Chev’s new beaut ute
South Africans love a tough little bakkie and our local half-ton LCV market is as hotly contested as the heavy-duty truck sector. Released in 2004, the current Opel Corsa Utility has become the top seller in its category for five and a half years on the trot now, thanks to gutsy performance, class-leading load capacity and striking good looks. PAUL COLLINGS takes the new Corsa Sport on a joy ride down to the Drakensberg, finding much to enthuse about.
Recently rebranded, with the Chevrolet bowtie replacing the Opel blitz icon, the new Chevrolet Corsa Utility (or Ute, American for bakkie) range includes eight derivatives, from the 1,4-litre base model, to the 1,8-litre Sport model, plus a 1,7-litre diesel option. While it retains the chunky rear haunches and Euro-styled front-end that have helped make it one of the most visually distinctive light commercial vehicles on offer today, the new Corsa range also boasts a set of enhancements that position it as a no-nonsense workhorse.
Freedom of movement
The sales brochure for the new Corsa stable clearly defines the major selling propositions – “the ride height, payload and pick-up box capacity have all been enhanced to allow this vehicle to work even harder than its predecessor. And if it’s space you’re after, there’s a reason why we’re the only manufacturer legally allowed to use the word ‘Maxicab’ as part of our official vocabulary.”
Climbing into the new Maxicab of the 1,8-litre Sport model, one is immediately struck by its overall roominess. There’s none of that knee-bashing squeeze one expects from a typical half-ton bakkie and the driver’s seat has a few extra centimetres of rear travel to accommodate the most long-legged pilot. There’s ample headroom and lateral space too, giving the cab a luxury sedan feel, further enhanced by head-rests, slick instrumentation and a windscreen that slopes away from the driver (and passenger) at a pleasing distance. There’s also plenty of space behind the seats to accommodate a pair of sizeable travel bags and a small cooler box.
Out on the highway as dawn approaches, the Corsa Sport is impressively quiet. Its 79 kW engine cruises along at 120 km/h at around 3 500 r/min, backed by a handy torque band between 2 000 and 5 000 r/min, producing 160 Nm at 2 600 r/min. It’s quoted top speed is 185 km/h – fast enough for any payload pusher. Its bold headlights and new fog lamps give it more than ample illumination power and the controls positioned on the steering wheel help keep eyes on the road.
On a trip measuring just over 800 km, one expects a bit of numb-bum, cramp and backache, but the Corsa Sport is amazingly comfortable with cloth seats designed to cushion and support strategic muscle groups for prolonged periods. The gear-changing procedure is also effortless, the short and sporty gear lever delivering a tight but smooth feel along with a sweat-free clutch action.
Off-road, the Corsa Sport does not disappoint with an impressive 214 mm of ground clearance and rugged suspension that can handle the rough without untoward damage to vehicle or driver. The 1,19 m3 load box allows for all manner of freight, safely housed between sidewalls rising 520 mm from the load deck. Couple these dimensions with the payload rating of 800 kg and it’s no surprise the Corsa Utility is top dog in its fighting weight.
Adding to the luxury bakkie experience, the Corsa Sport boasts aircon, power-assisted steering, ABS brakes, driver and passenger air bags, electric windows and a radio/CD/MP3 player with steering wheel audio controls. A roof spoiler and mag wheels add that little extra “spoed” to the equation.
Put to the test in the glamour stakes at the foot of the majestic Cathedral Peak, the metallic silver Corsa Sport struts its stuff with confidence, sparkling in the sun and fairly glistening in the rain. With an average fuel consumption of around 7,6 l/100 km, the Corsa Sport is relatively frugal and the only downside is its modest 50-litre fuel tank that seems to run dry a little too quickly for a driver and a bakkie who are in no mood to leave the road.
Rest assured – the new Chevrolet Corsa Sport knows how to work and those sweeping bends down Oliviershoek Pass will attest to the fact – it also knows how to PLAY!