If there are two themes circulating around the automotive world to start 2015, it’s that things things are going autonomous, and things are going electric. For one already-established player in the hybrid-electric segment, this year means that it’s time to get hyped about a significant retooling and redesign.
For the 2016 Chevrolet Volt overhaul, GM evidently went back to the drawing board. The first-generation Volt suffered from some serious issues: Specifically, it was way too expensive, only had seating for four people, and had a different look that evidently didn’t resonate with many consumers. That, coupled with some other gripes, left Chevy and its Volt on a second-tier in the hybrid and EV arms race. With the new Volt, however, it seems that the company is taking a serious swing at reinventing its leading hybrid sedan.
“The 2016 Chevrolet Volt provides our owners with a no-compromise electric driving experience,” said Alan Batey, president of GM North America. “We believe our engineering prowess combined with data from thousands of customers allows us to deliver the most capable plug-in vehicle in the industry.”
We had an idea of what to expect when the new Volt was finally unveiled, but now everything is confirmed: It will be 12% more efficient and 100 pounds lighter than its predecessor.
The two-motor design will allow for 19% more power and 7% better acceleration, going from zero to 30 miles per hour in 2.6 seconds, and to 60 miles per hour in 8.4 seconds. Overall, the Volt’s range will allow for trips of over 400 miles between fill-ups (up from 380), with an electric-only range of 50 miles, using a second-generation Voltec propulsion system. The drivetrain will also be able to deliver 294 pound-feet of torque and 149 horsepower using the new 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine — which is slightly bigger than the current Volt’s 1.4-liter four-cylinder.
“Volt owners complete more than 80% of their trips without using a drop of gasoline and they tell us they love the electric driving experience,” said Andrew Farah, the vehicle’s chief engineer. “Putting that experience at the center of the new Voltec system’s development helped us improve range, while also making the new Volt more fun to drive. We established a precedent when the original Voltec propulsion system debuted and this newest iteration sets the EV technology bar even higher.”
A major issue among many consumers was the fact that the first-gen Volt could only seat four, putting it at a disadvantage among its rivals. Previously, the car could only fit four due to the way the battery pack was engineered. With the rehashed model, the battery has been re-situated and re-engineered, allowing not only for better performance, but also for additional design enhancements, like an extra seat.
Aside from the mechanical and interior differences between the old and new Volt, the biggest difference is in the obvious external redesign that has resulted in a sleeker aesthetic. The result? A vehicle that seems to resemble a Honda Civic more so than the first-generation Volt. What truly makes the Volt’s redesign significant is that it marks the first time a major plug-in hybrid vehicle has undergone a serious facelift, as Autoblog points out.
In all, the new Volt looks much more likely to put up a serious threat to other competitors in its segment — at least much more so than the first-generation Volt did. The car is becoming lighter and sexier, and the performance has been augmented as well. But perhaps the most important aspect that will make the Volt a more viable option for consumers is the price. We’ve already seen Chevy lower the current Volt’s price by a significant amount to make it more competitive, and it was obvious that that was holding it back.
The new Volt’s asking price? It’s expected to retail for around $10,000 less than the original, putting it in the $25,000 range, though word has not come down from official channels. This would make a good deal of sense, and put the Volt right into the ring with rivals like the Toyota Prius, which costs roughly $24,000, and the Honda Accord Hybrid, which costs $29,300.
With a new design, drivetrain, interior, and flashy new price point, it’s clear Chevy really wants to hit a home run with the second-generation Volt. In 2014, the car’s sales suffered an 18.6% drop-off from 2013, as dealers were only able to move around 18,800 models from their lots. That’s a trend that will need to turn around, otherwise the Volt may find itself following models like the Cobalt and TrailBlazer out the door.