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Chev Ute 1800 Sport, an everyday runabout


CAR manufacturers and importers worldwide are having a much tougher time staying in business these days, due to the abundance of cheap and cheerful Eastern vehicles that have forced everyone to sharpen their pencils when determining specification and price. In this climate, a model that sells well through thick and thin, is something to be cherished.

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.

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