son and (temporary) teenage daughter flanking. There isn't a center head restraint in the Volt, which is disappointing, but for this local trip it worked out fine. Think of the Volt's center rear seat as an emergency jump seat." — Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor
"Our Chevrolet Volt is easy to drive around town. Maybe even a little fun. Thanks to its small size and quick and light-effort steering, you can zip in and out of parking lots like an American Ninja Warrior going through an obstacle course. The electric motor's instant torque provides a quick burst of acceleration if you need it, too." — Brent Romans
"Related to my previous entry about our Volt being easy to drive, I should add that saying the Volt is fun doesn't necessarily mean it's sporty to drive. Yes, it's nimble in a parking lot, but on a twisting road, the Volt is out of its element. There's not a whole lot of grip from the economy-oriented tires, the steering doesn't give any road feel to the driver, and the Volt unsettlingly bobs and floats around when it drives over some midcorner bumps." — Brent Romans
"On my return trip from Corvallis, Oregon, to Los Angeles, snow was falling on Interstate 5 near Mount Shasta in Northern California. It was a light snowfall that wasn't accumulating on the freeway surface, instead simply wetting down the asphalt. But when I turned off the freeway, I immediately found snow-covered roads. And there I was on all-season tires, which are better described as 'no-season' tires, especially when they're of the Volt's low-rolling-resistance variety. There was very little traction available.
"My driving instincts flipped back to my decades as a New Englander: making measured, smooth inputs; exploiting momentum; and knowing when to turn back. The moral, of course, is to always carry chains if you think you might encounter snow (I didn't encounter snowy roads on this trip outside of this brief foray) or to get a set of real winter tires if you live where snow is part of the usual seasonality. The Volt's tires are good for fuel economy but disappointing when traction and grip are concerned." — Jason Kavanagh
"In theory, you can drive the Chevrolet Volt like a regular hybrid — just don't ever plug it in! But based on personal experience, I can't recommend that. For logistical reasons, I wasn't able to recharge our Volt's battery pack for a few days. With a depleted battery, the Volt relies on its 1.5-liter engine for power almost all the time. There's still regenerative braking, of course, and acceleration is just as quick. The engine is quiet, too (unless you've got the gas pedal pinned).
"But the resulting fuel economy is mediocre, at least as hybrids go. After driving 264 miles of mostly city miles, our Volt returned 37.8 mpg. Meh. (The EPA doesn't give a gas-only city rating for the Volt, just a combined driving estimate of 42 mpg.) A Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid, which has Volt powertrain guts but without the giant battery, gets 49 mpg city (46 mpg combined). It's also cheaper and roomier. I'm hoping Volt owners are utilizing the car's plug-in recharge ability to its full potential." — Brent Romans