The 2016 Chevrolet Volt is quicker, quieter, more fuel-efficient and goes farther — up to 53 miles — on all-electric power than its predecessor.
The new gasoline-engine and electric-powered Volt also is restyled with a more mainstream look and has new features, such as options that let the car start charging only when off-peak electric rates apply. Plus, Chevy cut the Volt's price yet again — $1,115 less than 2015 version.
The starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including delivery charge, for a 2016 Volt 1LT five-door hatchback is $33,995, about 17 percent lower than when the Volt debuted in 2011 for more than $40,000.
U.S. sales of the Volt have nearly doubled in the first seven months of 2016 compared with this time last year. And the 2016 Volt pricing neither takes into account a federal tax credit of up to $7,500 nor state rebates of up to $1,500 in locations like California.
The base Volt comes with a good amount of standard equipment including rear-vision camera, LED low-beam headlights, LED taillights, 8-inch touchscreen display, six-speaker audio system, keyless access, push-button start, remote vehicle start, 10 air bags and 17-inch wheels.
It's a recommended buy of Consumer Reports magazine, which predicts reliability to be "good," and earned five out of five stars for occupant protection in U.S. government frontal and side crash tests.
Let's talk range: The test vehicle went nearly 50 miles on electric power before switching to the onboard gasoline, four-cylinder engine. The first-generation Volt — a 2013 model — went an average of 30 miles on electric power.
The upgraded engine, a 1.5-liter, double overhead cam four cylinder, generates 101 horsepower, up from 84 horsepower in the previous four cylinder. It also is better at sipping gasoline, though the dashboard gauges focus on the "mpg-equivalent" rather than breaking down all-electric mileage and mpg separately.
Note that the Volt fuel tank is small, holding just 8.9 gallons, down from 9.3 gallons in the 2015 Volt. But, the new engine requires only regular gas, not the premium of the previous engine.
Chevrolet makes the plug-in charging easier now, too. The owner can program the car so it waits to charge at home (thanks to GPS locator) until the power company has off-peak utility rates. All a driver has to do is plug in the car to either a standard 120-volt home outlet or a 240-volt fast-charger. The car states the end time when full charge will be achieved; for example, the Volt tester needed less than three hours at a fast charger to reach full charge, but needed nearly 12 hours with a 120-volt charger.
The new, lighter-weight Volt is quicker than its predecessor — from 0 to 30 mph in 2.6 seconds and from standstill to 60 mph in 8.4 seconds. It feels like a regular car except it's quieter in both the all-electric and four-cylinder modes.
The 10 airbags are more than many other cars because both front passenger and driver have knee bags, which help keep passengers properly upright during a frontal crash.
The 2015 Volt was a four-seater. The 2016 has five seats but it's a tight squeeze for three adults in the back. Back-seat headroom shrunk to 35.8 inches while legroom is up about a half inch. Trunk space remains at 10.6 cubic feet but can expand when rear seatbacks are folded down.