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2016 Chevrolet Volt: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader January 2016

The 2016 Chevrolet Volt is a 5-door hatchback with a plug-in hybrid drivetrain -- but you probably already knew that. What you may not have known is that the Volt is fully redesigned for 2016, boasting a long list of new features, new interior and exterior styling, and some crucial updates under the hood that allow the hatchback to travel farther than its predecessor under fully electric power.

Are the changes successful? We certainly think so. Not only does the new styling modernize the Volt, but the latest interior adds more passenger room and a third seat in back, which was a constant gripe about last year's model. The new features see the Volt remain on the cutting edge, while powertrain updates help the Volt reach an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-rated 53 miles on electric power alone -- an increase of more than 30 percent compared to the outgoing model and a figure many drivers will have no trouble beating.

Oh, sure, the Volt is still pricy for what you get, but federal and local tax incentives -- combined with constant special offers from Chevrolet -- ensure its pricing remains fairly reasonable. If you're looking to go green, the latest Volt is a great way to do it.

What's New for 2016?

The Volt is fully redesigned for 2016, boasting a new look, additional interior room and seating capacity, a revised interior, updated features and an improved powertrain that allows drivers to travel a greater distance using electric power alone.

What We Like

Zero-emissions potential; excellent range; low fuel cost; nice amenities; modern styling

What We Don't

Pricy; poor rear visibility

How Much?

$34,000-$38,300

Fuel Economy

The 2016 Chevrolet Volt is propelled by a 149-horsepower 1.5-liter 4-cylinder -- just like its predecessor. But tweaks to the Volt's powertrain, including a larger battery, mean the Volt can now travel an EPA-rated 53 miles on a single charge before the range-extending gasoline engine kicks in. That's a big increase over last year's model, which offered only a 38-mile range. As for charge times, Chevy says it takes about 4.5 hours to recharge a Volt using a 240-volt outlet, or 13 hours with a standard household plug.

If you're interested in the actual fuel economy figures, the EPA says the Volt's combined city and highway driving figure is 102 miles per gallon equivalent (mpge) -- the agency's rating system for plug-in hybrids and electric cars. Once the electric motor has shut off, the gasoline engine alone returns an impressive 43 mpg in the city and 42 mpg on the highway.

Standard Features & Options

The Volt is offered in two trim levels: a base-level model dubbed the LT and a high-end version called the Premier.

The LT ($34,000) is generously equipped, offering a remote starter, a backup camera, keyless access with push-button starting, LED headlights, an 8-inch center touchscreen with Chevy's MyLink app interface, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, 17-in alloy wheels, automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, two USB ports for music, OnStar with 4G LTE Wi-Fi connectivity, satellite radio and Apple CarPlay compatibility for iPhone users.

The Premier ($38,300) offers even more features, including leather upholstery, auto-dimming mirrors, heated front and rear seats, a heated steering wheel, heated mirrors, a Bose sound system, an automated parking system for both parallel and perpendicular parking spaces and a wireless charging pad for mobile devices.

Options on the Volt LT include several features that come standard in the Premier (leather upholstery, heated seats, a heated steering wheel and the Bose sound system), while the Premier offers two available Driver Confidence packages. One touts a blind spot monitoring system, lane-departure warning and rear cross-traffic alert, while the other offers those features plus adaptive headlights, lane-keep assist and forward-collision warning with automatic braking. The Premier also offers a navigation system.

Safety

The Volt offers everything you'd expect as standard equipment, including a backup camera, side-curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes and traction and stability control. GM's OnStar system, which boasts automatic crash notification and stolen-vehicle assistance, is also standard. Options run the gamut from adaptive headlights and lane-keep assist to an automated parallel-parking system, forward-collision alert with automatic braking, a blind spot monitoring system, lane-departure warning and rear cross-traffic alert.

At the time of this review, the Volt had not yet been crash-tested by the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). We have high hopes, however, as last year's Volt earned a Top Safety Pick score from IIHS and a 5-star overall rating from NHTSA.

Behind the Wheel

If you've driven the outgoing version of the Chevrolet Volt, we suspect you'll find it very similar to this model. That's because the latest Volt offers the same general size, shape and driving dynamics as its predecessor, and it even retains the same powertrain. The only differences we've found are a roomier cabin, slightly better acceleration and a little more composure through the turns.

If you've never driven a Volt, you'll be immediately surprised by just how quiet the hatchback is. The electric motor makes no noise, meaning the only sounds you'll hear are rushing wind and tire noise on the pavement. The Volt's ride is compliant -- not firm but not cushy -- while handling is merely average, offering a predictable feel but very little gusto or excitement. That isn't necessarily a drawback that's unique to the Volt, however, as few rivals (including gas-powered models) tout especially involved driving dynamics. The same can be said for acceleration, which is adequate but little more. The Volt offers excellent interior room, especially for rear passengers.

When you're behind the wheel of the Volt, we suspect the only real drawback you'll find is visibility. Owing to the car's aerodynamic styling, visibility isn't especially good, especially out the rear, which has thick pillars. Even in front, however, you can lose pedestrians and even other vehicles in the Volt's large A-pillars.

Other Cars to Consider

2016 Ford C-MAX Energi -- The plug-in hybrid C-MAX Energi is a hatchback with an amazing 550-mile range. Its fully electric range is only 21 miles, though, and it doesn't have the Volt's level of cutting-edge technology.

2016 Nissan Leaf -- As the first mass-produced pure electric car for the U.S., the Leaf delivers a range of about 80 miles with zero tailpipe emissions. But with that comes a lot of range anxiety: The Leaf doesn't come close to the Volt's 420-mile cruising range, and the Volt's dynamics are skewed in a sportier direction.

2016 Toyota Prius Plug-in -- The Prius Plug-in offers only one third of the Volt's all-electric range. But operating as a normal hybrid, its fuel economy is about 35 percent higher than the Volt's output in gas-generator mode. The Prius is also a little less expensive and offers quite a bit more cargo space. If you want a Prius Plug-in, you'll have to act fast, as a new model is on its way that won't offer plug-in technology -- at least not yet.

Used Tesla Model S -- The Tesla Model S is a high-tech, upscale fully electric luxury sedan that offers an impressive range of well over 250 miles. Prices are high, though, so you may want to consider a used model.

Autotrader's Advice

We'd go with the pricy Volt Premier, and we'd add the top-level Driver Confidence package. It may be expensive, but tax rebates will soften the blow, and you'll be able to enjoy the best of both worlds: lots of features and lots of fuel efficiency.

Find a Chevrolet Volt for sale

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Used 2016 Chevrolet Volt Premier
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Used 2016 Chevrolet Volt LT
Used 2016 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.
2016 Chevrolet Volt: New Car Review - Autotrader