The Wait is Over for the 2016 Chevrolet Volt Plug-In Hybrid

Written By: EightySix

Edited By: Assen Gueorguiev

Chevy Volt 2016 Plug-in hybrid - Detroit Auto show 2015

This week at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show, Chevrolet stopped teasing and finally delivered the 2016 Volt. Since August, Chevy has been throwing morsels to the hungry public: a peeled-back curtain showing the nose, a snap-shot of the tail end or a blurb about the improved power-train.

Owners and critics had a wish list of improvements. Primarily, the "three fives": 5 seats, 50 mile range and 50 MPG. Would they be satisfied with the new Volt?

Room For Five

The back seat on the previous Volt was bisected by a large hump. It wasn't caused by a drive-line, like on an old-fashioned front-engine rear-wheel drive. It was the giant T-shaped battery running behind and between the back seats. LG Chem, the new battery supplier, improved the capacity from 17.1 kWh to 18.4 while lowering the weight by over 20 pounds.

Smaller battery means lower hump, enabling a fifth seat. It's not big and the passenger in the middle will need to put one foot on either side, but three kids without car seats will fit perfectly back there. When the middle seat is not in use, an armrest folds down for the other passengers. The new battery also lowers the center of gravity for more stable handling.

Increased Range

Because of the improved battery and more efficient two-motor electric system, electric range has improved from 38 to 50 miles, which is way ahead of any other PHEV. It also puts it not far behind the all-electric Mitsubishi i-MiEV and Smart ForTwo Electric Drive, which have no gasoline range-extenders. 

Performance has also improved. 0-30 speed has increased 19% to 2.6 seconds. 0-60 is up 7% to 8.4 seconds. The electric motor system is 100 pounds lighter. The range-extender is now a 1.5 liter 4-cylinder. A "Regen On Demand" function allows the driver to control regenerative braking with a paddle on the steering wheel. The balance between regenerative braking and standard braking now feels more natural.

But Not Quite 50 MPG

The EPA has not yet produced a number, but GM estimates the gas-only MPG to be a respectable 41. That's an improvement on the previous 37 and a bit closer to the 50 of a Prius. The Prius plug-in hybrid can only manage 11 electric miles. Some owners of earlier Volt models routinely report going 1000 miles between gas fill-ups. That number will now be going up.

Chevy Volt 2016 - Exterior and Interior

Much to Love

Chevrolet delivered a lot of what the public wanted. The body that was kept under wraps for so long is sleeker. Design cues were taken from the Corvette. GM said it was inspired by the bodies of athletes and wind-swept sand. The shape was refined in a wind tunnel and is more aerodynamic. Active grille shutters improve air flow.

An additional eight-inch screen joins the previous dual displays. All the controls are fully customizable to create a personal dashboard layout.

Chevy improved the charging in multiple ways. A new portable 120 colt cord is conveniently located in the rear cargo area. The charging system is now programmable and GPS enabled. It knows when you're home and will charge based on your preferences. You can set charge times to coincide with your schedule or off-peak rates. A charge indicator is now mounted on the dash so owners can check the status by peeking through the windshield.

When Can You Get One?

The 2016 Volt is expected to go on sale in the second half of 2015. The price could be under $30,000, which would be a $5000 chop off the 2015 tag. That price would be in line with Nissan Leaf and Ford Focus Electric, neither of which can yet touch that 50 mile range. However Chevrolet could be quoting the price after incentives. Elon Musk just announced the Model 3 would sell for $35,000 before incentives when it is released in about a year.

Will Chevy's efforts match up with the high performance and high tech of a Tesla?