In the past, American vehicles have not been so popular here in Malaysia. Also known as muscle cars for their big V8 engines, road tax for these vehicles are astronomical and can only be found in garages of the rich and famous. But there is one American manufacturer that is slowly making its mark in this region with smaller engines that is far more affordable, Chevrolet or Chevy for short.
Between 2003 and 2009 a joint-venture between Chevy’s parent company General Motors (GM) and DRB-HICOM, called Hicomobil, marketed the Aveo, Optra and Nabira here. In 2010, the joint-venture was succeeded by Naza Quest Sdn Bhd as the exclusive authorized distributor of GM products under the Chevrolet brands in Malaysia. Soon, they will be launching two new models that will prove to be quite popular – their Aveo replacement, Sonic, and a 7-seater people carrier, Orlando.
As with other manufacturers, testing their vehicles before releasing it to the public is a norm. But for Naza, they went an extra mile and wanted some feedback from the motoring community as well. This led to a short and simple but exclusive media preview test drive of both the Sonic and Orlando held recently at the Litar Elite Gokart Speedway PLUS.
The Sonic replaces the popular Aveo model and will be offered in two variants – a 5-door hatchback and a 4-door sedan. Both has the same front end design with the nose featuring Chevrolet’s signature split grille with their prominent bow-tie logo in the middle. An aggressive dual headlights completes the attractive front end look.
For the hatch, a somewhat coupe look is portrayed with the handles for the rear doors placed slightly hidden at the C-pillars. The sporty hatch look is further complemented with an exposed taillights. The sedan, said to target newly weds and small families, has a more elegant look to it with the rear end that makes the whole car look like a smaller version of their popular award-winning Cruze sedan.
Offered only in their range-topping LTZ trim, the dominantly Black and Grey interior is actually quite decent. The main highlight of the interior is the awesome looking instrument cluster said to be inspired from superbikes. The rpm metre is in analogue with the rest in digital on a seemingly floating cluster. Other features include a single disc, MP3 player with USB connectivity and 6-speaker sound system, tilt-adjustable steering and adequate storage space with 468 litres of boot space in the sedan and 253 litres in the hatch plus more if the 60:40 split rear seats are folded down.
Safety features include dual airbags, Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and brake assists.
Naza Quest Sdn Bhd Product Manager Suhani Misnan gave a pep talk about the two vehicles before letting us get a feel of it on the slighty-less than 1 km go-kart circuit to test acceleration and handling with brake test done on a wet and soapy surface.
The Sonic LTZ sedan and hatchback comes with a small 1.4 litre Ecotec, Variable Valve Timing (VVT), 4-cylinder engine that produces a measly 100 hp at 6,000 rpm and 130 Nm of torque at 4,000 rpm. It is coupled to a 6-speed automatic transmission with gearknob-located Driver Shift Control manual selection.
While these performance figures may seem small, it does move the little car quite well during the test eventhough it was noisy at higher rpms. It handled the curves nicely but that’s not a surprise considering the fact that it uses a front MacPherson struts and rear torsion beam suspension system. The brakes, however, are brilliant as we tested it on a wet and soapy surface, slamming hard on it after accelerating to about 50 km/h.
Prices for the two Sonic versions have not been announced but rumour has it around the RM80,000 range. It will be announced during its official launch said to happen at the end of this month on the 29th of November.
Now we proceed to the second vehicle that was tested during the media preview. Unlike the Sonic, the Orlando is not a new automobile. It was first introduced as a concept vehicle at the 2008 Paris Motor Show with intentions of going into production in America in 2009 but, in 2010, GM reversed their decision.
On the local front, Naza Quest Sdn Bhd had made an announcement early last year that they will be launching the Orlando in the second half of 2011. It’s clear that that did not happen but, after the test drive preview, I was told that it will be officially launched here sometime in the middle of next month.
The Chevrolet Orlando is a 5-door, 7-seater compact MPV manufactured by GM Korea under the Chevrolet division for world-wide markets. It has distinct and recognizable look especially with their ‘global face’ of a split-grille and bow-tie logo flanked by two huge headlights. Some other media people did say that they didn’t like its look but I thought oppositely. I was actually attracted to the Orlando’s bold appearance with a low swept roofline complemented by muscular, crossover inspired protruding wheel arches housing a sporty 17-inch 5-spoke alloys wrapped in 225/50 series tyres.
The decent looking interior is very spacious with ample space even at the third row of seats. It supposedly highlights a Corvette-inspired dual cockpit and has plenty of storage solutions with cleverly located latches for small item stowage and cubby holes everywhere throughout this people carrier. There’s also an ingenious storage area hidden behind the front fascia of the audio system that can be revealed by flipping up the face. It’s enough to store items such as an mobile phones, sunglasses, wallets and also a USB port that is ideal for recharging an MP3 player or iPod.
Safety features include high strength steel safety cage, dual airbags, Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD, Brake Assists Control, Electronic Stabilisation Control (ESC) and Hydraulic brakes.
Misnan explained that 90 percent of the Orlando is taken from their Cruze sedan. This means that the Orlando is built on the same platform as the Cruze’s chassis with a stretched 2,760 mm wheelbase. Even the powertrain is the same – a 1.8 Litre producing 141 hp at 6,200 rpm and 176 Nm of torque at 3,799 rpm mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission shiftronic gearbox.
With their Cruze currently leading the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC), the Orlando, having shared most of its systems with the Cruze, should be quite a nice ride, I thought. I was right. It went around the track beautifully. I could say that it handled better than the Sonic but with power and chassis from a WTCC winning car, it was expected. The traction control did help out tremendously when a corner is taken a tad too fast. And again, braking test on wet and soapy surface was really good.
Although I didn’t get to test this, 0 to 100 acceleration is said to be at 11.5 seconds, top speed is claimed at 190 km/h and fuel consumption is supposedly 7.6 Litres / 100 km. Being a preview, the asking price was not announced but is expected to be in the RM140,000 range.
With the official launch of the Sonic set on 29th November and the Orlando sometime in the middle of December, more details on specifications and exact asking price will be revealed, so stay tuned and look out for our coverage.
MEDIA PREVIEW: PRODUCT BRIEF
Chevrolet Orlando: Function with attitude: crossover look combined with 7-seater versatility
Based on the show car concept first seen at the Paris show in 2008, the Chevrolet Orlando is a vehicle designed for modern families, combining 7-seat practicality and interior flexibility with crossover style design.
Chevrolet’s new compact MPV features a bold appearance with its low roofline and crossover inspired silhouette, while the distinctive and recognizable Chevrolet ‘global face’ depicted by the split grille and bow-tie badge.
The Orlando’s low swept roof line is complemented by the muscular, protruding wheel-arches, housing 16, inch wheels.
While the exterior of the new Orlando is sure to draw plenty of attention, the interior also features Chevrolet’s hallmark design cues, such as the Corvette inspired dual cockpit and ambient blue backlighting to the center console. However, it’s the theater style seating arrangement of the Orlando’s three rows of seats, the generous cargo area and the numerous storage solutions that will also grab the attention of family motorists.
Despite the sweeping roof-line, the designers have succeeded in raising the second and third row seats, which means Orlando’s occupants get an even better view of both forwards and to the side. And with a wide variety of seating configurations possible, the Orlando can be quickly transformed into one of the most voluminous MPV in the class when it comes carrying loads.
Any hard working family car needs plenty of interior storage space for all the ‘stuff’ that builds up. Like the Orlando concept car, the Orlando obliges with a range of compartments of different shapes and sizes situated in the center console, front and rear doors, rear cargo area and even the roof.
Perhaps the most ingenious is a storage area hidden behind the front fascia of the audio, and within easy reach of both the driver and passenger. Seen originally on the Orlando concept car, the designers have been able to integrate a usefully large area which is revealed by flipping up the face of the audio, and large enough for such items as an MP3 player, sunglasses and wallets. Within the space itself, there is also a USB port – ideal for recharging the MP3 player or iPod when on the move.
The Orlando is based on Chevrolet’s successful and award-winning Cruze sedan, already proven to offer excellent ride and handling. Under the hood there will be Chevrolet’s latest fuel-efficient engines: a 1.8 litre gasoline with 141 hp.
Chevrolet Sonic: Fun To Drive Subcompact
Subcompact cars have enjoyed a popularity surge over the past few years, due in part to a troubled economy, high fuel prices, heightening environmental concerns, and–to the manufacturer’s credit–more enticing vehicles. By virtue of their small size and modest engine power, subcompacts are some of the most fuel-efficient cars on the market.
Subcompact class is comprised primarily of entry-level vehicles that usually attract budget-conscious shoppers and young, first-time new-car buyers. These customers are looking for an affordable vehicle for daily commuting but necessarily need a lot of cargo or passenger space. Also, a subcompact car’s tidy exterior dimensions make it a sensible choice for buyers who drive and park in congested urban areas.
Naza Quest Sdn Bhd will be introducing the Chevrolet Sonic with full loads of youth appeal to be the facinating little cars, sporty/performance to join the subcompact lineup in 2012.
Its newly developed 1.4L powertrain offers a good blend of performance and fuel economy with great ride and handling characteristics which makes it fun to drive. Sonic has two great looking body styles: a 5-door hatchback and a 4 door sedan. The sedan has a sophisticated upscale look while the hatchback has a more agile and sporty look. Both of these cars convey a spirited, fun, youthful attitude and look.
Despite its compact exterior dimensions, Sonic offers adequate fron-seat passenger space and rear-seat space is livable for average-sized adults. Sonic also offers a surprising amount of cargo carrying capacity, exceeding the overall maximum cargo volume of several larger vehicles.
Since subcompacts are the smallest vehicles on the market, consumers are rightfully concerned about the safety equipment and performance of these vehicles in crash tests. Chevrolet Sonic’s unibody design consists of a high-strength steel structure incorporating full-length frame rails and a safety cage in a single, welded unit. The structural integrity is critical to a vehicle’s crashworthiness and the body-frame-integral (BFI) design of the new Sonic provides an extremely strong, stiff body structure.
The basic integrity of the vehicle structure is supplemented by an array of active and passive safety features, including ABS anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), and driver and passenger airbag protection. A pedal release system offers added protection for the driver’s lower leg area. In the event of a severe frontal impact is designed to collapse away from the driver’s feet and legs to prevent them from being trapped between the pedals and the vehicle body.
Pedestrian safety was also a design consideration. The frontal area of the Sonic is designed to provide reduced exposure to pedestrian injuries caused by secondary impact with hard under bonnet objects like the battery or engine.
The high level of perceived quality and refinement of the new Chevrolet Sonic is evident in a real-time driving situation when the full extent of the Sonic’s ride comfort, stability and handling become apparent.
The Sonic has been engineered to deliver a distinctly European flavor when it comes to driving dynamics. Sharp responsive handling combined with exceptional ride comfort place the Sonic at the head of its class. Equally at home on virtually all road surfaces, the Sonic provides excellent feedback in response to inputs from the driver. This is a fun-to-drive car that exhibits the dynamic characteristics of premium cars.