How to Fix the Chevrolet Volt

The Chevrolet Volt is an impressive and significant car, but there's still room for improvement. Personally, I'm amazed at how hard GM muffed the center stack. The jumbled heap of icons and abbreviations reads like a sequel to the children's book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.

Just a little bit of restraint would have gone a long way in making the Volt's infotainment system more intuitive. As proof, I've created a better solution in five minutes with Photoshop.

We start by cutting the clutter. Chevy makes it pretty easy to sort the worthless buttons from the stuff you'll actually use. The "TP" button, which is a cryptic and clumsy way of writing "TIME," is first to go. The owner's manual says TP stands for "Time Program" and you use it to set the clock, which you'll do twice a year. So why not bury that function in the "MENU" button? The other five buttons that I'd eliminate either belong in that same menu, or elsewhere. Here's what went in my digital trash bin: REC: The Record button is used to load the on-board hard drive with music from a CD or USB thumb drive. DEL: Similarly, Delete removes items from the Volt's hard drive. TONE: Admittedly, I was reluctant to trash the audio tone button. Still, it's low-hanging fruit when you're thinking about which buttons you need most often. AS 1-2: This stranger automatically creates twelve radio presets for both AM and FM radio based on the strength of the station signal. Good for traveling in new places, I guess, but so is satellite radio and an iPod, leading me to wonder has anyone ever used this button? RPT: This button repeats the previous navigation instruction. It's a useful function, but could be served just as well with an icon on the touch screen.

Having eliminated 27 percent of the buttons controlling the climate and infotainment systems, we can move on to organization. Below, I've highlighted the climate controls in red, audio controls in green, and navigation/phone/auxiliary controls in yellow. In my driver-friendly version, I'd leave the climate controls untouched, but move the audio controls to the left and everything else to the right.









Here are some larger views. Old staleness:













New hotness:


I've been test driving a Volt for a few days and love most everything about it. But, I can't get past this center stack and infotainment system! The radio turns on whenever I bring up a screen for climate control, nav, info, etc. Wtf?? I'll wait to buy one until this section is redesigned.
Much much better.... You look at an area and the first icon your eye catches you know whether u are in the right section or not... whether to look on the other side. When u find the area your button is right there. Plus helps to have less buttons... In a touchscreen/button setup the buttons should only be the ones a user will use regularly.... everything else should be in the touchscreen. Also they need a button to toggle between fresh air/recirc. That's a must for when u drive through a stinky area or are stuck behind diesel truck u can quickly turn off fresh air, for example and it's a button I use often... like when it's a very hot muggy day and I want to help the A/C by recirculating the air.
Eric Tingwall
Oh yeah, Jason. I fully agree. The power button should only control the audio system and it should stay off whether you hit the nav button or climate button or whatever else you do until you press the power button again.
Warren Klink
Legibility is an issue. The center charcoal grey stack and other glossy similarly finished trim components are a constant source of glare reflections even at night. The windshield top edge is almost directly above dash surfaces. This location permits direct outside light in, day and night. A first fix would be to finish the stack in matt black as are the vent outlets and steering wheel control stalks thus offering more contrast with white lettering. Each raised switch location could be a end of finger sized dimple. Additionally, all chrome trim on dash components should be at least brushed aluminum, maybe even a textured black. These two changes would more fully integrate these design elements with adjacent textures and finishes. And all but eliminate the constantly changing glare.
N Riley
I failed to compliment you on your re-arrangement of the buttons. Your version is certainly a lot less cluttered. I like it. A lot of the button functions probably should be addressable through the touch screen panels. Maybe GM will incorporate some of these functions with the touch screen later.
N Riley
Why would you have to re-set the clock in the Volt? Why would GM not keep the clock set properly from the satellite signal. My 2009 Honda Accord EX-L w/ Navigation keeps the clock on the correct time from time zone to time zone and daylight savings time changes. I never have to touch the clock settings and don't even know if you can. Why would GM not do the same? I don't have a Volt yet, so I don't know what all it can and can't do.
Jason Cullinane
I think your solution is an excellent one. I would like to add that I have been wondering why the touch screen was not used more. There are preset buttons for stations along the bottom of the screen for quick access to saved stations but no quick way to move from one set to the next (or previous). The FAV button scrolls only one way and then you still have to reach to the screen to press on a preset station to listen. Why not use digital (screen icon) arrows on either side of the screen and do away with the FAV button all together. Also, I HATE that the radio comes on no matter what you want to do. Want to look at the comes on. Want to make a phone call... radio comes on. Want to see what my efficiency is.... THE RADIO COMES ON!!!! Seriously GM... FIX THIS. I am amazed that this made it to production. All these issues should have been apparent within a week of road testing. Otherwise, I am very happy with my Volt and am presently getting 123mpg after 4 months of real world driving.
Good start but you left the FAV button. Not exactly intuitive.
Matt Stehouwer
I like it. I hate all the buttons on my Volt.

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