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DETROIT AUTO SHOW

Big strides in 2016 Chevrolet Volt aren’t electric breakthroughs

Attention has been paid to details that will make new Volt more livable

Last updated: January 14, 2015 08:00 AM

Electric-car aficionados have been eagerly awaiting big breakthroughs in the second-generation Chevrolet Volt, and they won’t be disappointed. But the advances may not be the ones fuel-economy enthusiasts were looking for.

Sure, the 2016 Volt has a little more range than the outgoing model—GM claims a 20-percent bump, from 40 miles to 50 miles. We got 35 miles from the Volt we tested, so figure the new one may achieve around 40 real-world miles on electricity.

It also gets more energy-generation power, with the engine output climbing from 84 hp to 101 hp. Displacement also grew incrementally, from 1.4 to 1.5 liters. The electric drive remains at 149 hp. Shaving about 250 lbs. off the curb weight should help both performance and efficiency. Plus, the gas engine no longer requires premium fuel.

But none of those are the biggest breakthroughs. In our own testing, the Volt mostly performed impressively, with silent, smooth electric power and acceleration better than a Toyota Prius. Where it fell down was in the everyday details that made it hard to live with: the jumble of indecipherable and unresponsive capacitive touch buttons, the rear seat cramped into near uselessness, and the total lack of a center rear seat where you could install a child seat.

Those are the things this Volt has fixed: The 2016 Volt has dedicated hard buttons and knobs for climate controls. The battery still sits under the center of the second row and robs any semblance of place to put a passenger’s legs there. But at least it has a thin cushion and a center belt where you can install a child seat. And yes, you can use the middle LATCH anchors for the outboard seats to cinch down a child seat more easily.

The storage compartment for the 110-volt charger is now conveniently in the side wall of the cargo area.

It’s these little elements that let the old Volt down, along with its premium fuel requirement and middling mileage when running on gas. We’re happy to see these things fixed and hope it will allow more people to enjoy the Volt’s all-electric commuting.

Eric Evarts

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