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Here’s my iPhone photo of the 2016 Chevrolet Volt.

A green smart car to help save the planet & have fun, but be aware of the tradeoffs

JD LasicaMore and more of us, directly or indirectly, are turning into brand advocates for the companies and products we love or admire. So I had no hesitation in saying yes when Chevrolet contacted me as part of a marketing outreach to “social media thought leaders” in California.

Would you like to try out the 2016 Chevy Volt for a week? they asked.

Sure, I said.

We’re fans of electric and hybrid cars, and bought a Toyota Prius a few years back. All I knew about the Volt was that it was hybrid-electric car with the emphasis on the electric. Soon I learned it was named 2016 Green Car of the Year by the Green Car Journal (which isn’t on my coffeetable but sounds like a credible authority).

The timing is interesting. The 2016 Volt will have a shortened model year, making way for the 2017 Volt’s arrival this coming right around now, according to published reports.

The Chevy Volt in my driveway.

So I gave the Volt a test run this week and came away impressed. Fortunately, the 2016 model (mine was new, with only 600 miles on the odometer) and 2017 models are nearly identical, so this review applies to either model year.

The new Chevy Volt goes for a base price of $33,220 MSRP, but a federal tax credit up to $7,500 can bring down the price to as low as $25,720. You’ll have to do the math, depending on your add-ons and eligibility for the tax credit.

While the Volt may not have the sexy styling of a Tesla, it costs less and has another upside: There are enough of them to go around.

Some numbers to keep in mind:

  • A range of up to 53 pure electric miles on a single charge
  • A range of up to 420 miles with a full charge and full tank of gas
  • You average 1,000 miles between gas fill-ups
Here's how the plug looks.

Here’s how the charging handle looks.

I wondered if I’d have to drive to a special station to get a recharge or a battery swap-out. That’s not the way it works. You simply plug into a 120 or 240 V outlet to regularly recharge the battery. More information on the Chevrolet Volt can be found at this link.

So the Volt’s positioning basically comes down to this: “The vehicle offers all the benefits of EV (electric vehicle) driving while allaying fears of range-anxiety,” says Fred Ligouri, Chevrolet Electric Car Communications. Yes, you’ll be running on battery power after you recharge, but the Volt won’t leave you high and dry on longer trips.

Unlike the Prius, though, Chevrolet made the decision to require the owners to recharge the car — and it takes a while. I plugged it in overnight and, after 14 hours, it charged only 60 percent. So, patience is a virtue with the Volt.

Handling was responsive and smooth throughout my rides, and the difference between it running on electric power and gas was barely perceptible from the driver’s POV.

All the digital doodads you’d want in a car

A look at the electronic dashboard on the Volt.

A look at the electronic dashboard on the Volt.

The electronic dashboard is certainly impressive and easy to use. Some standout features include:

Real-time traffic information

Real-time traffic information

  • Navigation (on driver’s dashboard and central monitor) that includes real-time traffic updates — de rigueur in modern cars, though I didn’t pit it against Waze to see how it stacks up in recommending the optimal route.
  • Blind spot monitoring: An alert light on driver’s side and passenger’s side mirrors flashes to notify you when there’s a car in your blind spot.
  • A sensor in the front of the car, great for forward collision warnings and for keeping your distance from shopping mall curbs. The Volt also comes with low-speed pre-collision braking.
  • A lane tracker (“lane keep assist”) that will nudge you gently back into your lane on highways with multiple lanes if you tire and begin to wander into another lane by mistake.
Options on the central control panel

Options on the central control panel

All that, plus the usual phalanx of digital features, including two USB ports (for your smartphone), satellite radio, a rearview camera, a six-speaker audio system (ditch it in favor of your own, or perhaps the Bose upgrade), automatic climate control, remote start and an option to subscribe to Chevy’s OnStar telematics system, which offers a 4G LTE data connection with a Wi-Fi hotspot in addition to theft prevention and accident reports.

One snafu came at 5 am when I removed the charging plug without reading the damn manual. A moment later the car alarm came on at an incredibly high pitch, which I’m sure woke up some of the neighbors. I rushed inside, found the car keys, clicked unlock and the blare came to an end, but not before the Volt jolted my nerves.

The Volt is selling at a clip of about 2,000 per month, but it should sell more with the 2017 model. That’s another upside: You won’t see tons of them on the road, at least not yet. Exclusivity is still a perk.JD Lasica, founder of, is now co-founder of the cruise discovery engine Cruiseable. See his About page, contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

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