This is the home of automobile road tests in South Africa. We drive South African cars, SUVs and LCVs under South African conditions. It also just happens that most of the vehicles we drive are world cars as well, so what you read here probably applies to the models you can get at home.
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Published in The Witness Motoring on Wednesday November 10, 2010
"It's not really a change of name," said GMSA marketing director Malcolm Gauld at a recent press gathering, "it was a Chev originally and has simply gone back to its roots." Quite right, of course; what we happily called the Opel Corsa Utility is known as the Chevrolet Montana in its native Brazil, and has been since a year before it came out to South Africa in 2004.
Naming exercises aside, Corsa pickups have topped SA sub-1 ton sales charts every month for just over five years, and a 1700 diesel set 15 new speed and endurance records over a 72 hour period earlier this year, beating those set by a competitor's 3,0 litre pickup in 2003. They have also picked up a string of Synovate and JD Power awards.
The little utes are available here with a choice of three engines; 1400 cc or 1800 cc petrol, and the 1700 cc diesel mentioned above. There are four variants of the 1400; Base versions with or without air conditioning, Club and Sport. The 1800s come in Club and Sport trim, while the 1700 diesel is listed only in Sport configuration.
While "Base" models are pretty down to earth and the daily job of driving them would probably be left to someone other than the boss, they do at least have power steering, a driver's seat that is adjustable for height and an immobiliser. By the time one has moved upscale, via "Club" to "Sport" specification, the little pickup is really quite pleasant and eminently usable as a small-business workhorse, a second family car or a young person's primary wheels.
In Sport guise the Corsa Ute boasts air conditioner, sliding rear window, an MP3 compatible radio/CD combination but no USB or auxiliary input, an immobiliser and alarm system, remote central door locking, triple info display (external temp/date/time), roof mounted “bee sting” antenna, high mounted stoplight, driver and passenger airbags, ashtray and cigarette lighter, colour keyed wheel arch mouldings, mirror housings and bumpers, 14 inch alloy wheels with 185/65 HR 14 tyres, sport seats with jacquard cloth trim, front fog lamps and roof spoiler. ABS brakes are fitted as standard on the Corsa 1,8 Sport, but not the others.
The cargo bin measures 1 690 mm x 1 350 mm x 520 mm or 1,19 m3. Rated payloads vary between 650 kg (1400 cc) and 800 kg (diesel) while braked towing capacities range from 670 kg to 1 200 kg - just the thing for small businesses, dumping garden refuse, towing a couple of bikes or lugging band equipment, then.
Ground clearance is given as 214 mm, so the occasional bumpy building site or camping ground should be well within its capabilities. Over our favourite stretch of gravel road, the 1,4i Sport behaved well, soaking up bumps and keeping on course at all times. Its 'Maritzburg speed hump rating is "quite good;" certainly not in the same class as big SUVs, but not bad at all for a small commercial vehicle. Being fussy for a moment, I must note that its turning circle of 11,64 metres was bigger than expected, making parking lot manoeuvrability a little awkward.
Certainly not awkward, is general outward visibility with little triangular windows set into the rear cab pillars making life that much easier than it would have been without them. While inside, let's mention that the cabin is longer than most, with GMSA registering the name 'Maxicab' to highlight its spaciousness. There's enough fore- and aft adjustment of the individual bucket seats to accommodate everyone except that guy who lives on top of the beanstalk. Back-of-seat stowage gets a special mention, too - no built in goodie box, but the space is there.
Performance of the 1 389 cc SOHC 8-valver matched with a five speed transmission is up there with your average car of similar capacity, reaching the magic 100 km/h in a touch over 13 seconds and going on to a maximum of 160. Gearing is slightly on the side of "commercial," with the engine turning over at about 4 000 rpm in top.
It may take a while to accept this little truckling as a Chevrolet because it still has its distinctly Opel Corsa face, but it's the same class leader it has been for over five years and that's unlikely to change overnight.
Price: R155 400
Engine: 1 389 cc SOHC 8-valve
Power: 66 kW at 6 200 rpm
Torque: 115 Nm at 3 200 rpm
Zero to 100 km/h: 13,02 seconds
Maximum speed: 160 km/h
Payload: 650 kg
Average fuel consumption: 8,0 l/100 km
Tank: 50 litres
Warranty: 5 years/120 000 km
Service intervals: 15 000 km
Service - 3 years/60 000 km: R9 538.68
Maintenance - 3 years/60 000 km: R14 831.70
This is a one-man show, which means that road test cars entrusted to me are driven only by me. Some reviewers hand test cars over to their partners to use as day-to-day transport and barely experience them for themselves.
What this means to you is that every car reviewed is given my own personal evaluation and receives my own seat of the pants judgement - no second hand input here.
Every car goes through real world testing; on city streets littered with potholes, speed bumps and rumble strips, on freeways and if its profile demands, dirt roads as well.
I am based in Pietermaritzburg, KZN, South Africa. This is the central hub of the KZN Midlands farming community; the place farmers go to to buy their supplies and equipment, truck their goods to market, send their kids to school and go to kick back and relax.
So occasionally a cow, a goat or a horse may add a little local colour by finding its way into the story or one of the pictures. It's all part of the ambience!
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