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2015 vs. 2016 Chevrolet Volt: What's the Difference?

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author photo by Doug DeMuro December 2015

It might seem hard to believe, but the Chevrolet Volt is now entering its second generation. Featuring new styling, new equipment and important powertrain updates, the 2016 Chevrolet Volt makes some serious changes compared to the outgoing model. But what exactly are these changes? And are they worth paying a premium over a certified pre-owned version of the outgoing Volt? We've created a close comparison between the latest Volt and the outgoing model in order to answer those questions.

Exterior

Although the Volt's latest interior design isn't dramatically different from its previous look, the hatchback still makes some major changes compared to the outgoing model. Specifically, the Volt's look is smoothed and modernized, with a completely new front-end and rear-end design, along with more aggressive lines down the sides. To our eyes, the new Volt looks more normal. We kind of miss the funky look of the original, but we suspect only enthusiasts will agree. For the average consumer, the new look will likely be more pleasing. Only the Volt's overall profile has stayed largely intact -- almost undoubtedly in order to preserve the car's excellent aerodynamics, which allows it to boast such impressive efficiency.

Interior

The Volt's interior has changed a lot more than its exterior. One major upgrade: The Volt is no longer stuck with only four seats, as the 2016 model now offers a full rear bench, which improves the hatchback's seating capacity to five. Even so, the middle passenger is stuck straddling a console that houses two cupholders and the buttons for the optional rear seat warmers.

But it isn't just seating capacity where the Volt has received an interior upgrade. The 5-door hatchback also touts a completely restyled cabin with a totally new steering wheel, gauge cluster, center control stack, shift lever and dashboard design. There's also more room, both in the front and in the back. Although we didn't mind the old Volt's interior, the new one seems like an upgrade in every possible area. Again, the new Volt looks a lot more normal, not so unlike a Honda Civic or Chevy Cruze. We prefer the glossy white plastic that made it look like an Apple device on wheels. Finally, we'd like to see a little more legroom in the rear seating area.

Mechanicals

Both the new Chevy Volt and the outgoing model offer the same general powertrain idea: a plug-in hybrid drivetrain with an electric motor that drives the car until it's depleted, at which point a range-extending gasoline engine kicks in. Both the outgoing Volt and the new model also offer a total of 149 horsepower.

But changes to the system for 2016 mean big improvements for the latest Volt. Specifically, the new model uses an 18.4-kWh battery pack instead of a 16-kWh battery pack, which is designed to improve the car's all-electric range. And indeed, it works: While the Environmental Protection Agency said the outgoing Volt could only get 38 miles on a single charge before the gasoline engine kicked in, the new model offers a 53-mile range -- and many drivers say they have no trouble beating that figure. Chevrolet says the new Volt has an increased EV range of up to 40 percent.

The downside, however, is that charge time has increased: The 2016 Volt now takes 4.5 hours to charge using a 240-volt outlet, whereas the outgoing model required only 3 hours to fully charge up. On a Level 1 120-volt charger, that time is 13 hours, assuming you need a full charge.

Features & Technology

Although the primary benefits of the 2016 Volt are the new interior, the revised exterior and the updated powertrain, that isn't where it stops: The latest model also offers a long list of new equipment and technology that you couldn't get in the outgoing model.

For example, the Volt now offers LED headlights, along with Apple CarPlay for iPhone users, a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, a wireless charging pad, an automated parking system, lane-keep assist, forward-collision alert with automatic braking and adaptive headlights -- all advantages over the outgoing model. As a result, we think gadget lovers will dramatically prefer the new Volt to the 2015 version.

Driving Experience

Generally speaking, we think the latest Volt drives a lot like the outgoing model. That makes sense, as the two vehicles share an hp rating, most powertrain characteristics and an overall size and shape. Chevrolet does say the latest Volt is a little quicker, largely due to an increase in low-end power and torque -- but if you're looking for a sports car, this obviously still isn't one. We do think the 2016 Volt is a little quieter on the road, and there seems to be more punch when accelerating versus the Nissan Leaf and Toyota Prius. Handling is improved, though: The Volt now feels a little tighter with a firmer ride. It's not a sports sedan, but the handling is a tiny bit more fun when rounding corners.

Safety

Because it's so new, the latest Volt has not yet been rated by the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. We expect it to achieve the same results as the outgoing model, however, which earned a perfect 5-star overall score. The nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has also not yet rated the Volt, though the outgoing model earned an excellent Top Safety Pick rating from the firm.

As for safety features, the new Volt touts a huge advantage over last year's model. Specifically, it offers lane-keep assist, forward-collision warning with automatic braking, LED headlights, adaptive headlights, rear cross-traffic alert and a blind spot monitoring system -- none of which you could get in the outgoing Volt.

While the new Volt likely doesn't offer any major improvements over the old one in terms of crashworthiness, it makes some major upgrades when it comes to safety features and gadgets.

Conclusions

In every sense, the 2016 Chevrolet Volt offers an improvement over last year's model. It has a more modern exterior design, an improved interior, increased seating capacity, a longer range, a lot of new technology and features, and more safety equipment. As a result, we highly recommend the 2016 Volt over its predecessor, as it's better in every single way -- unless you've found a deal on the outgoing model that's just too good to pass up.

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Used 2015 Chevrolet Volt
Used 2015 Chevrolet Volt
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Used 2015 Chevrolet Volt
Used 2015 Chevrolet Volt
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Used 2015 Chevrolet Volt Premium
Used 2015 Chevrolet Volt
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2015 vs. 2016 Chevrolet Volt: What's the Difference? - Autotrader