Management at General Motors should thus think about placing one of their successful little Chev Utilities in the foyer of their headquarters, because the Brazilian-developed but locally built bakkie makes up more than 25 percent of GMSA's total vehicle sales in this country, with sales of about 1 400 units per month.
Many of these go to small businesses, but there's also a strong demand among people who want a car and a workhorse rolled into one for use as a lifestyle vehicle.
We recently spent a week with the Chevrolet Utility 1.8-litre Sport and found little to complain about. At R199 600, it's R62 000 more costly than the 1.4-litre base model, but you get a bigger engine and a whole lot of the things that are these days considered essential in a car.
These include ABS brakes, aircon and a decent sound system, while nice-to-haves are the electric windows and mirror, tonneau cover, speed-sensitive auto door locks, 15" alloy wheels, fog lights, alarm, central locking, auto headlamps, colour-coded door handles, and an on-board computer. As an aside, it's surprising that the base model has airbags but no ABS brakes; if costs need to be trimmed I'd rather have the brakes than the airbags, any time.
The Chev Ute Sport is a good looking vehicle that comes across as much more masculine than the original Corsa bakkie. The interior is tidy, but some of the plastics feel a bit cheap and brittle until you remind yourself that this is, after all, a bakkie. That's also when you begin to appreciate its large 1 639mm x 508mm x 1 324mm bin and the large stowage area behind the bucket front seats. The seats provide a fair bit of fore-and-aft adjustment and the steering wheel - bereft of any audio controls except for the hooter button - is adjustable for tilt, but not for height.
The Chev bakkie makes for a pleasant everyday runabout. The 1.8-litre engine, with 77kW and 161Nm of torque isn't going to fool you into believing that you're in command of a hot hatch, but it does the job well enough in conjunction with the five-speed manual gearbox.
My short blonde co-driver complained that the steering felt too heavy for her liking, but I found it to be pretty well weighted. Ride quality was firm but not harsh, even without a load.
The Chev Ute is a handy little vehicle that has always done well in South Africa. The model range is made up of seven vehicles using 1.4 and 1.8-litre petrol engines, as well as a 1.3-litre turbo diesel. With prices ranging from R136 100 for the base 1.4 workhorse to R211 100 for the 1.3-litre turbo diesel Club, there should be a model to suit just about anyone’s needs - and pockets.
All come with a 12-month /15 000km service plan, which we feel is a little mean of GM but still better than nothing.