Tag Archives: Chevrolet Volt

Reclaiming the mojo

The 2016Malibu appears ready to make up lost ground (Image: General Motors)

The 2016 Malibu appears ready to make up lost ground (Image: General Motors)

Having seen 37 years of American history pass through its rear-view mirror, you’d think Chevrolet’s experienced Malibu would find luring new buyers to be a breeze.

But the most recent generation of the bread-and-butter sedan failed to dominate the midsize market, and struggled to arrest declining sales amid strong competition from the likes of Fusion, Sonata, Camry, and Accord.

Well, Chevy clearly doesn’t like the idea of the Malibu becoming an overlooked wallflower at the school dance. Their response to the problem is the 2016 Malibu, which will arrive – dressed to impress – in the fourth quarter of this year.

Bigger, roomier, and more efficient, the 2016 Malibu promises to remedy the criticisms levelled against its predecessor – mainly, that legroom was lacking, the styling too lacklustre, and the mild hybrid too mild.

The best view of the 2016 Malibu, IMHO. Can you tell it's longer? (Image: General Motors)

The best view of the 2016 Malibu, IMHO. Can you tell it’s longer? (Image: General Motors)

As the photos here show, the new Malibu has borrowed some duds from the Impala’s closet. Elements of the design language of its bigger stable mate can be seen in its creased, flowing flanks – especially towards the rear.

With a wheelbase nearly four inches longer, the 2016 ‘Bu will allow occupants to stretch their legs a little.

A new 1.5-litre turbo four-cylinder will make 160 horsepower and 184 foot-pounds of torque, and is supposedly good for about 37 mpg (U.S.) highway, or 6.4 litres/100 km. Optional is GM’s well-known turbo 2.0-litre four, making 250 hp.

Helping the newly lengthened Malibu roll along efficiently are grille shutters, a nearly 300 pound weight loss, and (in 2.0-litre guise) a new 8-speed automatic transmission.

To wring maximum efficiency out of the Malibu, buyers can opt for a ‘heavy hybrid’ version that uses a modified version of the new Chevy Volt’s drivetrain and can travel up to 88 km/h in EV mode.

A 1.8-litre direct injection engine and two electric motors return an estimated 48 mpg (U.S.) in the city and 45 mpg on the highway, for a combined rating of 47 mpg (5.0 litres/100km).

Some angles have the front end appearing awkward; head-on, it's not so pronounced (Image: General Motors)

Some angles have the front end appearing awkward; head-on, it’s not so pronounced (Image: General Motors)

Numbers like these, coupled with a new skin, should help the Malibu do battle with its competitors.

On a personal note, I can’t give the design an A+, though it is a definite improvement.

The 2016 Malibu does a good job in keeping visual interest (and I do find its design muse, the Impala, to be attractive), but the front end seems awkward to me – too many diverging angles, and a catfish mouth.

Viewed side-on or from the rear, well, different story.


Volt 2.0

Next-generation Chevy Volt to debut in January

On sale since mid-2011, a total of 3,394 Volts have found buyers in Canada (as of the end of July, 2014).

On sale since mid-2011, a total of 3,394 Volts have found buyers in Canada (as of the end of July, 2014).

A car that’s still something of a mystery to many is getting a makeover.

General Motors announced on Aug. 7 that the 2nd-generation Chevrolet Volt will debut in January at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

The press release – imported straight outta Acme, Michigan – gives little to no details on what changes can be expected with the new Volt, which will go on sale later in 2015 as a 2016 model. Besides a teaser mage of the new Volt’s rear trunklid, there’s no information on range, performance, weight, underpinnings – any of that juicy stuff.

There is, however, much gushing over the current Volt, complete with facts and figures garnered from customer feedback surveys.

“Volt owners are driving more than 63 percent of their overall miles in electric vehicle mode, collectively logging more than 500 million gas-free miles since the Volt’s retail debut in 201o.”

Boy howdy! Those Volt owners sure do like to maximize their use of that battery – it’s almost as if they purchased the vehicle for that specific reason!

Joking aside, the Volt remains a unique and interesting vehicle, albeit one that’s in desperate need of a style injection.  If the teaser image is anything to go by, the public can expect more eye appeal when the wraps come off in Detroit.

The 2016 Chevy Volt is rumoured to be less awkward-looking than the current model.

The 2016 Chevy Volt is rumoured to be less awkward-looking than the current model.

The speculation amongst auto writers is that the new Volt will see a reduction in price (much needed to keep it competitive), an increase in EV range (above the current 38 miles/61 kilometres), and more interior space thanks a reduced battery size. The current 1.4-litre, 4-cylinder generator range extender will likely be ditched in favour of a more fuel-efficient 3-cylinder.

Price has always been a point of contention with the Volt, with many claiming that the vehicle’s higher cost puts sustainability out of reach for most car buyers, limiting possible sales.  There’s certainly truth to this, but, in its defence, the amount of technology packed into the vehicle is significant and prices have come down since the Volt first entered the marketplace.

First retailing for $41,000 in 2010, the Volt’s MRSP is now $34,170 (U.S. market, 2015 model), and that’s before a potential federal tax credit (provincial in Canada) is factored in. Any further reduction in price – plus additional range – will only serve to make the Volt a more competitive vehicle.

Clearly, GM is banking on bigger sales numbers from this improved Volt.

Back in 2011, I test drove a Volt the first week they showed up on dealer’s lots. During a 43-kilometre all-electric urban jaunt, the car impressed with its interior comfort, ride quality and drivetrain smoothness.

Given the Volt’s price at the time, I wrote in my published review:

“This isn’t an electric car for the masses … but it is proof that a quality electric car that drives and feels like a regular luxury car is possible from a mass-market automaker.”

With a lower price (is sub-$30K possible?), Chevrolet will have positioned the 2016 Volt closer to that ideal.