Friday, January 27, 2006

 

Quick Review: 2006 Chevrolet Epica (Chevrolet Evanda)

Today I had to drop off my 2005 Chevrolet Optra 5 for its 12,000km service and oil change, and as such, the dealer provides a loaner car. In this case, the car was a Chevrolet Epica (Chevrolet Evanda in Europe).

First things first: I do not care for large cars, and to me, anything over 4.5 metres long it too big for my liking. This car is a whopping 4.77 metres in length and yet it doesn't feel that way from the driver's seat, in fact it feels just the opposite. I'm not exactly average in height standing at 190cm, but my build is average (a.k.a. not fat/don't have the average American's girth). I honestly felt cramped to the point where I'm glad I'm not claustrophobic because it would've caused an episode if I were. The overall cabin does seem expansive except for having my head almost rubbing against the headliner and my kneels almost straddling the leather wrapped steering wheel. I guess were I average height it might be a better fit. This must be what the current Impala is like (in terms of size) inside.

The dash material and controls seemed a little on the cheap end, and mis-matched as well. I felt like I was in a Nissan A32 Maxima where everything was smooth plastic coloured I'm-going-to-fade-horribly-in-5-years-or-so black. The control stalks on the steering column were not much better having a fragile feel about them. Needless to say, I'm not impressed with the control bits either, even the leather wrapped wheel had a cheap feel about it. I'd give the Interior a 6 out of 10 were I judging it in that manner.

The exterior is quite beautiful for a large saloon as it were, with lines sculpted by Giugiaro of Italdesign in Turino, Italy. Nice flowing profile with a v-shaped hood. Pictures don't do it justice (which seems to be a theme with most of Giugiaro's designs sans the new Alfa Brera. I did notice I received quite a large number of glances and double takes while driving to the office today, so I think that does give some indication that while still a conservatively fashions form, it is different enough to warrant that second look by passersby.

This leads me to the last section of my mini-review, performance. The 2.5l 30v inline 6 feels more impressive than its numbers on paper would have one believe. For a car that just tips the scales at a little over 1500kg one would think that 115kw (155ps) @ 5,800rpm and 240nm (177 lbs ft) of torque would be somewhat lacking, but it isn't. The four speed adaptive automatic transmission seemed willing under acceleration to take the revs up past 6,000rpm for every shift without complaining. This engine should be available to other Chevrolet models as it really has the feel that only an inline 6 seems to have (how i miss the E30 BMW 323i's 2.3l inline 6). Acceleration feels solid and the brakes fairly strong with only a hint of fade after continuous stops.

The above remarks are based on a 39km drive over a limited length of A roads and an overwhelming majority of B roads. The handling for a car in this class are steady and sure footed and body roll was kept to a minimal without the ride ever feeling harsh, even on gravel.

I wouldn't buy one for myself, but I definitely think that with a little more work on the interior materials quality (not the fit and finish which seemed fairly bang on), this car could definitely be a viable option for those people I know who prefer a larger saloon as their mode of transport. Now if we could only get the SUV drivers to downsize to saloons (or better yet hatchbacks), things would be quite chipper in my book.

Eric

Comments:
Eric, with the multiple names that this car is sold under, it's difficult to figure out which car is is in the US. Can you tell me what name Suzuki sells this as in the US? I'm thinking Forenza, which is a car I like, but I'm not used to seeing the Bow Tie and my metric conversion is weak. Besides, I'm lazy and know you will tell me.

Joe
 
Joe,

I'm rather surprised at you.. heh. I thought you'd be the first to google "Chevrolet Epica" and "Suzuki" to come up with "Suzuki Verona". I also find that it is easier to not "convert" metric than it is to just 'use it'.. My son knows what a foot it, what a yard is, what a metre is, what a centimetre millimetre are without thinking about conversion. He just knows by having a point of reference, learning by converting in one's head just gives headaches (I learned this one personally a long time ago).

Either way, after writing my mini-review I do have to say that there were some plusses that I should mention.

1: While not my style, the white face gauges are easy to read and very gentle on the eyes.

2: I noticed that the lighting was exemplary, to the same degree as my Optra. I should've guessed,they too were projection beam headlamps (the low-beams only, this isn't a TVR or an SLK). I know that there isn't much worse than being in front of a car that has projectors, other than being in front of a car that has HID Projectors, however driving said car with Projector beam lights is an entirely different story, absolutely love the beam pattern and crisp defined lighting they provide, the Epica's lights were no exception to that joy.

3: The "hold" button on the transmission (automatic) which is supposed to lock you into whichever gear you're currently in doesn't seem to function (either that or I'm using it wrong, which I doubt), seems rather pointless if you ask me. It is an Aisin transmission and if they wanted to add a gear locking button, they should've just used the ZF transmission that the Z3 BMW slushboxes used in its "manual" mode. Also, the non-linear (a.k.a. let's all pretend we're like Jaguar with their shiftgate) was not to my liking, though it was solid in feel albeit confusing until I figured out that one much push the lever down to re-engage reverse and park from neutral.

4: I do find the lines down the front of the car quite pleasing, and while the car does seem big to me, you won't confuse it in size with say, a Chrysler LHS. Only I will, stupidly enough as is.

I do hope that Chevrolet continues to evolve these models as they will help bring GM back into the fray I believe.. (in the US obviously, as GM is doing quite well globally sans the US).

Thanks for your input Joe,

Eric
 
Eric, first of all, I liked your comment on Daewoo cars that you left over at autoblog. I owned a Daewoo Rezzo minivan for two years when I was living in Korea and never had a problem with it except when the LPG line froze and that was my fault!

I like your open-mindedness about Daewoo products and as an American working in the auto industry in Asia, I agree with you wholeheartedly that Americans have the worst taste in cars as far as I'm concerned. Only Americans would be enamored with big SUVs and two-door coupes. Give me a four-door pocket rocket any day (preferably running diesel) and I'll have excitement and fuel-economy under the same hood.

I was a consultant hired by GM to help out on the acquisition of Daewoo and was involved in the rebuilding of the company and export strategy. The Lacetti/Forenza is a hot seller now in China and the Epica/Verona is a very decent car. GM-Daewoo CEO Reilly had no trouble being seen in that sedan so you'd think it would be good enough for the general public!

Keep up the good work trying to show Americans that their preference for pickups and SUVs is a trend that is surely going the way of the dodo.

KH
 
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