2016 Chevy Volt (2nd Gen) v.s. 1st Gen Chevy Volt
In December of 2010, I lined up to buy one of the first Chevrolet Volt’s produced in the world. Two questions often come to me. 1.) How do you like it? And 2.) Would you recommend purchasing a Volt? The answer to the first was always the same. Love the car. It is perfect for me. To the second however, the answer was not always so clear.
While the 1st generation Chevy Volt was the perfect car for me at the time, there were a variety of things that could be a hurdle to happy Volt ownership to the broader buying public. The very good news with the 2016 Chevy Volt (2nd Gen) is that many of those things have been addressed and it is a car that is ready for the mainstream.
The Hard Numbers
We’ll start with the hard numbers – the easy to compare quantitative stuff. Some important refinements contribute to more of the stuff everyone will want.
1.) More electric range: The official estimated EV range is 50 miles (up from 38 miles in the earliest first generation cars). On my drive through rolling hills, I got 58 miles pretty easily without trying. This makes me believe the 50 miles number as being very ac
hievable in normal highway driving (which usually runs down the battery faster than the moderate speeds that I was driving due to the wind resistance) The extra range was very noticeable. It took me a LONG time to run down the battery. Based on previous Volt driver’s numbers, it should increase the number of trips you can take all electric from 80% to 90%. This is very believable.
2.) Higher gas efficiency when running on extended range (gas) mode. The reported numbers are 42 mpg. In my driving, (not trying to drive any special way) I got just over 42. This is a real world number. When I drove my 1st gen Volt, I would typically only get 38 miles per gallon. Realistically, this is more of a mental feel good than a practical difference for me. (40 feels like a lot more than 30) but I drive so little in gas mode anyways I don’t notice. One nice thing now though is you can now use regular unleaded vs. premium. It will make filling up the Volt feel even lighter on your wallet.
3.) Less weight: The car now weighs 200 pounds less. (3500 v.s. 3700 lbs) While the average driver may not notice, the reduced weight really comes through in two ways. While the 1st generation Volt “felt” noticeably heavier to drive, the 2nd gen Volt feels like driving a normal sedan. It’s easier to maneuver, feels more composed and just feels more like driving a regular car.
The Finer Details
Beyond what’s just on the spec sheet, driving the 2nd generation Volt just felt different to drive. All and all it had the hallmarks of a contemporary car, ready for anyone (even if you aren’t super comfortable with new technology) to hop in and enjoy.
1.) My favorite little detail: The “cell phone slot”. I don’t know why no one else has though of this. For years, I’ve been putting my cell phone in the cupholder or inside the center storage. The problem with center storage is that you keep forgetting your phone in the car. The problem with the cupholder, is well: It doesn’t really hold the phone in any practical way. The slot allows me to fit my iphone 6 plus easily in there and leaves room to plug the data cable to it.
2.) The cabin is much quieter: So quiet that I can hear my watch “tick” while driving 30-40 mph. The noise reduction comes from a quieter set of tires (the noisy Goodyears are gone) as well as a quieter electric drive train. (Less electric motor whining) And no more brake vacuum booster accumulating! (it’s now on-demand brake booster so no more strange pumping noises) All this without a ton more weight in sound deadening. Also, notable is when running in gas mode, the engine is much less intrusive. (They have a specially designed 1.5 liter engine now that doesn’t need to rev as high to do the same work)
3.) The visibility of the car is much better. You can now see through the A pillar much better. With the original Volt there were more “blind” spots that you had to look around. The pillars are now smaller, more compact and out of the way and sitting in the Volt feels upright and comfortable.
4.) The charging cord is much smaller, more manageable, and you don’t need to unload your whole trunk to get to it!
5.) The infotainment system is snappy, clean, and intuitive. Nothing special in here compared to other cars but it works and has Apple Carplay. The old system was a little laggy and sometimes clunky. The new version with a combination of touchscreen and physical buttons and knobs are just intuitive. It doesn’t scream “special concierge service” it’s selling point is how little you notice it. You don’t need to read any manuals to figure it out.
Everything about the new Volt just makes more sense. It really is better in every way. Whereas the first gen Volt had some odd quirks that you could live with, the new one feels comfortable with what it is. It is comfortable, straightforward, and accessible to all. Take a look at it, even if you’ve never thought about an EV before and you will find yourself in very familiar and comfortable car.