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Friday, September 12, 2014

2016 Chevy Volt spy shots highlight the much-needed fixes


2016 Chevy Volt spy shot, via Greg Anderson/Yahoo Autos
2016 Chevy Volt spy shot, via Greg Anderson/Yahoo Autos

It's the only passenger car sold by General Motors that hasn't been recalled this year. It's the only small car sold today with a "Top Safety Pick +" award from the leading insurance crash tests. Many of its owners travel 800 miles or more between stops at gas stations, and most surveys rank those buyers as the happiest of any GM vehicle.

And yet, the Chevrolet Volt still draws general dismissal from the public at large, thanks to a combination of failed promises and political sniping. Underneath this mottle of vinyl wrap lies the next-generation 2016 Chevy Volt due to be revealed in a few months — and even beyond the camouflage, you can glimpse the steps GM will take to push the Volt into the mainstream.

GM once forecast that it would be selling 60,000 Volts a year by now. Through August, Americans had bought only 13,146 — down 12 percent year over year in a market that's up overall. While still the top-selling plug-in hybrid, the Volt now moves fewer copies than the all-electric Nissan Leaf and its 84-mile range.

Snapped on the streets of Ann Arbor, the Volt made no noise as it rolled past, as one would expect; the majority of Volt drivers use electric power for much of their in-town driving. The problem lies with the cost and size of the batteries needed for that cruising; GM may offer a smaller pack with a shorter all-electric range as a sub-model, which would lower the sticker price substantially.

2016 Chevy Volt spy shot
2016 Chevy Volt spy shot

Ignore the stuck-on tail lights; they're just disguising the production-model shape underneath the wrap. What matters more is the hatch shape, which looks to have grown over the current generation.

One of the Volt's biggest drawbacks has been interior space due to the giant T-shaped battery pack that essentially makes it a four-seater. Repackaging the battery and redesigning the hatch to provide more room and better rear visibility would clear one major hurdle that keeps families from considering the Volt as a daily driver.

At $34,000 before federal incentives, the Volt's cost still doesn't pencil out for many buyers even with federal incentives and fuel savings. If GM can build the next edition with a price below $30,000, before a $7,500 tax credit, the Volt might finally start to find some of its long-missing respect.

Photos: Greg Anderson/Yahoo Autos