Chevrolet Matiz 1.0 SE review
by Alan Douglas (2 September 2005)
So there I was, cruising around the mean streets in my Chevvy, some cool music on the CD and the distinctive Chevrolet cross on the brushed steel keyring glistening in the golden sunset. It's a great image - unfortunately the reality was something completely different. I was in Glasgow, the next thunderstorm was about to start chucking it down and the Chevvy was a pale blue pint-sized Matiz wearing its new Chevrolet coat after General Motors cast off its old Daewoo one.
The old name may have gone, but the car is basically the same - and I'd forgotten just how small it is. Actually, rather than small, it's more narrow, as though at some point in the design stage it was put into a vice and gently squeezed.
Fortunately, on this run I was on my own. The day before, I'd gone with a colleague on a 50-mile trip, and by the end of the journey we felt we knew each other very well. Neither of us are particularly on the large side - he's certainly younger and trimmer than me - but we found that filling the two front seats, we were almost on each other's laps.
This car is small. At under five feet wide, it's actually almost two inches narrower than the tiny smart city car which is always thought of as the smallest on the road. The door mirrors, especially if they're not colour-coordinated, seem out of proportion to the rest of the car. They look almost as big as the bug-eyed headlights, incredibly adding almost a foot and a half to the overall width.
The Matiz is also two inches lower than the smart fortwo although it is longer. Unfortunately, not only do these dimensions mean the car is pretty insignificant on the road - other drivers don't so much point at you, they don't seem to notice you at all - it also means there's very little space inside either. I tried putting a smallish suitcase in the space behind the rear seats . . . and failed miserably. All I could get in there was a small soft bag. Even my pilot-style briefcase wouldn't fit.
The stick-thin tyres wrap around tiny wheels and the whole effect is decidedly flimsy. But this is a cheap car, with enough change from £7000 for a week's package holiday in Spain; it'll do anything up to 60 miles on every gallon; the insurance rating is almost as low as it can go; road tax is just £105 a year and along with your three-year warranty and AA Total Recovery, you also get three years' free servicing.
If you want to go real bargain-basement, there's an even cheaper option - the 800cc three-cylinder version with 50bhp which means you'll probably fall asleep by the time you get to 62mph (it actually takes more than 18 seconds) but it will give you almost 70mpg and costs just over £6000.
It's quite a package when you add on all the standard features, even in the base model. Included in the price of the SE which I tested is a whole list of features, not always found in cars at this level, such as dual front airbags, a height-adjustable driver's seat, power steering, engine immobiliser, Blaupunkt RDS radio/CD with four speakers, front seat belt pre-tensioners, remote control central door locking and electric front windows.
Chevrolet says the car has undergone a major upgrade and is now leaner, fitter and with a stronger body than before. The company claims it has "cheeky charm" but its strongest feature is its everyday practicality making it a classic urban runabout. I have to agree. It is simple to use and it can fit into the smallest of spaces. The steering is nice and light at slow speed and the turning circle is good. I didn't try it myself but I'm told you can turn through a full circle within the length of a double-decker bus.
All four doors open wide and with low sills it is easy to get in and out of. You can fit three kids in the back, all strapped into their own belts, for the school run and with the rear seats folded down, there is some very useable space for the supermarket shopping.
The car has been amazingly popular since its launch seven years ago with 1.3 million on the world's roads. How much of that was due to Daewoo's aggressive marketing isn't clear but the fact is that in the European market it is second only to the Fiat Panda and last year sold almost 6500 models in the UK. What isn't known is how long buyers keep their cars or whether they come back for more, trading them in for a new one.
Build quality and finish is what you'd expect from a car at this price. My test model had barely 1200 miles on the clock when the rubber cover of the throttle pedal fell off at my feet. I worried that it might just be the first of many other bits to follow suit.