What Did We Get?
If you don't think General Motors has cutting-edge technology, you haven't been paying attention.
Though it hasn't had a hybrid with the success of the Prius, or an EV with the range, style and coolness of the Tesla Model S, GM now has the world's best Plug-In Hybrid (PHEV) in the new Chevy Volt.
All 2016 Volts start with the second-generation Voltec powertrain. The meat of the system is an 18.4-kWh battery pack powering two electric motors. The new batteries have more power than the old Volt, but they also get more help from the new internal combustion engine. Gone is the 84-horsepower, 1.4-liter engine that required premium fuel and returned middling fuel economy. In its place is a spiffy new 1.5-liter engine that runs on regular fuel, makes 101 hp and returns 42 mpg. It works in a new way, too. Instead of simply acting as a generator when the batteries are spent, the new setup uses the gas engine to propel the vehicle like a typical hybrid.
What Options Does It Have?
The 2016 Chevy Volt is available in two trim levels, LT and Premier. The base LT starts at $33,995 and includes a standard backup camera, 8-inch Chevrolet MyLink touch-screen, keyless entry, automatic climate control, dual USB ports and remote start.
The Premier ($38,345) adds leather, the ability to add navigation, front and rear heated seats, Bose audio system, heated steering wheel and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
Opting for the Premier trim also opens the door to the optional forward collision alert, lane keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert and side blind-zone alert with lane change alert.
Since this isn't just a test of the powertrain, but the whole car, we picked the Premier and added options. Driver Confidence 1 Package ($495) adds the side blind zone and lane departure alerts and rear cross-traffic alert. Driver Confidence 2 Package ($495) adds lane keep assist, front automatic braking at low speed, Intellibeam headlights and forward collision alert. Further options include $495 for navigation, $395 for the Kinetic Blue paint, $225 for the illuminated charge port, $110 for an all-weather cargo mat and $60 for a cargo net because the Volt still doesn't have a real cargo cover.
All in, this 2016 Chevrolet Volt Premier Hatchback wears a sticker price of $40,620.
With either trim of the Volt, you qualify for up to a $7,500 federal tax break.
We purchased our Volt at Selman Chevrolet for $38,114 thanks in part to a $1,000 rebate.
Why We Bought It/Why We Got It?
Back when the Volt first came out, we had one in our in our Long-Term Test Fleet. We drove it for 13 months and put 15,063 miles on it. During that time we averaged 37.2 miles on EV range and 35 mpg out of the old-tech, iron-block gas engine. According to our calculations, 42 percent of our time was spent in EV mode.
At the end of the year, our "Cons" were few. It needed premium fuel. The brake pedal felt odd. The center stack was dumb and buttonless. The backseat only held two adults. It didn't have power seats and the spoiler scraped on everything. Not only did GM fix items 1, 2, 3 and 4 (5 and 6 are still present), but the 2016 Volt improves on things we had in the "Pros" column.
Ultimately, we concluded, "The 2011 Chevrolet Volt's medium-size battery gives it a decent amount of electric range, and you can use all of it every time because the gasoline engine allows the Volt to continue on like any normal car. Paradoxically, this is simultaneously the Volt's greatest strength and biggest weakness because the ability to manage this trick essentially requires two advanced drivetrains, with all the extra complexity, packaging difficulty and cost that implies. This, of course, is the first vehicle of its kind, so these weaknesses are likely to disappear — especially since the concept has so much promise."
And that's where we are today. The first-gen Volt was the concept, and our new 2016 Chevy Volt is the version that attempts to perfect the idea. Our initial driving impressions were positive, now it's time to see if that holds up over time. Follow along on our Long Term Road Test page to find out if this Volt delivers on the promise of the plug-in hybrid.
Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purpose of evaluation.