Being an auto-journo has its perks with one getting to drive most cars and bikes. However, being in the profession also attracts a barrage of questions if and when anyone you know is on the verge of his/her next vehicle purchase. Just recently I was inquired about a purchase and according to the needs, I suggested the recently launched Chevrolet Sail UVA, but my explanation was immediately cut short saying, ‘Dicky-wala gaadi chahiye’. Which brings me to the point about us Indians and our obsession with saloon cars. It is pretty evident that anyone with a decent budget prefers a saloon over a hatch-back.
And the reasons behind the choice is not just the extra boot space afforded by the saloon but in fact the reasons are on a totally different tangent. For some buying a saloon means buying a prestigious ‘big’ car, for others it’s the extra safety offered by the boot in case some one ends up rear ending you and some even believe that the saloons are more stable at higher speed than their hatch counterparts. While there are reasons aplenty, logical or illogical, what cannot be reasoned with are the sales figures of these affordable saloons.
And as a result most manufacturers when designing a car make sure that the platform is flexible enough to accommodate a hatch and a sedan and in some cases a station wagon too. This trend in India was pretty much started by the Fiat Palio/Siena/ Siena Weekend and then moved forward by the likes of the Opel Corsa/ Corsa Sail/Swing, Tata Indica/Indigo/Marina and more recently the very successful Maruti Suzuki Swift/Dzire.
GM recently launched the Chevrolet Sail UVA hatchback in order to grab their share of the premium hatchback pie and now they have come up with sedan variant of the same as well. It’s pretty clear that GM wants to take some customers away from the Maruti Suzuki Swift/Dzire and this model offensive is an indication of just that. But is this new Sail Sedan good enough to take on this giant of a competitor? Let’s find out…
The hatch has spawned a boot, and it still looks good!
At first glance, most would pretty much mistake the sedan for the hatchback and it’s not without a reason. The sedan looks exactly like the hatchback right up to the B-pillar and it’s only when you move to the side that you spot the boot and the new 8-spoke alloys. That said, it’s a job well done and from no angle does it look like the boot has been put there as an afterthought. The Sail UVA boasted a pretty fuss free design and the sedan follows the same theme. There is just a single character line running from the front fender to the tail lights to give the otherwise plain-jane design some much needed depth.
Seen from the back, the big gold bowtie stands out in an otherwise good looking rear. All in all, the Sail sedan comes across as a handsome looking car which won’t tickle your fantasies but it’s not something you would want to shy away from either like you would from some of the Sails better known adversaries. That said, Chevrolet should have made some subtle changes to differentiate the car from the hatch version by means of a different grille or some chrome touches or something at least.
Space for the passengers and now their luggage too!
Like on the outside, the insides of the sedan get the same interiors of the hatch. And that’s a good thing and a not so good thing. The width and the wheelbase are exactly the same and as a result so is the space. One will never fall short on legroom unless you bear the dimensions of a big wrestler. Some smart packaging means the Sail comfortably accommodates three people abreast. The front seats are pretty accommodating as well but again devoid of any driver seat height adjustment or a dead pedal.
While space retained is the good thing, the bland interiors are the not so good part. Design, like on the outside, is pretty straightforward. No snazzy shapes on the dash, no radical console and the steering is still devoid of any audio controls. No climate control either. The dated rotary dials are retained in the sedan. GM should have at least given different fabrics on the seats. The practicality aspect though is well taken care of with plenty of cup holders and storage spaces. The boot space too is quite impressive and thanks to a well designed loading bay, it can easily accommodate a good amount of luggage.
All good under the hood!
The S-TEC II petrol and the Smartech diesel are retained for duty in the sedan. Putting out 86 PS @ 6000 rpm and 113 Nm @ 4400 rpm, the same engine in the hatch felt a little laboured. However, owing to the increased weight it seems like GM has tinkered with the mapping since the sedan certainly showed more zest. Keep it in the powerband and the petrol Sail canters along quite well and it’s only near the red zones of the tacho that the engine starts sounding coarse.
One thing that we noticed though was that you need quite a decent amount of shove on the accelerator pedal to get the car moving off the mark or you end up stalling it and this is especially noticeable when you are parked even on the slightest incline. What also affects the driving experience is the long travel clutch coupled with the slightly rubbery 5-speed gear box. But this is only noticed during spirited drives and not under normal driving conditions.
The Smartech diesel on the other hand has no such problems. With 78 PS @4000 rpm and 205 Nm of torque available from as low as 1750 rpm, the diesel Sail has plenty to offer. Throttle response is pretty good and hard acceleration in first and second gear gets the front tyres chirping quite easily. Mid range is quite good and as a result one wont have to change gears frequently when driven around town. The engine gets quite noisy outside but the cabin is pretty well insulated.
Sails over bad roads
We loved the Sail UVA’s ride quality and sedan is no different. Both the petrol and the heavier diesel have just the right suspension set up for our roads. The roads we drove on were pothole ridden over quite a distance, and both the cars performed flawlessly. None of the thuds are filtered into the cabin with the car smothering them all with reassuring confidence. The steering too feels nice and meaty without feeling too light. There is roll when going hard around corners but nothing to get worried about. The 175/70 R14 Apollo Acceleres do a great job with a fine balance of grip and ride quality. One can safely say that the Sail boasts one of the best ride quality amongst sedans.
Price it right!
The Sail sedan is all set to go up against the likes of the Maruti Suzuki Dzire, Toyota Etios and the likes which are already very well established products in the market. The Sail sedan has got the goods with its good looks, space and practicality but there are a few chinks in its armor too. The interiors lack enthusiasm and the sedan is simply just too similar to the hatch with almost everything carried over. And the only way that these negatives can be overlooked is if GM gets the pricing right. Under cutting the Swift Dzires price by a significant margin will be the key and if GM manages to do it, the cash registers will definitely start ringing!
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