2016 Chevrolet Volt: Why I Didn't Buy One
by Mike Magrath, Features Editor on January 5, 2016
Access to our long-term fleet is usually awesome, but once in a while it just gets tiring. Having a clean car every night is great. Having to bring your gym bag up to your desk, along with your parking pass, all your change, and whatever other miscellanea has accumulated is not.
And then you've got to worry if the person who has the car you want will be in the office by the time you want to leave. Or if they've gassed it. Or if they wear terrible cologne. I had a string of bad luck and was ready to trade out of the fleet and into my own new daily driver. So a few weeks ago, before we bought our long-term 2016 Chevrolet Volt, I walked into a Chevy dealer to buy one for myself.
Let's first look at why I would like to own a Volt: The powertrain. I live in an urban area, have a 16-mile round-trip commute, and rarely see speeds above 35 mph. I've got chargers at my home, office and frequented shopping centers and I've got disposable income. I'm the ideal EV candidate except that I like road trips and I'm not always so good at paying attention to charge level. That's why the Volt is so exciting. On paper, it's perfect for me.
So I walked into a local Chevy dealer excited. I hadn't driven the Volt before, but Dan had and he liked it. That's a solid recommendation. The salesman and I headed out to the lot to inspect their first delivery of Volts. We hopped into a blue one that was nearly identical to our long-termer and that's where things started to go wrong.
Let's save us all some time and just do this as a list. Some of the items are deal-breakers (labeled DB) on their own. Others simply coalesce into a big pot of nope.
1: Seats: Seat bottoms are too short, as in two hand-widths from seat bottom to my knee short. No adjustability in that area. (DB)
2: Forward visibility: Not great. The front of the car is out there. Somewhere. It's got parking sensors that help, but I'd like a little more actual visibility.
3: When you shift into drive, the Volt locks itself. I don't want a car to do that to me. There's no way to turn this off. (DB)
4: There's nowhere to put my arms. Just like with the Corvette, GM doesn't want my arms to have any space. On every turn, I thwacked either the center console or the armrest with an elbow.
5: Too much chrome. Outside and inside.
6: Ride's not great over bumps. We pay all the taxes in the world here in California and the roads are all terrible.
7: The front air dam scrapes over EVERYTHING.
8: There's no way to turn off the air-conditioning. You can disable it most of the time, but if the battery needs A/C, the whole car gets A/C. We've got cars today with multiple zones of climate control, each with its own fan speed. In the Volt, I'm at the mercy of a battery's temperature fluctuation.
9: Interior quality. All of the money spent on the Volt went to the powertrain and chroming some interior bits. The shifter feels hollow, the switches aren't great and the whole thing has a very low-rent feel. I could live with it, but I'd rather not. (DB)
10: Style. Subjective sure, but this thing is tacky. Cool it with the surface treatments and brightwork, GM.
11: Stupid regen paddle. As Mr. Elfalan said, the Volt has a regen paddle instead of an aggressive regen system built into the brake pedal itself. Lifting off in the Volt is like lifting off in a normal car, not an EV. Further, the trouble with the paddle is that a brake pedal has many degrees of modulation and your foot is really good at using it. The paddle is on/off. It's like stabbing the brakes. VW's multi-stage, paddle-adjustable regen is an example of how to do this right.
So that's why I didn't buy a Volt. I thanked the salesman, told him there wasn't a sane lease rate low enough to get me into one (though he made a heckuva good attempt) and moved on with my life.
I still like driving ours when I get the chance, as this is the perfect powertrain for my lifestyle. Unfortunately I just don't like the car itself, at least not enough to put my own money on the line. Maybe if gas was $11 per gallon or if charging took six minutes, I'd be more willing to sacrifice. For now, my money's sitting around, waiting for someone to cram the Volt's powertrain into an i3.
To answer the question as to why I didn't buy an i3: too few gasoline miles and a weak motor. The i3 barely climbs out of Los Angeles. No way it's getting me to San Francisco, Vegas or Death Valley. The Volt could.
Mike Magrath, Features Editor