It’s good to see General Motors not treating one of their coolest vehicles as just a flash in the pan. When it debuted in model year 2011, the Chevy Volt was revolutionary. It was the brainchild of automotive legend Bob Lutz. The Volt was his pet project and one of his last big stamps he left on General Motors. Like other electric cars however, there was concern that the Volt would fizzle out, especially after sparse sales.

Now here we are, despite continued light sales figures and Bob Lutz long since gone from GM, and the Volt is now in its second generation. Who knew?

This second generation is widely better than the first. With improved looks, improved electric and overall drive range and room for one extra passenger, the Volt is proudly part of the bowtie family.

Exterior

2016-Chevrolet-Volt-036The Volt’s look are now more mainstream, and less quirky. It’s always been an annoyance of mine that electric vehicles and all hybrids had to look “hybridy”. Gone are some of the odd exterior touches from the first generation Volt and in now is a handsome sleek exterior. This compact sedan blends well into the Chevy family and is no longer the oddball. The grille still has that beaked point accented with a solid metal grille (since it doesn’t need as much air intake for the engine). It is still clearly a Volt, but certainly looks more contemporary, and timeless. This second gen Volt could be the one that all future Volts get compared to, it’s that good.

From the squinty head lamps to the sleek hood, to the indented side panels, the fit and finish of the Volt 2.0 is dramatically better. The sloping C-pillar tops it all off, yielding to a hatchback trunk that opens high and wide. There’s 10.6 cubic feet of cargo room in the back, which is great for a compact vehicle.

Powertrain

One of the newest improvements to the Volt is in the powertrain which is lighter and more efficient. The plug-in hybrid system has a 149-horsepower electric motor and a 1.5-liter gasoline engine. The range of the Volt goes from a mere 35 miles (previous generation) to 53 miles thanks to the new powertrain. The electric motor is rechargeable by plugging in to any standard 120 or 240 outlet. I charged up the Volt on a 12-hour charge in my garage on a designated 110 outlet and only managed to achieve a 29-mile charge. I never saw the full 53-mile charge. And, on of the biggest flaws of this new Volt is it’s equipped for fast charging. So you have to be patient to achieve maximum charge of the electric motor.

Fuel Economy

2016-Chevrolet-Volt-040However, there is no range anxiety with the Volt as when it does lose electric charge, it switches seamlessly over to the 1.5-liter gasoline engine. This engine has a fuel economy rating of 42.

In a week’s worth of driving between the electric and gasoline engine, I averaged 52 mpg. Another cool new feature of this year’s Volt is the Regen on Demand which allows the driver with the push of a button (on the steering wheel) to adjust deceleration and the amount of energy regenerated from the braking system that will be sent back to the lithium ion battery pack. You can actually pick up several miles of pure electric driving with this feature, if you master it.

The Volt doesn’t drive like a hybrid. It has enough power where it doesn’t feel puny, and it’s perfectly good at highway speeds, exceeding other hybrid vehicles in performance. It’s whisper quiet both in electric and gasoline mode.

Interior

2016-Chevrolet-Volt-022Inside, there are significant upgrades to the Volt. First, Chevy claims that the Volt now is a five-passenger vehicle. Let’s clear the waters on this claim. While the previous generation Volt was definitely just a four-seat vehicle, the 2016 Volt does technically have a fifth spot for a passenger. However, it’s more of a jumper seat, sitting right over where the battery pack is located and would only be suited for children. In fact, the overall back seat is still small and most adults would lack leg room and comfort.

The overall materials are much improved. The 2016 Volt looks and feels more luxurious. Softer materials are used on the dashboard, and what hard plastic materials are still used are better disguised. There’s a two-tone theme for the interior that is absolutely gorgeous. This also adds to the overall luxurious vibe of the Volt. The biggest drawback was lack of power adjustable seats, even for the driver. For a vehicle with a $30,000+ price tag, I expect power adjustable seats with memory settings.

GM adds the MyLink infotainment system which is one of my favorites. It’s intuitive and integrates with smart phones. Apple Car Play works well with the Volt’s built-in WIFI and the IPhone.

Trims / Price

There are two trims for the Volt, the LT and the Premier. My tester was the Premier, which comes with heated seats, a wireless charging pad (which confounded me and never seemed to work for me) and a parking assist feature. Standard price for the Volt Premier is $37,520. My tester also came with the driver confidence package which includes blind spot monitors, lane departure warning and cross traffic alert. Other added features include forward collision warning, intelligent head lamps, automatic low speed braking and lane keep assist. All totaled, my tester had a final MSRP of $39,850.

That’s always been one issue with the Volt, and why it’s not a huge seller. The cost to own versus the savings at the pump aren’t always cost effective. Thankfully, the second generation Volt now has better range, an even better engine, and sexy new looks. So there’s huge improvement on this revolutionary hatchback. Keep up the good work GM!

Specs

2016 Chevy Volt Premier

Price/As tested price………………………… $37,520/$39,850

Mileage…………………………………… 42 mpg (average for gasoline engine)

Engine……………………………………… 1.5-liter gasoline engine and 18.4 kWh electric drive engine

Horsepower……………………………  149 hp/294 lbs./ft.

Transmission……………………………5ET40 Electrified

Drive Wheels………………………….. Front-wheel drive

Final Assembly Point……………………. Hamtramck, MI

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Jimmy Dinsmore

For several years Jimmy Dinsmore has reviewed new vehicles, offering up a unique look and an interesting voice in his weekly column. Jimmy looks at vehicles from the consumer’s point of view. Light on the technical jargon, and lacking the cynicism that pervades many other auto reviews, Driver’s Side treats each vehicle fairly, offering a light-hearted take. Email him at - jimmydinsmore@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter @driversside.

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