Pointless as this review might be, except, maybe, for the two other Brazilian guys on Oppo, I'm bored and thought this would be a fun way to pass the time, because, obviously, I'm too messed up to know what normal people do on a sunday afternoon. Also, there's a fair chance I suck at this, so bear with me here ok? Oh yeah, and excuse the poor pictures, I figured phone pictures were better than no pictures so, there's that.
The Chevrolet Onix was released about a year ago to compliment, and eventually replace, the Chevrolet Agile hatchback, the first car on a wave of brand new models from GM Brasil after about a decade of selling rehashed Opels from the 90's. The Agile was never meant to be more than a placeholder though, being built on the same old and outdated platform as some of the aforementioned 90's Opels, so it's the Onix that Chevrolet hopes to pitch in the "Premium Compact" market. It's main rivals, Ford's highly praised Fiesta and Hyundai's highly overrated HB20, are both hot sellers in the Brazil, so in order to stand up to them, the Onix must be a pretty good car, right? Right. In typical GM fashion, the Onix is not the cheapest or the best equipped, as both of its rivals feature 1.6 liter engines and, while the Ford comes standard with more toys and gadgets and options, the Hyundai is (probably... good luck finding the actual price before signing the check) cheaper.
Also, for some reason the media seems to think the Hyundai is the best looking of the bunch:
And I'm the one who needs glasses...
A quick glance is all it takes to realize that the Onix's styling is pure GM, but it may take a second or third look to realize that this may not be all bad, at least in this case. Compared to its rivals, the Onix is decidedly conservative; it doesn't have the drastic angles and sharp corners sported by the Fiesta, and its lines are free of the creases, folds, peaks and stretches Hyundai seems to cram into every single panel in sight (they overuse it, is what I'm trying to say), but its bodyshape is far from ugly. Investing on stockier shapes and rounded forms, GM created a car that's both cleaner and more discreet that its competitors. The corporate grill is there, of course, but I find that it fits this car much better than its predecessor, the Agile, or any other car in the current Chevrolet Lineup, except, maybe, for the Cobalt sedan, and the stocky body lines are creased only by broadened "shoulders" on all four fenders, which extend all the way from the rear wings to the trunk lid, giving the car a clean, muscular look. Similar lines are shared by most of GM's current lineup, by the way, but the Onix is by far the one that sports them best.
All in all, it looks like a mouse on steroids.
While I didn't ride in any of its rivals in order to compare interior notes, I did spend a fair amount of time in Chevrolets of old, and the Onix's interior is not as much as a step up, as it is a leap forward. A massive, impulse charging, canyon clearing leap forward. Sure, most of it is still plastics and fabric, but, in an economy car, even if it's a "premium compact", it would be too much to expect anything noble, like wood, and leathers. What Chevrolet did here, though, was make the most of what they had, and as a result, the plastics are soft and feel nice to the touch, the build quality is pretty good, without gaps, barbed edges and exposed bolts and fasteners and, just like the TrailBlazer reviewed last, no noises of any kind. We'll come back to it later, but it seems quiet cars are going to be a thing with GM from now on.
Ergonomically speaking, there isn't much to be said. There's plenty of room at both the front and back rows, and I'd gladly pay a round of beers to whoever desgined those seats. They're great, almost as good the Recaros on my Tipo, and probably better than the Blazer's leather seats. Mildly softer in the middle, the seat and lateral cushions provide an unholy amount of lateral support and they're very easy to regulate. A word of advice though, the height regulation is beyond useless, and anyone taller than me (I'm 1.82 tall, which is 6-foot-something) will probably spend more time staring at the headliner than at the actual road. Being used to Chevrolets, all the buttons and switches were located exactly where I expected them to be, but at the same time, they're smaller and closer together than what I'm used to, what doesn't make them difficult to operate, just a little awkward. Being inside the Onix never makes you feel like you're a giant squeezing into a tiny car, but at the same time it makes you feel like your hands are too large to be operating it.
Hey, remember how I started talking about the Blazer by stating how quiet it was? Well, I could totally have said the exact same thing about the Onix. This car is excpetionally quiet, almost as much as the Blazer, though it gets a little road noise at highway speeds, mostly from the tires whispering against the pavement. Punch the throttle, and, again, just like the Blazer, the exhaust note; an oddly deep, throaty growl, will fill the cabin. It's the exact same sound I imagine an angry baby T-Rex did when trying to showoff to older members of my imaginary T-Rex herd.
The audio quality is equally great, and even at low volumes, the radio will most likely drown out any interior and exterior noises with a full, deep, quality. Oh yeah, except the car didn't come with a radio, instead, it features Chevrolet's MyLink system. I'm a driver not a programmer, so I didn't even start to mess around with that thing, all I know is that when you turn it on, it plays music, and it plays well. Very well. That's enough "infotainment" for me.
Engine and Transmission:
Equipped with a 1.4 liter 4 Cylinder engine and a 6 speed automatic transmission, this is one of the weirdest combos I have ever seen in my entire life, but does it work? Well, yes... and no. At first impression, the car felt zippy enough, so my mind automatically associated high-ish power, to low-ish weight, like the Corsa we used to own (130 hp, 1005 kg), but a quick glance at the owner's manual revealed that the engine is rated at a meager 99 bhp on regular gas, and the car weighs about 1490 kg. That's... Yeah, not what I was expecting, so my thoughts turned to the abundance of gears in the automatic transmission, 6 in total, to maybe explain why the Onix didn't slug under 50 kph regardless of how much input the driver may apply to the right pedal. When an automatic transmission is the main responsible for a car being able to go fast, though, you know you're gonna have problems and, unfortunately, the self shifter is perhaps the Onix's biggest flaw. Couple a weak engine to a lot of gears, and there's bound to be a lot of shifting. Too bad the Onix doesn't seem to handle them smoothly at all, which, in turn, makes modulating the throttle pedal a nightmare of jolting back and forth as the car tries (and fails) to pick a gear to go with.
You could just go with the manual mode, but screw you for making me mention the manual mode. It's the absolute worst excuse for a manual shifter I've ever seen in my entire life. You though flappy paddles were bad? How about two buttons on the side of the stick? Yeah, that's right, two identical buttons, which you can't tell apart without looking, one goes up a gear the other goes down. One could argue that, once you get the hang of the system it works pretty well, but even the car seems to think it's a stupid idea; it still shifts automatically in manual mode. It shifts automatically in manual mode. that's how bad this manual mode is.
The solution? Don't lift. Ever. Plant your right foot in the ground and leave it there, it's not only perfectly safe, thanks to the anemic engine, it's also the most fun you'll get out of this little muscular mouse...
On a more positive note, check out the size of that engine bay. There's no engine bay... From the outside, the snout of the car is no more than a hunch, with what is maybe too little front overhang, but pop the hood and you'll find a surprisingly spacious and organized engine bay. There's more than enough room in there to stuff a turbo. Or a V8. GM Should think about that, you know, they could call it the Chevrolet Onix SS 350.
Note: A quick google search revealed that the jury's still out on how much the Onix weighs. The official figures taken from the manual are 1490 kg for the 1.4 automatic and 1450 kg for the 1.4 manual, but I've seen sites and blogs putting them at 1049, 1650 and 1120, among other numbers, so I guess the actual weight of the car is anyone's guess. My list of things-that-are-lighter-than-an-Onix will be put in hiatus until the team of experts and scientists I hired to research the matter comes back with concrete results.
There isn't much to add to the handling department. The Onix handles like you'd expect a FWD Hatchback to handle. The car feels really solid, and the steering wheel has a nice feel to it. It's (probably) electrically assisted, but it doesn't feel as disconnected as the Corsa did, which is nice. The ride is a little on the stiff side, which can be a little bothersome on the craphole ridden streets of Brazil, but it feels really stable when cornering and only generous application of the throttle during a hard corner will cause any kind of slip and slide of the front tires at all. Not to worry though, the engine is probably incapable of propelling the car at speeds where a slide would end in disaster, so, once again, put the pedal to the metal and enjoy driving like a wheelman at 50 kph.
Really? My daily driver pulls off 7.5 km/l on a good week and you're asking me about fuel economy? I didn't check. Honest, the car keeps track of that info full time, but I forgot to scroll down the LCD screen on the panel to see how much I was averaging. If I had to guess, it was probably... a lot mpg. This car was designed with fuel economy in mind, so "a lot" seems about the right number of miles per gallon it gets.
Again, I have no idea. The unit pictured cost 47 thousand reais plus change, way too much for an economy car, but such is the reality of Brazil. I suppose value is what most buyers have in mind when shopping for these cars, so I'll just say that, while it doesn't offer as much as the Fiesta Titanium, with its imported-from-mexico aura and 1.6 16v engine, the Onix's boasts slightly better performance (Wait, what?) and costs a whooping 10 thousand reais less. Anybody knows if a good turbo can be had in Brazil for less than 10 grand?