Grading 2016 Chevrolet Volt & Bolt Live From 2015 NAIAS


The Press Pass

The Press Pass

Live From 2015 NAIAS: Grading General Motors’ On the 2016 Chevrolet Volt & Bolt EV Concept

General Motors clearly was the highlight of the plug-in scene at NAIAS this week. Between the Volt and the Bolt (I still find it hard to believe they will go to market with the name Bolt) no other automaker garnered as much attention from the press for its electric car offerings.

Chevrolet Bolt EV Concept - Image Credit: Tom Moloughney

Chevrolet Bolt EV Concept – Image Credit: Tom Moloughney

The Bolt concept is an interesting one, and one I certainly hope makes it to production. If it does, expect a late 2017 introduction as a 2018 model. It looked to me like a combination of an i3, a Honda Fit and a first-generation Mercedes A-Class, but somehow it all works. A 200 mile EV that sells for under $40,000 is something a lot of people are waiting for. GM has said they will bring it to market for $30,000, but that’s after the $7,500 federal tax credit. While it’s understandable why they want to promote the $30,000 figure, it’s a little disingenuous since it’s really not possible to know if that tax credit will still be available in 2018, or whenever the Bolt makes it to showrooms. Plus, not everybody qualifies for it. GM isn’t the only manufacturer to play this tax credit game when it comes to announced pricing though, and I’ve been consistent in criticizing the other manufacturers that have done the same.

Chevrolet Bolt - Image Credit: Tom Moloughney/InsideEVs

Chevrolet Bolt – Image Credit: Tom Moloughney/InsideEVs

The new Volt is a winner. I really like just about everything about it. The refreshed interior is the biggest aesthetic improvement to my eyes, and I really liked the layout of the dash and center console. The front seats were very comfortable and outward vision seemed at least as good as the current Volt. The only nitpick I had was it seemed like a lot of the surface panels were plastic, perhaps to help cut costs and allow a lower MSRP which has been one of GM’s promises. Still, the interior looked very good to me and I believe current Volt owners will see it as an improvement.

2016 Chevrolet Volt - Image Credit: Tom Moloughney

2016 Chevrolet Volt – Image Credit: Tom Moloughney

The rear seating room is what I’d expect in a compact car, it’s tight but you can still sit there pretty comfortably as long as you aren’t too tall. I’m only 5’8”, so I had no problem, but my head didn’t seem to have too much clearance so I’m thinking someone that is six feet or taller will find it a bit cramped. The fifth seat isn’t really a seat. Yes, there is a seatbelt there and you can use it if needed, but it’s basically a padded filler between two bucket seats. It will work for the occasional time you need to squeeze three people back there, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you need to use it every day, say to take the kids to school. Unless they are very small kids, it’s going to be quite uncomfortable for them.

2016 Chevrolet Volt Rear Seats - Image Credit: Tom Moloughney/InsideEVs

2016 Chevrolet Volt Rear Seats – Image Credit: Tom Moloughney/InsideEVs

As for the exterior, I really liked the whole package but I’d have to say the rear styling was my favorite. It looks sportier and more agile than the current Volt, and definitely more modern. I love the nose, but find the lower chrome grill just too much. It made me think of a beautiful girl smiling with braces. I suspect some owners will customize that by painting it or perhaps some aftermarket custom grills will become available. There’s just too much shiny chrome down there.

2016 Chevrolet Volt - Image Credit: Tom Moloughney/InsideEVs

2016 Chevrolet Volt – Image Credit: Tom Moloughney/InsideEVs

Final Grade

Overall, GM gets a solid A for their Volt and Bolt efforts at NAIAS. They introduced what could be a game-changing affordable electric car in a couple years, and successfully redesigned their current, successful plug-in offering. The Volt is improved in just about every way, and if GM can indeed deliver on the rumors of a lower price point than the current Volt they will most likely have a real winner.

However, it remains to be seen how well GM will market the new Volt. GM has been widely criticized by the Volt faithful for not properly marketing the Volt and that is a position I personally agree with. Nissan for instance may have started out a bit slow, but its LEAF marketing has improved greatly and not coincidentally, so has sales. In fact, LEAF sales in the US have increased every year since 2012 while Volt sales have actually declined over that period. I definitely believe marketing played a big role in those figures. GM needs to step up and give this vehicle the support it needs to succeed. If they do so, and manage to deliver on a lower MSRP, then I believe we’ll see sales figures much higher than anything we’ve seen on the Volt before, and well into the 30,000+ annual sales figures.

The engineers did their job, will the bean-counters finally give marketing a proper budget for the Volt? I really hope so. This car is just too good to continue to neglect anymore.

2016 Chevrolet Volt - Image Credit: Tom Moloughney/InsideEVs

2016 Chevrolet Volt – Image Credit: Tom Moloughney/InsideEVs

Categories: Chevrolet


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72 Comments on "Grading 2016 Chevrolet Volt & Bolt Live From 2015 NAIAS"

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GM needs to copy Toyota and make the Volt V, a real wagon. Clearly, the headroom is going to be an issue with some buyers, and many still need room for hunting and camping equipment.

Just build a Wagon version!

Also, they need to look forward into a TESLA style 4 wheel drive solution.


No matter how good the car is, American buyers just seem not to like the (station) wagon (also known as “saloon” for our chaps across the pond). Witness the Dodge Magnum. It’s dead here in the states but still alive in Europe.

Personally I love the flexibility of hatchbacks, and wagons are all right with me too, but apparently I’m in the minority.

Lou Grinzo

US drivers don’t like wagons? Really? I see MANY of them on the road. Leafs, Versa Notes, several Subaru and Lexus models, Focus, Cadillacs, MBs, BMWs, etc.

People seem to hate the term “station wagon” (notice how seldom car companies use it), but plenty of us like that vehicle configuration and happily drive them every day.


Exactly. “Station wagons” aren’t popular but CUVs are.

John Hansen

Americans like station wagons just fine. The automakers tell us that we don’t because they would rather sell us SUVs, which are basically just tall station wagons at this point.

Most of the automakers stopped producing station wagons around the same time that they started marketing compact SUVs (and minivans to some extent). The last generation of cars made with a station wagon variant sold just fine, and sold at greater numbers than some lower volume cars made by the same manufacturer. To say that it’s not profitable to do a minor redesign of an existing platform, but that it is profitable to make an entirely different car that sells at a lower volume says it all.

So yeah, people would buy station wagons if they were sold. Audi and Volkwagon doesn’t seem to have any trouble selling their station wagons.

Calitran Dresdener

I’m in agreement with all of you. I cringe a the moniker CUV. Just give us the option to get a wagon version, please. A real wagon with real space behind the C pillar.

We have been marketed away from real practicality to goose our machismo. I remember when the wagon was driven by the wealthy middle class, by ranchers, by moms preferentially.

The advent of the mini van was not a bad idea, but the idolization of the SUV has been a an incredible marketing success for the auto makers, getting around CAFE requirements, and boosting profits by building on less expensive truck frames and jacking up the prices.

Perhaps the aerodynamic function over form designs that optimize electric drive cars will be recognized, accepted and desired by the increasing pool of people interested in EREV and BEVs, and the wagon form will return.


“If it does, expect a late 2017 introduction as a 2018 model.”

Interesting. Based on the presentation (and LG comments) I had assumed late 2016 as a 2017 model.


I am disappointed in the reduced rear headroom and slight increase in rear legroom. I leased my 2013my volt because I thought the gen II would be bigger and I would buy the bigger gen II. I put 2 or 3 people in my volt all the time and it really is cramped.
Much as I hate the idea, I may buy a Ford Fusion Energi or a tesla III when it comes out. I love my volt but it is too small.


If I had to regularly haul people in the back of my car, today I’d get the Fusion Energi. If the Outlander PHEV was due soon, I might wait for that.


The Fusion Energi is definitely better on passenger room, but the trunk is pretty atrocious. You’d be lucky to fit one large suitcase in there.

The Focus EV is even worse; the trunk is smaller than a ‘Vette.


Last month we had two teenagers (heights >180cm and 175cm) in the back, an 8-year-old between them, and in the trunk two large suitcases, one small suitcase, a couple of backpacks, and a bunch of other stuff.

We drove for ~140 miles each way that way. A bit tight but rather reasonable.

The vehicle? You know, a Leaf 🙂

MTN Ranger

There’s no guarantee that the Model 3 will be any larger than the Volt. The Model S already has poor rear seat headroom. The Volt has 90CF of passenger space, while the Model S has 94CF. Going by the comments of a 20% smaller Model E, would be the same or smaller than the Volt.

Mark Hovis

Great review. I think GM has moved the bar forward on both vehicles. I agree with Tom’s assessment of the improved rear exterior to the previous design.
Aerodynamics is playing a greater role theses days, but I too would love another inch of headroom OR possibly a fast manual adjustment between two drivers.


Tom, (or others who got a chance to see it up close)

Did you get the impression that those cup holders in the back of the Volt can be removed or pushed into some drawer? If not, this seat is almost useless except for infant carseats.

If yes, then slender people would be able to sit there with no problem.


Facebook chat mentioned the electronics for the rear heated seats are under those cup holders and as such they can not be removed.

Mark Hovis

It is a kid seat at best. The Volt is not an SUV and not the car for a family of five. With the US national average at family size at 2.5, it still reaches a large swath of people. With over 200 cars in the US market, you clearly can’t build one for everybody.I still think the new faux seat is an improvement, but it is what it is. Assaf, I love you man, but this has to be the 20th comment about seats in the Volt and not one about the 4 seats in an i3. Let it go….


It wasn’t a comment, it was an informative questions. Some ppl said this thing can be pushed in, but they weren’t next to the actual car. Tom was there so I asked him.

Why is it important? The way the American car buyer mind works, 5-seat cars are a much larger segment than 4-seat cars. My (educated) guess is that the exact same car would sell *way* more if it has 5 seats, vs. a 4-seat version. Even if most buyers, most of the time, don’t use the 5th seat.

Now whether the Volt 2 will be able to cross that mental barrier in buyers’ minds via the addition of a minimal, subpar 5th seat – your guess is as good as mine. At least they’ve tried. In a year or so, we’ll all know 🙂


The 5th seat is functionally no worse than any RWD sedan. The middle passenger would put their feet on the sides of the hump (battery hump in this case, driveshaft hump in a RWD sedan).


Here’s hoping. However recent history suggests auto “analysts” and “journalists” love to find reasons to diss EVs.

I have a pretty good (bad) idea of what they’ll say about this seat. Again, here’s hoping this seat helps boost Volt sales.


People only seem to be able to see this from an adult perspective and not from a family with younger kids.
She fits fine:


Let it go, let it go…. 🙂


I’m with you on this, Assaf.

The switches for the rear heated seats are at the cupholders, but they don’t need to be there.

It seems like GM tried to make the centre tunnel are more “usable” by adding the cupholders. But a small amount of additional space for the middle passenger would have been a better choice. That person is going to have to lift their feet over the tunnel to sit in the middle – now they have to lift them even higher.


The more I look at the Bolt, the more familiar it seems. Reminds me of an updated / electrified Pontiac Vibe:

Calitran Dresdener

Which I think you agree, is a good thing. That was a great car. A wagon with a rear door that you could get in and out of without contorting and whacking your head. A rear deck that a German Shep Dog could fit in. A roof line that one could hoist a canoe or kayak on. For an ICE at the time, good mileage. And better looking than it’s Toyota fraternal twin.

When it comes down to it, GM is all over the map with the hard questions. Just time to sit back and observe the next 6 months or so and how boardroom conversations turn into solid decisions over at the Big G. As others have commented, concept cars can be shown for various reasons. The Bolt seems a bit further away from a genuine shot at i3 or Model 3, and to me – a bit more towards the Volt concept of 2007. Look to 3:27 into the Autoline Detroit video interview of Pam Fletcher showcasing Volt and Bolt. Here is a lead engineer, not a slick, management-type who is well-versed in staving off inquisitive media tough questions. There, as you can watch, she doesn’t hem, nor haw, she just laughs when asked if Bolt will see production. She conveys, “no”, but then says something electric will definitely be made! So all the hoopla here and elsewhere about Bolt is why the concept was made and shown in the first place. It’s color and wheels, and stature similar to i3 is no fluke, and it’s funny when we se Mark Ruess, who is a slick boardroom type – asked about… Read more »

The exterior looked production ready to me. The interior? Not so much production ready as slapped together for the car show.

The drive is likely complete, and LG Chem has a supply contract to deliver cells for a 200 mile BEV in 2017. I’m assuming GM isn’t going to put them in the freezer while it figures out how to use them.


After mentioning the key Autoline Detroit video interview of Pam Fletcher, lead engineer – it would be nice if I would’ve given you the link – Fast Fwd. to 3:25 —-

Hat tip to ClarksonCote for pointing out how many times I add stuff! – It’s the – NO EDIT FUNCTION – that’s at work here…really!

More talking points are – The whole tease build-up for 8+ months building up to the big reveal of Volt2. And THIS…is the time and day GM chooses to roll out this, “maybe, kinda, “vision-of-what’s-possible” – 200 mile BEV concept! Way to, as one put it, “suck the air out of the room during the Volt’s big moment”! No matter what Elong Musk says – he’s bigtime in their heads. To me, Model 3 should be a sedan to duke it out with the likes of Camry, Accord and Fusion. My gut just tells me this – but the small CUV is definitely a hot-selling, high volume machine, and wouldn’t be a bad choice to lead with. The way these things go, the sedan platform is what a CUV iteration sits upon, and I can’t remember a sedan that was built on a CUV platform. It seems obvious then, that Model 3 will be a sedan followed, like Model X, with the CUV version. Since all this will take Tesla much time – one would hope they are being developed simultaneously. Does Tesla have those kinds of resources. Not sure. Think of Bolt as the big guy on campus poking… Read more »

I get something else from Pam Fletcher’s response. I think she knows the reality is that the 200 mile / $30k car will look almost exactly like the Volt. She kept saying “this is a concept” “one of a few ideas”. GM couldn’t roll out another Volt in a different color and say, “This is our big news on the BEV front… notice the opening in the grill is slightly smaller”.


But that’s exactly what VW did with the GTE and the eGolf and really BMW with the i3 and i3 REx. Why can’t the Volt have an all electric version?

no comment

i don’t agree with this, fletcher’s remarks suggest that GM sees two EV segments: PHEV and BEV, with the Bolt being targeted for the BEV segment. the Bolt is more of a follow on to the Spark.

Eric Cote

Haha! Thanks for the hat tip James. 😉


Just a terminology correction: North Ameerican station wagons are known as “Estates” across the pond, not “saloons”.
“Saloon” is the UK term for a sedan.

Josh Bryant

Great review! Thanks for your perspective from seeing the vehicles live.

Eric Cote

I feel like part of the issue with properly marketing is also getting dealers on board. They could spend a ton advertising this, but if dealers steer customers away from electric drive trains, it’s all for naught.

Here’s hoping that they have a plan to ensure the dealers are fully on board with Volt 2.0

We electric guys are geeks, lets face it. We notice things others don’t. Like the subtraction of the rearview side mirror’s turn signals. To me, it’s regulation for side indicators in Europe, thus GM put them on Volt/Ampera. Now there’s no Ampera so that was low-hanging fruit, budget-wise. I miss them. I truly feel those side signals prevent many accidents, esp. on the freeway. It’s helped me. Volt2 has huge taillights that wrap around – obviously, GM felt that was enough warning drivers are changing lanes. Another detail observation. “Ambient lighting”. It’s a feature on higher spec LTZ and missing on LT. Am I the only one who’se spotted the Volt2 interior at night picture? You see that groove under the driver’s and passenger window that curves up and into the dash? Inside are LEDs! Blue glow that really looks geeky ( aka: cool, man! ). I love details like that. Big kudos to Tom M for what sound like truly unbiased, insightful reporting from 2015 NAIAS. Much appreciated, Tom! The comments about hard, monotone plastics in Volt2’s interior are many. They had to cut costs, we in the know, know this. I was one of few who dug Volt1’s… Read more »

The G1 Volt had soft surfaces everywhere you were likely to touch (top half of doors, dash wraparound) and hard plastic where you weren’t. I thought it was a reasonable compromise.

I expect the G2 Volt will be similar.

no comment

the G1 Volt included a lot of high end touches because it was originally offered with a $40,000 price tag. i think that is why they included side marker lights on the side view mirrors: that is the kind of feature that you see on high end cars.

i share your opinion of the door panels, and agree that the G1 Volt door panels did look nice. but they are going more down-market right out of the gate with the G2 Volt, so that is understandable. for example, there was only one trim level with the G1 Volt. personally, i prefer the G1 Volt design to the G2 Volt design overall, but i do see improvements in the G2 Volt design viz. the G1 Volt design.

This Bolt car is FUGLY!


^^^^Expert on Fugly


He’s wrong, the car is Butt Fugly.

David Murray

Honestly, I’m surprised the Bolt has gotten as much attention as it has. I thought the real story was the new Volt, a real production vehicle. But it has instead been pushed aside because of a concept car.


Exactly! +1


Yet the “real story” was almost completely and intentionally overshadowed by GM themselves. This questions GM’s confidence in the new Volt and its position in the electrified market for the next few years. If the Bolt is a reality, it practically kills the case for the Volt.


No, it doesn’t. The Volt has twice the range of the Bolt, can refuel much faster, and will cost thousands less.

David Murray

plus the Volt is more attractive.

no comment

people expected to hear about the Volt, the Bolt was unexpected. it really isn’t that significant.


I remember all the PR and hoopla around Focus EV. Ford obviously didn’t followup. Hopefully Bolt won’t meet the same fate.

I also hope they’ll get rid of Bolt name and also not rename it “reVolt”.


Unlike other past and present Big Three CEOs, it looks like Mary Barra really gets it about EVs.

Don’t forget she’s an EE by training. And she was brought in to clean house and change course.


The middle seat conundrum. GM engineers knew it was an item to check off on their “to-do” list, for sure. Was it high priority? Absolutely not. It couldn’t have been because the end result is pretty lame, to be sure. Surely, the seat warmer issue for passengers vs. a (real/usable) seating area for at least a pre-teen could’ve been solved. Instead, there’s a non-movable, hard plastic, cheap-looking cupholder that looks like a gnard-buster for anyone traveling over 2 blocks. No more than a space wherein a child seat can be located. By child seat, I mean baby seat. Past beginning toddler booster seat phase, it’s a no-go. For a shorter adult to straddle the high battery hump – it is doable. To straddle the cupholder? No way.

Just how many folks will stay away from a Volt purchase because of this? Maybe more than GM believes. I know I still own an inferior Prius because I can take Mom in the front seat and my wife can suffer in the back seat with my two kids on short hauls to the restaurant or hayride.


Ahahaha… You said, “gnard-buster”!!! 😀

Chris B.

With all the complaining about the lack of 5th seat in hte Gen 1 Volt it is interesting to see that BMW elected to launch the i3 as a 4 seater and even the Bolt is configured as such (admittedly, with a lot of time to change that). Honestly, if backseat comfort and room is a priority folsk are looking at the wrong class of car. My parents just purchased a new Honda Accord EX-L for under $25K. That thing has ACRES of backseat room and would be infinitely better for a family. Better yet, how about everyone stop fretting over their “image” and just get a minivan…just the sanity it helps to preserve by keeping your children better separated is worth the price of admission! Compact cars are the WRONG TOOL FOR THE JOB when it comes to family hauling on any kind of regular basis.


I have no idea what you are referring to when you talk about a shorter adult “straddling the cupholder.” The rear bench is more raked than in the Gen1, and your butt sits lower in the seat. Whether the cupholder is there or not, you’ll still be putting your feet on either side of it… so that space is unused in either case.

The only thing I can imagine you are talking about is putting someone in the middle while you have drinks in the cupholder, which is not a reasonable scenario.

no comment

adding a bench to the rear seating does not change the basic fact that the Volt is a small car; there is nothing that you can do to seat 3 adults comfortably in a car that size. if you really need to seat 3 adult, you need a bigger car.


Tom, did you get a chance to sit in the Bolt? I am curious about the headroom and legroom are like, and how it compares to the i3.

I think the Bolt deserves every bit of the attention it is getting. I think they have a winnah on their hands!

no comment
as a current Volt owner i don’t necessarily agree that the gen2 Volt is better designed than the gen1 Volt. i do agree that the rear of the gen2 Volt is an improvement because i thought that the rear was the weak point in the gen1 Volt design. that said, i think that the Ampera had a better designed rear end than did the gen1 Volt but i like the front end of the gen1 Volt better than the front end of the Ampera. i also like the front end of the gen1 Volt more than i like the front end of the gen2 Volt. to me, the gen1 Volt front end has a very slick looking, somewhat futuristic appearance. i like the fact that they went with a hood that wraps around the entire front end as opposed to a conventional hood that is bounded by the left and right front fenders. in the interior, i think that the gen1 Volt had a much better dashboard layout, that is especially true for the center stack which flows seamlessly from the floor console up the dash. the gen1 Volt center stack looks nice during the day and is beautiful at… Read more »

Well said, I agree almost 100%…

I don’t mind the 2012 center console either. It is nicely laid out and it is super easy to clean…

I think people whine about it b/c they don’t own one and don’t know all the details about it. The buttons are actually much larger than they think. The touch sensitive area is almost 1 inch around each little knob. The knob is just a locator for touching…

With that said, I understand why they change it so it will have bigger appeal. (dumbing down in my opinion).


I dislike the Gen1 console for the same reason I don’t like touchscreens in cars: you have to take your eyes off the road and look to see what you want to press. You can’t just feel for the correct button and then push it, because you’ll be “pushing” a bunch of buttons in the process.

This is to say nothing of the accidental button pushes when trying to navigate the touchscreen menus (because my palm brushes against the console or something similar).

Give me buttons, any day.

For anybody that is still bothered by the chrome grill, please go take a look at the 2015 Toyota Tundra, the 2015 Silverado 2500, 2015 Ford F150. Right now in the market, Trucks are really hot in sales (yeah, boooo, I know). And lots of shiny chrome is what is hot for grills on trucks. GM still understands that if they want to expand their customer base into the mass market, and appeal to more than just EV enthusiasts, they have to market towards their base. GM’s biggest base of loyal buyers has at least one truck/SUV in their driveway, and GM just wants their other vehicle to also be a GM. And those truck owners are right now over on Duramax Forum geeking out on big trucks with lots of chrome on the front end. Same with the F150 guys. I realize that might not be everybody’s favorite thing here on insideev’s, but GM knows who their mass market is. If the Volt is going to break into the mass market (which we ALL want!) we are going to have to accept a few compromises to the mass market and be willing to be OK with that. The grill… Read more »
Alan Campbell

The ‘bling’ grill is a bit much.

Big shiny grills are supposed to be in big full size pick-up trucks, along with big oversized everything.

Hopefully the bottom section becomes body color with some design or black. And not gold. lol

But then again it could be exaggerated because of how the picture is taken, all bling in your face.

Alan Campbell
Can’t wait to see the 2016 Volt go on sale. With 50 EV miles, most owners won’t ever use the gasoline engine on a daily basis. But can still take the planned/unplanned road trip with no worries, and at 41mpg. So now we know what’s coming for the refreshed ELR. But unlike the initial first try with lower EV range than the Volt, the refreshed model should offer the same 50 EV miles, while dropping the price to $49k. Love the 200 EV mile Bolt concept. But with 200 being the sweet spot for consumer EV adoption, it would seem the Bolt would have a more ‘conventional’ style to appeal to the widest market, and not just those wanting attention to let everyone know they have an EV. The i3 is selling well for a sub 100 mile ev, but it makes up for it’s lack of EV range for the consumer by offering ‘attention’ they want/need or justification for accepting the range limitations at a luxury car price. The Leaf is in the same category at a more economical price. But taking an EV more mainstream, like Tesla with the Model S, the design is more ‘conventional’ as a… Read more »