Chevrolet Utility rolls up its work sleeves
South Africa is without a doubt a nation of many differences; not only in terms of its people, but also respective preferences.
However, when it comes to moving people and their belongings around, or taking the road less travelled, we tend to put these differences aside by throwing our support behind a vehicle that has become the staple of our landscape; the bakkie.
As South Africans are notorious for being brand-driven, chances are that more and more of a particular model will start appearing on our roads, case in the point, the Chevrolet Utility.
Introduced as a successor to the extremely popular Opel Corsa Utility four years ago, the Utility has gone on to become a familiar site on our roads with an average of 1 500 units leaving dealerships across the country each month.
Unlike its predecessor, which attributed its popularity to being more of a leisure orientated offering instead of a worker, the Utility, or Ute - as it is affectionately known, has proved to be more of a working class hero with the majority of models being either the base or mid-range Club, as opposed to the luxury range topping Sport.
Originating from Brazil, where it is known as the Montana, the Ute rides on a revised platform used by compact South American market Chevrolet Agile (ah-gy-lah), with the most notable Latin influence being its looks.
Although initially frowned upon by those who preferred the Corsa’s more conservative appearance, the Ute nonetheless stands out with its Agile inspired swept back headlights, dual port grille split by the bowtie logo, and rear end featuring a number cues from the now sadly discontinued Lumina SS Ute.
Despite our tester being the entry level base 1.4, the addition of a factory fitted tonneau cover, rubberised load bin, snazzy 14-inch aftermarket alloy wheels and colour coded bumpers instead of the usual black fittings, gives it a more sporty yet purposeful appeal.
Inside, the Ute’s interior layout is neat for a supposed workhorse with satin silver finishes around the outer air vents and on the unusual J-shaped door handles. As to be expected, the types of plastics used are of the soft kind, but felt solid and robust enough to withstand the punishment vehicles like these are often subjected to.
Similar to the Corsa, interior space utilisation continues to rate as one of the Ute’s main drawing cards with storage spaces below the radio, opposite the light switches, on top of the dash, in front of the gear lever and at the base of each door. In addition, the Ute also makes the most of behind seat storage with capacity being rated at 164-litres.
Given its status as the workhorse of the range, standard spec is commendable with air-conditioning, follow-me-home headlights, height adjustable steering wheel and seatbelts, dual front airbags and ABS with EBD.
Although base Ute’s make do without a radio as standard, our test unit came fitted with a rather smart looking MP3 and USB compatible aftermarket unit that provided decent sound, and did not have to be switched-off manually each time the key was removed from the ignition.
On the move, the Ute proved even more of a surprise thanks to a rev-happy 1.4-litre petrol engine. Essentially a slightly reworked version of the unit that did duty in the Corsa, the eight-valve mill produces 68 kW and 120 N.m of torque, with a five-speed manual gearbox sending power to the front wheels.
With the Ute tipping the scales at just over 1.1-tons, the engine feels eager to impress by shrugging off its modest output, and providing forward momentum with little hesitation. Likewise, the combination of MacPherson struts at the front and semi-independent trailing arm at the rear, gives the Ute a comfortable ride setup with payload still impressive at 743 kg.
While initially sceptical, my tenure with the base Chevrolet Utility proved why it can be regarded as a worthy successor to the erstwhile Corsa Utility. With enough creature comforts, stand out looks and decent load capacity, it has more than enough credentials to deserve its position as one of the country’s top ten sellers.
To book a test drive, visit Williams Hunt William Moffett, corner of Knight Street and the William Moffett Expressway, or contact them on 041 396 4600.
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