General Motors' tryst with India goes back quite a while however it's only now that that India's 5th largest car maker is beginning to fire on all cylinders. A spate of recent launches was just the precursor to one of the most awaited cars from the GM stables, the Sail UVA. ZigWheels brings you an exclusive first drive!
How important is the Indian car market to international car manufacturers? Well, that answer can be taken out of a page from GM India’s book. Let’s go back a few years, actually more than a few years when the GM saga began in India. It was 1994 when General Motors India Private Limited was established as a joint venture with Hindustan Motors to produce and sell Opels. While the cars were good, sales were pretty ordinary thanks to the high maintenance and very average fuel consumption. While the Opel brand finally disappeared into the sunset in 2006, GM’s other subsidiary; Chevrolet which was established in 2003 was pretty much the shining star at GMIPL.
The move to Chevrolet as GM’s marquee of choice globally was also coming into effect and given its earlier presence in India the move to replace Opel with Chevrolet was a logical one. With successful launches like the Optra sedan and the Tavera MUV, Chevrolet was GM’s knight in a bowtie. After years of struggling, GM had finally found its calling in India thanks to Chevrolet. Which brings us to the answer of how important the Indian market really is? Even after all the years of struggling, GM decided to stick on rather than just pack its bags. Their patience was finally paying dividends.
When it came to a hatch, Chevrolet came out with the Aveo U-VA. While it made for quite a sensible car, it didn’t really catch the buyers fancy thanks to a very staid design and an average engine. Space was pretty much the only virtue, but with cars like the Maruti Suzuki Swift and the Hyundai Getz, the U-VA could not really make a strong case for itself. But the 2012 Auto Expo showed us an all new U-VA which looked all set to change this brand’s history. Out went the Aveo and in came the Sail U-VA model name.
Now the Sail isn’t an all new car made for India like the Ford Figo or the Toyota Etios Liva. In fact, it sells in huge numbers elsewhere in an international market. This is where the GM-SAIC joint venture comes into the picture. China is increasingly becoming a hub for General Motors’ global operations as both a major market and now a design centre for the company’s South Asian operations, and the company was banking on a locally designed model to breathe new wind into its Indian subsidiary’s sails.
The Chevrolet Sail is notable not only for its sales success in China, but also for the fact that it was designed and developed at GM’s Pan-Asia Technical Automotive Center in Shanghai for China plus emerging markets, rather than in Europe or North America. Since then, the car has been a massive success in China where it occupies a niche for four-door family sedans. General Motors is hoping that the Shanghai-designed Sail which has been so successful in China will be the solution the company’s struggling Indian branch has been looking for in recent years. So will it work? Let’s find out…
Evolutionary, rather than a revolutionary design
While the world already had an idea about what the Sail would look like, thanks to an almost production version shown at the 2012 Auto Expo, ZigWheels confirmed it by being the first to get spy shots of an un-camouflaged car in the open and the production version which we were introduced to sprang no new surprises. After coming out with the radical Beat, one would have expected something even funkier with the new car, but the Sail doesn’t really break any new ground as far as the styling is concerned. However when you compare it to its predecessor, the Aveo U-VA, the new car does look a whole lot fresher. Upfront, the twin slatted grille emblazoned with a gold bowtie leaves no doubt that this is a Chevy.
The lower fascia is also nicely detailed and the fog lights have been pretty well integrated. Moving around the side, a crisp bevel just below the window line and a parallel bulge between the wheel arches combine well to camouflage the U-VA’s tall, stubby profile. The roofline silhouette is at its highest just ahead of the A-pillar after which it troughs stylishly till the end. The rear however seems to be the only area where the designers seem to have lost the plot a bit. The vertically stacked tail lamps along with a flat tail gate don’t really inspire much flair. The 12-spoke wheels too at 14 inch look a tad smaller compared to the overall girth of the car. An upsize on the rim diameter would definitely add a lot more character. While we would have preferred the brilliant Sonic inspired design, overall, the Sail U-VA definitely comes across as a pleasant fresh face if not a showstopper.