One of the more recent changes to the automotive landscape has been the takeover of Daewoo by Chevrolet. This change is more than a rebadging job though as Chevrolet has invested time and money in the range and introduced a host of changes to ensure that the name change brings with it a refreshed look and injects new life into the model line-up.
The car here, the Matiz, is one of the principal benefactors with changes to the appearance, both internal and external, and a re-engineered chassis. External changes are subtle but effective: a new grille and headlight treatment at the front, with a complex array of curves that flow from the bonnet into the wings and up into the door and culminate in an exaggerated step in the window line, most prominent in the profile view. The new looks endow the little car with a more upmarket image, significantly less cutesy than the Daewoo version
These changes bring with them other benefits, namely a Cd of 0.34 compared to 0.39 for the old car. This change has a positive effect on both refinement and economy, both of which are significantly improved. However, the core advantages of the Matiz endure: tiny external dimensions coupled with tardis-like accommodation inside. The positives of such features are immediately obvious around town. No parking space is too small whilst a trip to the DIY store isn't too daunting either as there is a genuinely usable load space.
Accommodation remains adequate for four adults, five at a stretch for shorter periods, who will admire the fit and finish of the updated cabin. The relocation of the dials to the centre of the dash a la
Toyota Yaris makes the cabin look very different. I'm not sure why the warning lights didn't join the move though and they do look a little detached and lonely away from the instruments. The minor controls are well sited and there are a multitude of handy cubbies for storage. It's a genuinely usable and practical everyday solution to the demands of an every day run-around.
Equipment wise the specification is generous, but not extravagantly so. Chevrolet has included the things you'd need but haven't added to the price by going over the top with gimmicks and accessories. You need electric windows, a CD player, remote central locking and an immobiliser for example. You don't need satnav or a DVD player in a city car like this.
On the road the controls remain light and easy, perhaps overly light for some tastes, but given the car's brief you can understand this. Around town the car is your best friend, with excellent all round visibility, admirable agility and a manoeuvrability that gets you into spaces that in other cars you wouldn't contemplate. It's also handily nippy and can dart in and out of the flow of traffic with relative ease.
Our test car had the 1-litre four-cylinder engine that manages to combine a fizzy nature with a good deal of low down torque. It doesn't feel peaky or highly-strung like many small engines do and the slick, quick shifting five-speed 'box means you don't lose valuable momentum between the gears. You can expect to see mpg figures in the 40s on an everyday basis as well (an essential for a cheap to run city car) with 50mpg not impossible thanks to the lighter weight construction and breathed on engine.
So the Matiz is good around town, and to be fair it was pretty good before. Where it used to fall over, sometimes it began to feel literal, was on the open road. The high sided body and narrow track makes the car looks like it will topple over and the previous car sometimes made you think it might. The new car is a step improvement over old thanks to a redesigned rear suspension set up that features a new torsion beam rear axle. For me this new set up makes the Matiz a much more competent handler on the open road with no obvious detriment to ride quality. It's a car you can now actually enjoy a little back road blat in.
The other marked improvement is in motorway cruising with a new found composure when mixing it with trucks and crosswinds. You used to feel the old car was a little sketchy in this environment; this one feels much more planted. It is also much quieter and more refined, much of which must be down to the wind cheating design, but also a direct result of some tuning of various aspects of the cars mountings and fittings to improve NVH.
Maybe I've mellowed with time but the Chevrolet incarnation of the Matiz seems to be a huge improvement over the Daewoo version. The changes to the chassis make it a much more feasible everyday car in my opinion in that one no longer dreads a B-road jaunt or extended periods out of town. The changes to the interior and facelifted appearance have also breathed fresh life into the ageing design. Make no mistake, there are better cars in the class, such as the Fiat Panda
, but the Matiz is a much more complete and compelling package than it used to be.