Op-Ed: Is 2016 Chevrolet Volt A Threat To BMW i3?

JAN 13 2015 BY STAFF 66

2016 Chevrolet Volt - Image Credit: Tom Moloughney

2016 Chevrolet Volt – Image Credit: Tom Moloughney/InsideEVs

2016 Chevrolet Volt - Image Credit: Tom Moloughney

2016 Chevrolet Volt – Image Credit: Tom Moloughney/InsideEVs

Yes, they are radically different in terms of design, but they’re mission is essentially the same.

So, does the new, redesigned Volt pose a legitimate threat to the life and sales of the BMW i3 whose starting price is believed to be $6,000 higher?

On the surface, the new Volt is the same as the old Volt, as Roger Daltrey would say. It uses the same basic dish of a small four-cylinder engine powering a small electric motor to power the front wheels.

However, the recipe has changed.

*Editor’s Note: Here is an opinion on the new 2016 Volt vs the BMW i3 from outside our “virtual walls” via the eyes of BMWBLOG by Nico Demattia.  Check out the post here.

What the new Volt has is two electric motors, instead of one, to run either individually or simultaneously depending on the driver’s needs. The gas engine has also changed from a 1.4 liter four-cylinder to a 1.5 liter Atkinson-Cycle, Eco-tech four-cylinder. The engine’s peak horsepower is 101 horsepower and the two electric motors combine to make 149 horsepower. That’s 250 horsepower combined for both the electric motors and the gas engine. That’s 70 more than you get in an i3. However, the 0-60 time for the Volt is rated at 8.4 seconds which is over a second slower than the i3’s 7.2 claimed time. Considering the i3 weighs about 700 lbs less than the Volt, at 3,550, that’s not too surprising.

BMW i3 - Image Credit: Tom Moloughney

BMW i3 – Image Credit: Tom Moloughney/InsideEVs

Next comes the styling of the Volt, which has been dramatically improved. The old Volt was quite repugnant. It has all the wrong lines and shapes and just didn’t seem like a cohesive design. It looked messy and ungainly. This new Volt, however, isn’t so bad. It’s still not pretty, but looks better than before. The interior has also received an improvement, though it looks pretty standard Chevy in there and doesn’t have any real points of interest. The i3 absolutely wins in the styling department, both inside and out. The i3 isn’t a particularly pretty car either, but it definitely looks like nothing else on the road and catches the eye of anyone with the ability to see. The interior of the i3 is also unlike anything I’ve ever seen, with exposed Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic and the funky wood and cloth.

Obviously, Chevy usually doesn’t compete with BMW, but since there are so few EV cars out there, the Volt competes with the i3 by default. I haven’t driven the new Volt, as no one has yet, but I have driven the i3 and it’s spectacular. I see almost no way the Volt could be a better car than the i3, but I fear it sells better due to its lower price and further range. A shame, really, if people will be put off by the i3 over a few thousand dollars. The i3 will hold its value far longer than the Volt as there is nothing else even remotely like it and there aren’t many of them on the road. I’ve seen exactly two.

We will see just how good (or not good) the Volt is when it hits dealerships, but for now I’m pretty sure the i3 is safe. Let’s just hope that pricing doesn’t hurt it too much.

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66 Comments on "Op-Ed: Is 2016 Chevrolet Volt A Threat To BMW i3?"

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Stimpacker

Simply put, the i3 will be loved by DINK yuppies and the Volt will be loved by suburban family yuppies.

Suicide doors + little kids = No-No

Don’t think 0-60 times matter for these sort of EVs.

mustang_sallad

“I fear it sells better due to its lower price and further range” – I know this post is labled as an Op-Ed, but I find it silly for any post on this website to take such favour with one automaker over another to the point of “fearing” good sales of any one PEV. PEVs represent such a tiny slice of the overall vehicle market that any fan of electrification should applaud significant leaps forward that will increase the size of that slice, not fret over the idea of two PEV models in a fight to the death over the tiny existing slice.

liberty

Yep, better gen II volt grows the market, well in 2016, the promise might hurt plug-ins when protential buyers wait to see it.

i3 bev -> much faster than the volt, some purists will like it better

volt will grab much greater sales than the i3+rex. It probably has improved acceleration and range enough, and price is lower. i3+rex though will find buyers that like the look, acceleration, etc. Having more mind share for these erevs may help bmw sell more even as the volt increases market.

DonC

“Much faster”? The Volt seems quite a bit faster off the line:

i3 = 0-35 MPH @ 3.9 Seconds
V2 = 0-30 MPH @ 2.6 Seconds

liberty

woah, that doesn’t make much sense is gen 2 volt realy 2.6 seconds to 30 mph, that doesn’t make sense with 8.3 to 60mph.

car and driver tested i3+rex 0-30 2.9, 0-60 7.0. i3 b3v 2.7 sec and 6.5 seconds. Something is off if volt gen II beats the i3 bev to 30 by 0.1 seconds but loses to the i3-rex to 60 by 1.3 seconds.

DonC

Not really. There is quick and there is fast. The Volt 2.0 is seriously quick. Not all that far off the Model S or the i8. It’s just not fast.

You can see the difference between quick and fast when you compare the Volt 1.0 and the Leaf. The Leaf is pretty quick. Up to 30 MPH it’s close, but the Volt is a a second or two faster to 60 MPH.

Or perhaps more on point you can compare the Spark EV and the Volt 2.0. The Volt gets to 30 MPH in 2.6 seconds while the Spark is much slower at 3.2 seconds. But the Spark gets to 60 MPH in under 8 seconds while the Volt takes more than 8 seconds. Sort of the same situation as the i3.

Speculawyer

Well, perhaps the op-ed writer with ‘fear’ is a BMW shareholder? That’s the only logical reason I can see for ‘fear’ to be a logical response. (Either that or massive BMW fan-boyism.)

Stuart22

+100

Elmoll

The price different between a Rex i3 and the Volt will be $10k or more. The all electric range difference is now down to 22 miles.

It’s obvious that BMW went with a battery that is much too small. The car will be super outdated range-wise in 2 years.

I agree that the new Volt looks better.

bro1999

The Bolt EV I see as more of a threat to the i3 than the ’16 Volt. Unless BMW mid-cycle refreshes the i3 with a considerably larger battery, who would buy an i3 if a 200 mile Bolt was available for $37.5k? Even with the REx, the Bolt still would have the i3 covered on range!

Speculawyer

BMW might want to accelerate the schedule of that bigger battery option, IMHO.

ffbj

Possibly true but a speculation since the Bolt is not even in production and probably will not be for many years to come.
I think I would go with the VII mainly since it’s cheaper, has greater range, and looks better, in my staff’s opinion.

David Murray

Hmmm. I think both cars are great. If the price were the same, I’d probably prefer the BMW i3 Rex. I like the futuristic styling of the i3. I know some people don’t, but I do. Also the i3 is still faster than the new Volt. The i3 also has all around faster charging both because of the 7 Kw onboard as well as the DC fast charge port.

However.. since price DOES matter to me. I’d probably rather have the new Volt for that reason alone.

JakeY

I think you mean the i3 REx (I don’t see the non-REx being affected much) and the general idea of your article did come to my mind.

The final EPA results for the new Volt are not out yet, but regardless, the AER gap between the i3 REx and the Volt has shrunk significantly. And the engine in the Volt is far more capable (esp. given the efficiency bump and elimination of the premium fuel requirement). So yes, the 2016 Volt is a threat to the i3 REx in my book.

flmark

Appearance is a matter of personal choice. Both I and my wife couldn’t disagree with your more on your assessment of the Volt’s look. I showed her the new Bolt (which is not too dissimilar from the i3) and she nearly vomited and threatened me bodily harm if I was going to suggest we get one.

When I read the tagline of this article, I had no idea your subjective assessment of appearance would be so key to your conclusion. So I will give you another one. We have two 2012 Volts and have a loaner 2015 at the moment. I am confident that I could easily get well over 60 miles- probably near 70 of EV range with the 2016 Volt. With this number, it would be STUPID for me to think about going with a BEV that grossly limits my activities with relatives who live 100+ miles away from our homes. THIS is why the new Volt is a threat to the i3 (and that wimpy Rex, and TINY gas tank on the i3 is laughable as an alternative)

makeinu

Absolutely agree on the styling point. The BMW i3 is unforgivingly ugly to my eyes. Couple that with the questionable compromises to the drive train in the i3, and there’s no competition between the two.

Only someone swayed by the “Beemer” brand would choose the i3 over the Volt, especially the Gen 2 Volt.

Tesla Fan

we all have eyes and see the same thing

cars dont look any different

some people have good taste and most people dont

Gibber

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, that said I still can’t figure why GM styled the new Volt to look like a Honda Civic…

mike w

+1

Peder

Wonderful times! I see the Bolt being a bigger challenger to the i3 than the Volt mostly due to form factor.

As is the case in traditional cars, (BMW gas car vs. Chevy gas car) BMW carries a premium in price because of its performance, handling, luxury and status real or perceived.

Driving an i3 or i3 rex is a completely different experience performance and luxury wise.

The Bolt and how and if BMW responds in 2017 with increased range for the i3 will be the real challenger in my opinion.

Remi

i3 have 7 kWh and BRCC changer
i3 run only electric one demand

With ERDTT, volt will always been a forced ICE Engine

If you live in a climate below a to-be-determined temperature set point, then sometimes the Volt will use the engine.

If you want a car to never use its engine, I might suggest a car that doesn’t have one, instead of a Volt or an i3.

“I see almost no way the Volt could be a better car than the i3, but I fear it sells better due to its lower price and further range.”

Why would you “fear” that it sells better? Do you worry that the Chevy Cruze outsells the BMW 3-series too?

I guess I don’t understand the sentiment. A big reason why people will buy EV’s is because they’re affordable. And have a meaningful electric range. I don’t know why that is anything to fear.

Speculawyer

Well, I certainly wouldn’t buy the i3 with the new Volt available. It’s cheaper, looks better (my subjective view), gets full performance & range when powered by gasoline, seats 4+1, etc.

What’s the i3’s advantages? 20 more miles of electric range and the BMW badge for badge-hounds.

“What the new Volt has is two electric motors, instead of one, to run either individually or simultaneously depending on the driver’s needs.”

That’s not entirely true. The old Volt had two electric motors as well, it just didn’t use two at lower speeds. It sounds like the new Volt will use both at lower speeds as well in a new fifth mode of the transmission to increase sportiness off the line.

no comment
this op-ed contains so many nonsensical statements that it is difficult to take it seriously. the writer refers to the styling of the gen1 Volt as being “repugnant” and yet declares “the i3 absolutely wins in the styling department, both inside and out”. you would be hard pressed to find someone who agreed with this assessment if you surveyed of focus group made up of people in colorado who had just (somewhat legally) consumed marijuana. then he say that “on the surface” the new Volt is the same as the old Volt when clearly, “on the surface” the look very different. it is true that both the gen1 Volt and the gen2 Volt are PHEV’s but that’s because the Volt, as a matter of principle, is designed to fit the current driving patterns of the general public where the BMW i3 is intended as a special purpose car for metropolitan area use. ultimately, it appears that the point of this op-ed is to convince the reader that the BMW i3 is “spectacular” where there is “no way that the Volt could be better than the i3”. i get that this op-ed came from the bmwblog website. and i guess is… Read more »
vdiv

Exactly right!

InsideEVs does not need to reprint crap like this to generate web traffic.

mike w

This article was copied almost word for word out of a BMWblog-so a biased toward the i3 and away from the Volt is expected.

Nix

“I see almost no way the Volt could be a better car than the i3”

I like the i3 (and may end up owning one), but here are some situations where I would rather be in the Volt:

1) When the battery is down to 2-3% usable charge, and I try to pass a truck going uphill with the gas motor kicking in. The i3 can unpredictably become as slow as a slug with no warning. The Volt will always have predictable power (even if it is generally less than what the i3 would have if the i3 were providing full power). That issue is well documented on insideevs, so no need to go further.

2) With a sidewall blowout anywhere that towing to BMW dealership costs more than $100. BMW Roadside assistance: “[towing] costs will be compensated up to $100 per incident.” P215/55R/17 tires on the Volt are way easier to find than i3 tires.

I’m sure there are more, but those are just the two that instantly popped into my head when I read that part of this opinion piece.

MDEV

OMG the i3 wins with a better design? is one of the ugliest cars in today’s market, it looks like a toy. In fact the old Volt still has better design than the i3.

Gene Frenkle

I am disappointed in this Volt and will not be buying one. The way I see it I have $30-35k to spend on a car. The Accord and CRV exist and they are in the price range. One cannot rationalize the Volt being in the class of the Accord or CRV by any measure outside of the EV component. The Volt is even smaller than a Civic that tops out at $22k. If I was in the market for a Civic I would buy a Volt for $25k, but I am not in the market for a Civic. The lack of adaptive cruise control is the last straw and I am disappointed.

I think the comments by GM about the Volt being a regional car foreshadowed the situation and I hope it makes economic sense for people in certain states to buy the Volt and sales increase. I will be buying a CRV and waiting for the Tesla Model 3.

MTN Ranger

You’re in luck. If the rumored $29,999 price for the 2016 Volt is true, it will only be $22,499 after tax credit. I would consider that a bargain.

Speculawyer

You seem to be ignoring the $7500 tax-credit, any state incentives, and the cost advantage of driving on electricity.

You don’t “get it”.

Gene Frenkle

I stated that I would buy the Volt over the Civic if I lived in California. GM stated previously that this would be a regional vehicle and when they discuss the Bolt they mention the tax credit so that tells me they don’t expect Volt sales to increase that much because they still expect to have tax credits when the Bolt goes on sale.

Spider-Dan

You say that the Volt cannot compare to the Accord or CRV by any measure outside of the EV component. Isn’t this like saying that a Mercedes C-Class cannot compare with a Ford Mustang by any measure outside of luxury?

You say that you cannot consider the Volt because it does not offer adaptive cruise control. The Civic does not offer that feature at all, and the Accord and CR-V only offer that feature on trim levels (Touring) that will likely cost more than the Volt BEFORE rebates are applied. We are talking about a $8K-10K difference in price. That’s some very expensive adaptive cruise control!

Gene Frenkle

I was excited about the Volt and I have followed the development and it does not meet my expectations. I thought the backseat legroom and cargo space would be increased. I thought the 0-60 time would be in the 7s. I was fine with the 40 miles of range and the charger. I was willing to spend $35k for a model with adaptive cruise control and lane keep assist. I guess I had unrealistic expectations.

If I was younger without a family I would probably buy it but then I would probably be living in an apartment complex and plugging it in might be an issue.

Spider-Dan

The car you are looking for is the ELR 2.0 (or maybe the Buick version of Voltec). A Buick might be 35K after rebates; a Caddy won’t.

Mikael

Not the slightest bit of threat. They are not even playing in the same category.

wavelet

++
The Volt isn’t relevant for someone who needs/wants a 80mi +/- AER.

OTOH, assuming long-range trips do happen occasionally, the Volt can be a household’s only car; the i3 can’t, not until DC fast-charging networks are a lot denser.

Total rnge for the (REx) i3 at 150mi is very different from the Volt2’s (expected) 400mi.

I’ve been riding ICE motorcycles for years, virtually all of which have very limited range and require careful planning of fueling stops on longer trips. Range anxiety is a real thing, and many consumers are not likely to be willing to do advance planning of recharging stops. Driver education may change that in time, esp. if the TCO benefits significantly favor EVs, but not overnight.

franky_b
Disclaimer I own a BMW i3. The Volt is and will remain in direct competition with the BMW i3 REX. It was part of my short list when it came the time to pull the trigger. The Cadillac ELR was in the list as well. They are the only Range Extended car in the market, hence it is natural to compare. When it come to style, this is all relative and very subjective, so I’ll stay away from that and look at EV aspect. DCFC: BMW i3 = Win Faster Home charging: BMW i3 = Win (7 kWh) Range Extender: Volt Win (No limitation, longueur range total) EV Range: BMW i3 Win (70 to 100 miles depending on conditions and driver) 0-60 Miles: BMW i3 Win (really fun to drive) This is what you get for the extra money. And I can live with the range extender limitations. Bonus point, I’m tall and I fit better in the BMW i3. Personnaly, I love the i3 styling and it grows on me everyday. And I will end up doing more EV miles with my BMW i3. But if you do a lot of Inter-city driving and no DCFC are available, the… Read more »
franky_b

Oh I forgot

More siting: Volt 2.0 = marginal Win (4.5 personne, because that middle place will never see an adult siting in it)

pjwood

And with the i3, you get to decide when to release the prisoners, or how much they smell your farts.

Speculawyer

That is both hilarious and completely true.
(can’t open the rear doors w/o front doors open and rear windows don’t open).

CAB
Yes, the i3 rex and Volt 2.0 will be competitors (it’s the nature of EVs right now). The CHOICE , however, will not come down to a “which is better” question, but a “which has the things I PREFER the most”. The BMW’s defining traits are its polarizing looks and hot hatch fun to drive factor. Conversely, the Volt has strong “value”, sleek, albeit conventional, looks and good daily practical usability along with a smooth ride. At the end of the day, any given buyer will place more value on one over the other. Car buying is (at best) 50% rational and 50% emotional. Tesla figured this out with there rocket ship model S (note: how all the early cars released to the press were performance variants and now the same is true with the dual motor models). BMW also figured it out with their i3 commercials showing the young teen sneaking out of the house in his dad’s i3 and then being shocked at how quick it was when he legged it. Beyond badge preference (which I’ll admit does exist), this will come down to which car appeals to the emotions of the buyer as much as anything. I… Read more »
DonC

I think you’re right that it’s mostly about the logo aka “badge preference” aka pretension index. By definition the i3 is an “Ultimate Driving Machines”. Lots of people don’t want to be seen driving a Chevy.

But from the reaction I’ve seen people don’t think BMW when they see the i3. They’re somewhat shocked when they actually see the logo. My guess is that this is not helping sales.

Rob Stark

Bland design is far superior to aggressively Fugly.

pjwood

While having driven i3, I’m thinkin’ P85D.

The Volt is now real fast, to 30, and comparatively slow to 60.

Subjectivity? Is that a fight i3 fans want 😉

Bill Howland

The volt isn’t too bad, since as others stated it looks from the outside like many japanese and korean models.

Inside, perhaps the new leather option (as opposed to the old leather option, which my 2011 has) will spruce things up a bit.

The new VOlt will be much cheaper than the I3, and the 400 mile range is attractive. When I’m going someplace I really don’t want to arbitrarily stop as I would have to multiple times with the I3, unless I carried a smelly gas jug with me.

I’m not all that wild about stopping for public charging, but early adopters have to put up with this.. Since the volt has 50 mile range now, it more often eliminates any need to publically charge or refuel spur of the moment.

I’d chauk this one up to the Volt.

Styling wise, I’m undecided about the I3’s Schnauzer look what with that black ‘nose’. People with either like it, or not.

Ambulator

The author added together the power of the electric and gas motors? What does that get you? The two mostly operate serially.

The short range of the i3 would be hard to bear. Besides, it’s ugly.

jsmay311

Hard to take anyone seriously saying that the i3 looks better than the Gen 1 OR Gen 2 Volt.

Hell, anyone saying that the i3 looks better than anything other than a Pontiac Aztek needs to get their eyes checked.

Spider-Dan

This article is clearly written by an i3 fan. Mr. Moloughney, I presume?

If you want to argue that the Volt 1.0 was ugly, fine. But don’t try to tell me that the Volt 1.0 was ugly but the i3 was beautiful.

The Volt was consistently rated as one of the more attractive EVs (behind the Model S and Fusion Energi), while the most generous description one could offer of the i3’s appearance is “highly polarizing.”

Alan

For someone who regularly drives up to 80 miles, has access to another car for long trips (or rarely makes them), and wants the range extender “just in case” – the i3 seems better.

For someone who has one car, drives less than 50 miles on a typical day, but occasionally needs to drive longer distances at least once per month – the new Volt is *much* better.

Sportscarfan

“Next comes the styling of the Volt, which has been dramatically improved” Really?

First thing I thought when the gen 2 Volt came out was ug its a civic/Dart clone… It looks really cheap, like a $10,000 compact car. I showed my wife the gen 2 pics and she also said its ugly. then i showed her some gen 1 pics and she said it looks alot better. I’m afraid the gen 2 will do poorly based on its looks and boring interior styling. Which is to bad cause the mechanical engineering seems much improved.

Omar Sultan

What’s up with these Op-Ed pieces? IMO they are not doing the site any favors.

Fritts

I’m curious if the Volt had a problem with their battery and had to be replaced. Can on cell be replaced or will it be as difficult and expensive as the Ford C-Max. Yes I’ve driven the i3 and it’s really a refined machine- 50/50 weight distribution is pure BMW. Now saying that, the volt will probably take a bit out of i3- but the i3 was designed as an urban EV. May be the real competitor for the Volt will be the upcoming Prius or the E-golf. Something else to consider- batteries and other EV related technology are becoming smaller, more powerful and affordable. Bottom line- great to see GM waking up with the new Volt and Bolt- hopefully this time they will do more advertising with this product.

Fritts

I’m curious if the Volt had a problem with their battery and had to be replaced. Can the cell be replaced easily or will it be as difficult and expensive as the Ford C-Max. Yes I’ve driven the i3 and it’s really a refined machine- 50/50 weight distribution is pure BMW. Now saying that, the volt will probably take a bite out of i3- but the i3 was designed as an urban EV. May be the real competitor for the Volt will be the upcoming Prius, Honda or the VW E-golf (if it had a REX). Something else to consider- batteries and other EV related technology are becoming smaller, more powerful and affordable. Bottom line- great to see GM waking up with the new Volt and Bolt- hopefully this time they will do more advertising with this product. I got the impression while visiting the GM showroom last summer the sales people were a bit apprehensive with the old Volt.

Grammar police

Seriously, InsideEVs staff? A grammar atrocity in the very first sentence? Really, the difference between “they’re” and “their” is not difficult to grasp.

Jouni Valkonen

uh, Chevy Bolt is competing with BMW i3, not Chevy Volt. People are buying BMW i3 not because it an electric car, but because they want very small, but compelling city car as a second car in their family. Bolt, if it is well engineered and designed, of course competes in same markets as second car in the household. Volt on the other hand is typically first car in the household. And those poeple who are buying Volt, are ready to pay premium from Green driving.

mhpr262

“They’re” mission? Seriously? That is painful even to me, and I am not even a native speaker.

“They’re” = short for: They are

“Their” = possession, as in it it theirs.

GSP

Jay,

This article does not meet the usual standard for articles at InsideEVs. It has incorrect information and seems much more opinionated than most, and frankly ignorant. No wonder the author did not put his/her name on it, and it is labeled “op-Ed.”

With so many good articles it must be hard to keep a few like this from slipping through.

GSP

APCS

Has everyone forgotten driving dynamics? FWD and horrible weight distribution will never beat RWD and even weight distribution for handling and enjoyment.

And as for looks, explain why the Bolt is an i3 copy? Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Fritts

I’m going to chime in a second comment. After reading all the EV news coming out of Detroit- I stand corrected. The volt won’t only be a competitor got he i3 alone. Many more vehicles out here may provide stiffer competition to the Volt and I think the i3 will stand out competing against the common manufacturers like Mercedes, VW and Lexus. korean electric car makers may be stiffer competition against the volt and bolt (name should be changed) than the i3. Something to think about for GM Volt fans.