As good as it gets

As good as it gets

The Chevrolet Utility continues to rock the sub one-ton segment market. CHARLEEN CLARKE gets behind the wheel in an attempt to figure out why…

Oh duh, Norman. That’s the problem with a bakkie. You imagine the driver is Norman, the plumber. Sure, he’s good with pipes. But toss him into a room full of eloquent types and… well… er… the conversation goes down the drain. (Sorry, Norm.)

Of course, that was all in the past. Enter (cue the trumpets) the brand new Chevrolet Utility – the third generation of the vehicle to enter our markets. This bakkie is a workhorse – undoubtedly. But pop around to your mates and you don’t need to park around the corner.

That’s because the Chevrolet Utility, which has evolved from the Corsa Utility, looks hot. The previous vehicle wasn’t embarrassingly ugly – far from it. But whereas the Corsa Utility had almost soft, dainty lines the latest Chevrolet Utility looks distinctly spunky. And – with its strong frontal view, familiar dual-port grille split by a cross-member that carries the iconic Chevrolet bowtie emblem and strong headlamp/front bumper styling treatments – it cries out “Chevrolet”!

In fact, the front looks just like many of the cars in the Chevrolet range – so much so my colleague on the launch (a motoring journalist of 40 years’ standing) walked to the wrong car (note: car) on the launch! I giggled, but in all honestly that mistake was relatively easy to make: the Utility’s front end does have a lot in common with its passenger car siblings.

The same can be said of the interior: it’s very car-like. It’s as comfortable as most Chevrolet cars, with almost as many features. For example, driver and passenger airbags are a standard fitment across the range, as is a height adjustable steering wheel. The driver’s seat is also height adjustable on all models and height adjustment is now also provided for the three-point seat belts. Seat coverings (an embossed design) make use of new technology.

Remote central locking and anti-theft alarm arming are standard on all but the base specification models. Where air-conditioning is included in the specification, it’s linked to a digital ventilation control panel. On the Club and Sport trim levels the audio system features integrated Bluetooth, a USB port and iPod connectivity. (Base, Club and Sport specification levels are on offer.)

There are currently two engine derivatives: a 1,4 litre or 1,8 litre petrol engine (a diesel will come later). Both are single overhead camshaft, eight-valve engines. However, I was particularly impressed with the former, which produces 68 kW at 6 000 r/min and maximum torque of 120 Nm at 3 200 r/min. Sure, the 1,8 litre produces considerably more torque (161 Nm at 3 000 r/min, to be precise). But when it comes to power there’s nothing in it: the big brother churns out 77 kW at 5 400 r/min – which doesn’t really warrant the extra cost of the bigger motor.

Ride comfort is very good. On the downside, I didn’t like the brakes: they felt as though they’d never bite. On the other hand, the clutch travel on our launch test units seemed too “elastic”.

But those were probably just launch niggles. The Chevrolet Utility is a damn fine bakkie. In fact, it’s as good as it gets.

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