2016 Chevrolet Volt Review
Pros & Cons
- For a plug-in hybrid, the Volt's all-electric range is formidable
- fuel costs will be low or nothing at all
- improved touchscreen interface with expanded functionality.
- Backseat is tight for adults
- power front seats are not available
Edmunds' Expert Review
Want your car to be powered by electricity but with the reassurance of a conventional engine? The 2016 Chevrolet Volt could be up your alley. You'll appreciate its updated exterior styling, plus the changes underneath deliver more power and additional all-electric range. Come take a closer look at this impressive follow-up to the innovative original.
Notably, we picked the 2016 Chevrolet Volt as one of Edmunds' Best Used Cars.
Chevrolet developed the first-generation Volt as an alternative to the "pure" electric vehicle. By being able to go about 35 miles on battery power alone and then run on gasoline after that, the Volt gave owners the opportunity to drive around town like an EV without having to worry about running out of electrons. We liked the concept, even with its flaws. But we're even more excited about the fully redesigned 2016 Volt. Here's a case where a big "new and improved!" sticker on the side could be quite justified.
The 2016 Chevrolet Volt's redesign more closely resembles other small sedans and no longer shouts "hybrid."
The Volt gets a new body structure and styling to go along with it. It looks more like a sleek contemporary compact sedan than the previous generation, which featured its hybrid credentials more prominently. Mechanically, the 2016 Volt kicks it into high gear. Its revised plug-in hybrid powertrain offers 53 miles of all-electric range, a 25 percent boost. That's enough to handle the daily commuting needs of most Americans without ever requiring a drop of gasoline. And when gasoline is needed, the 2016 Volt's new, quieter 1.5-liter engine now requires only regular grade gasoline and delivers an EPA-estimated 42 mpg, up 13 percent.
Also on the new-and-improved list this year are a retuned suspension and dashboard controls that do away with the futuristic-looking but hard-to-use touch buttons in favor of real knobs and switches. A bigger 8-inch touchscreen is also new and supports Apple's CarPlay smartphone interface. Farther back, Chevy has added a third seat to the rear seat (admittedly, it's more of a perch than a seat), bringing the Volt's passenger capacity to five people, though overall space is still on the small side.
If you need more room than what the Volt can deliver, there are a few other options worth considering. The 2016 Ford C-Max Energi hatchback and Ford Fusion Energi sedan are solid choices, though they can only go about 20 miles on electric power. Another interesting pick could be the redesigned Prius plug-in; it's expected to get a boost in all-electric mileage, but further information was scarce as of this writing. There's also the smaller BMW i3, which is an EV but can be ordered with a tiny two-cylinder range-extending gas generator. Overall, though, the "new-and-improved!" 2016 Volt shines very brightly among this group.
2016 Chevrolet Volt models
The 2016 Volt is a five-seat, four-door plug-in hybrid hatchback sedan offered in LT and Premier trims.
The Volt LT comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlamps (low beam) and taillights, keyless ignition and entry, remote start, 60/40-split folding rear seatbacks, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column and automatic climate control. Technology equipment includes an 8-inch reconfigurable driver information screen, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, OnStar (with 4G WiFi connectivity), an 8-inch touchscreen with Chevrolet's MyLink interface, Apple CarPlay compatibility for iPhone users and a six-speaker sound system with satellite radio, two USB ports and an auxiliary audio jack.
Optional for the LT is a Comfort package that includes heated mirrors, heated front seats and a heated steering wheel. Leather upholstery can be ordered with the LT Comfort package as well. An eight-speaker Bose audio system is available as a stand-alone option.
The 2016 Volt comes in LT and Premier trims; the Premier is pictured here.
Move up to the 2016 Volt Premier and you get all of the above plus an auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated rear outboard seats, a wireless charging pad for cell phones and other equipment, and an automated parking system (parallel and perpendicular).
The Driver Confidence package available for the Premier trim includes blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning and rear cross-traffic alert. The Driver Confidence 2 package (requires basic Driver Confidence package) adds forward collision alert with automatic braking, lane-keeping assist and adaptive headlights. You can also order a navigation system for the Volt Premier.
Performance & mpg
The 2016 Chevrolet Volt has a plug-in hybrid system consisting of twin electric motors (149 horsepower) and a 1.5-liter gasoline engine/generator. The electric motors are powered by a rechargeable 18.4 kWh lithium-ion battery pack that is charged from the grid and can be partially recharged on the go from the gas engine/generator and regenerative braking. The gas engine kicks in when the battery pack's initial charge is depleted, working primarily as a generator to continue providing electricity. In some situations, such as accelerating with a depleted battery, passing and climbing steep hills, the gas engine also assists the electric motors to increase the Volt's performance.
In addition to standard Normal, Sport, Hold and Mountain drive modes, the 2016 Volt has a "Regen on Demand" paddle on the steering wheel. The feature, borrowed from the Cadillac ELR plug-in hybrid, allows the driver to adjust deceleration and the amount of regenerated braking energy that can be sent back to the battery pack.
Recharging the battery pack requires you to plug in to either a standard 120-volt outlet or a dedicated 240-volt charging station. Regenerative braking and excess power from the engine/generator also can help boost the battery charge when the Volt is in motion. It takes about 4.5 hours to recharge a fully depleted battery from a 240-volt power source or 13 hours from a 120-volt source.
We have not yet tested the 2016 Volt for real-world range, fuel economy and charging efficiency and will add that information when we do. In our road test of the 2016 Volt, we achieved 62 miles of all-electric driving on a fairly flat route. The EPA efficiency numbers for the 2016 Volt give it an estimated 53 miles of all-electric range, 42 mpg combined (43 city/42 highway) on gasoline and the equivalent of 102 mpg (MPGe) in combined gas and electric operation in normal driving. Longer trips without periodic battery charging will dramatically reduce MPGe. The 2016 Volt should deliver 420 miles of range on a full battery and a full tank of gas.
Standard safety features on the 2016 Volt include antilock braking, traction and stability control, driver and front passenger knee airbags, front and rear seat side-impact airbags and front and rear side curtain airbags. Also standard is the OnStar emergency communications system, which includes automatic crash notification, an emergency assistance button, remote door unlock and stolen vehicle assistance, and a pedestrian safety signal that alerts pedestrians when the car is approaching in silent all-electric mode or is stopped at a crosswalk.
Available on the Premier trim are lane departure warning, lane departure intervention, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision warning and forward collision mitigation with automatic braking.
The 2016 Volt's new hybrid powertrain retains all the low-end power of the original and, according to Chevrolet, is almost a half-second quicker to 60 mph from a dead stop. That would put it in the mid-8-second range, which is quite good for a plug-in hybrid. Around town, it feels responsive and quick, and it tackles rough roads with admirable smoothness. It's also quiet. There's still the bliss of all-electric mode, but wind and road noise are less than before, and the gas engine's operation is less obvious. At a moderate pace, it also feels fairly sporty around turns.
In addition to updating the 2016 Volt's exterior design, Chevrolet took care to improve the interior as well. It is more upscale than the previous model's, with two-tone color schemes, easy-to-use audio and climate controls and a pair of 8-inch information screens. On the downside, there is still a fair amount of hard plastic inside, detracting somewhat from the interior's otherwise excellent fit and finish.
The Volt's interior gets a rich new look for 2016, with easier-to use infotainment controls and an 8-inch touchscreen.
Front seat comfort is fine, but the lack of a power-adjustable driver seat and a cramped backseat that lacks both headroom and legroom is a drawback, especially for a car in this price range. The new Volt can claim to seat three people, unlike the previous-generation Volt, which had just two spots. The battery pack still takes up space underneath, though, so it's more of an emergency-use perch than a truly useful seat.
Farther back, the Volt's hatchback design makes for easy loading and unloading. The luggage area has 10.6 cubic feet of space with the rear seats up, more than you'll get in a Ford Fusion Energi but only about half of what hatchback competitors like the Ford C-Max Energi and Toyota Prius plug-in provide.