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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: Korean Chevy On British TV Edition

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On: Fri, Sep 10, 2010 at 1:49PM | By: John Welch


The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: Korean Chevy On British TV Edition

Chevrolet is on a roll, of sorts, lately. Ok, ok, it's "rolling out" several new models . . . sorely needed new models, as the Camaro fount is sure to dry up anytime now . . . The Chevy Cruze hits the ground, ahem, rolling with a snazzy ad campaign and a sweetheart of a turbo engine. The car is sleek and the interior well-appointed, but compared with the soon to be released Ford Focus or Hyundai Elantra, the Cruze still looks dated. Notice I didn't mention the Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla, both cars who received updates around the same time the Cruze was introduced to foreign markets. The little Chevy might just be a better car than its Japanese competition.

How about an even smaller Chevy? Also a Korean Chevy, but still . . . the production-spec Aveo has broken cover, and the exterior has retained as much of the flair promised by the "Aveo RS" concept as is possible. Quad headlamps set into black surrounds, interesting if not completely wild rear dimensions. Hidden door pulls for the rear doors. The only question is, will it be saddled with a total dog of a motor? Also, what does any of this have to do with British television? The second of three "Reasonably Priced Cars'" used on the BBC's Top Gear program was a Chevrolet Lacetti . . . familiar to us as a Suzuki Verona, and made by Deawoo—you guessed it, a Korean Chevy. A white-clad fellah named "The Stig" did at one time test this car and many others for Top Gear. Now he is a pariah of the highest order, shunned by the BBC and his fellow Top Gear presenters (I don't know if we really can call The Stig a 'presenter'), all in the name of making a few bucks he felt the Beeb owed him. We all have families to feed; which side are you on?

The Good: Finally, Finally, finally, Chevy is presenting the American market with its much-hyped Cruze, the replacement for the boring (it has its merits, don't get me wrong . .. 260 merits to be exact) Chevy Cobalt. The Cruze has received mixed reviews in other markets, and I do think the sheet metal is about a half a generation behind its competition, but there are little things about the Cruze that make it intriguing.

A turbo motor, in a Chevy, without a cost premium? Yes, please! This mill is a 1.4 liter snot-blower of a four-cylinder, but it has a variable vane hairdryer attached to it, and as every sideways hat-wearing thugabilly knows, anything with a turbo can make more power, easily. The problem is, can it handle more power?

I don't care; a turbo-equipped engine goes a long way to make a boring car less boring, if only for the whistle it adds to the exhaust note. Another area where the Cruze is top-notch is the interior. Though not as rich looking as the new Focus (but honestly, for the price, what is?!) the Cruze come slam packed with interesting shapes and soft-touch materials, even on the base motor-equipped stripper models. The dash is flowing, giving an impression of space and comfort in an area that isn't really big enough to provide adequate space or comfort. The interior can be optioned out with mulit-colored materials of all sorts, but again, even the cheapest Chevy Cruze will offer an inviting corridor for your fat American ass.

All models will offer 10 airbags, StabiliTrak electronic stability control, traction control, antilock brakes, a collapsible pedal system, and power rear-door child safety locks. The LS model will be priced at $16,995, including transportation charges. The Eco version is expected to get up to 40 mpg on the highway.

All in all, the Cruze looks like the best small car the General has ever come up with, though it's a Deawoo, and it isn't American at all. That doesn't seem to matter in this day and age, George Washinton is currently featured in Dodge Challenger ads hocking a German car, while Buick makes absolutely no bones about the Regal's Germanic physiology. We live in a world without borders, for advertising agents anyway . . . Production of the Cruze is already underway at GM's Lordstown, Ohio facility, and will begin shipping the little devil to dealers next week.

Anybody in the mood for Curry?

The Bad: Another new Korean Chevy that will be tooling around American roadways in the near future is the Chevy Aveo. Though there is little to no specific information about this car, its predecessor was so awful that it will be labeled "Bad" until it proves otherwise. With what information we have so far the Aveo is clearly a better car, its exterior is so vastly improved that it will garner plenty of sales just because it looks better then a Hyundai Accent. Exterior exuberance can take a new model only so far, what of the Aveo's guts?

Boy, I got nuthin. The Aveo is marginally longer and wider than the outgoing model, so it should have plenty of elbow room. The gauge cluster retains the motorcycle-inspired analog tach/digital speedo treatment, and the back seat has been optimized for legroom and passenger comfort. So yeah, there’s all that, but seriously, that stuff doesn't tell me anything. I want to see it!

The Aveo will debut alongside the Chevy Orlando and Cruze hatchback in Paris, and enters the European market with four engine choices. Two diesels, a first for the Aveo, rated at 75bhp and 95bhp will feature start/stop technology in the interest of saving tiny portions of fuel. The gas options include an 86bhp 1.2 liter, and a hundred horse version of the same. Those numbers will not cut it in the North American market.

Look for the Aveo to enter US dealerships around the middle of 2011, and hope, for the General's sake, that it isn't the clapped-out penalty box the former Aveo got us used to.

The Ugly: Top Gear has utilized Korean-built Chevys to good effect in the past, putting nervous celebrities into a Chevy Lacetti and then seeing if said celebrities get themselves killed. The Lacetti performed admirably, not killing a single Hollywood nit-wit or mush-mouthed British Soap Star. And Top Gear's own "Tame racing driver" (which I regard as code for "not very good racing driver") even preferred it over the outgoing Suzuki Whateveritwas. As segues go, this one is pretty weak, but I turn your attention away from Deawoos with mystery badges to The Stig himself, the cause of much consternation among Top Gear participants and fans alike.

After the last season of Top Gear, the show's second attempt at remaining relevant despite huge budget cuts (it succeeded, I think), The Stig, heretofore referred to by his real name, Ben Collins, decided that the Beeb just wasn’t paying him enough for the best job on the planet. Collins decided that he might just go and write himself a little autobiography, and cash in on the mystique that the BBC had created surrounding his character. One problem: if the Stig writes a tell-all, one of the things he will tell is his name! The BBC, and apparently Jeremy Clarkson, were not amused.

After lengthy court battle, Collins was given the 'ok' to write his tell-all, the English High Court ruling that the BBC had no rights surrounding Ben Collins, the person. Reacting immediately, as they should, the BBC fired Collins and began making preparations to kill him off on the Top Gear program. Just speculation, of course, but I don't think he'll get the same anti-climactic send-off afforded the original, black Stig. No, I'm thinking it may be more along the lines of 'South Park's' brutally honest release of Issac Hayes' character 'Chef'. Probably going to end with Collins torn limb from limb and essing himself, rather audibly.

Clarkson himself is not pleased with the ship-jumping. At a recent charity auction the Top Gear presenter was hosting, Clarkson went so far as lable Collins "A Greedy Twat." Now, I have had the pleasure of spending time with more than a few of the Queens servants, and I can tell you, without question, "Twat" is the meanest epithet they deliver. Seriously. To say that in public, for the entire world to hear, Clarkson must be really really miffed.

So, new Stig? Who really cares. I'm sure the producers of what is easily the most watched program on the planet will come up with an adequate replacement and perhaps a new line of shtick to go with it/him . . .


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