The sport bakkie
Disappointment. It comes in many forms, be it last weekend’s innings of your favourite sports team, the current state of my bank account or simply tomorrow’s weather. The perfect antidote to disappointment is an unexpected surprise and I most certainly got one while reviewing the Chevrolet Utility Sport.
Most of the odds were stacked against this little pick-up. For starters, I don’t like pick-ups. Secondly, this car commits a huge car crime in my eyes by being popular and abundant. Common, if you like. And last but certainly not least, it arrived just as a 630 horsepower Autobahn monster left.
Coated in Switchblade Silver with snazzy 15-inch alloy wheels and most Namibians’ favourite feature – fog lights – the little bakkie made a good first impression. A quick peek inside its spartan interior initially made me recoil but then I started questioning why it’s 15 times cheaper than Mr. 630.
For starters, it’s a million times less complicated, can’t park itself and has neither bejeweled headlights nor carpets made from the gowns of Tibetan monks. And although it’s a bit smaller than an Autobahn bully, half of this N$201,600 vehicle is essentially an empty rectangle for carting your stuff around – a load bed.
Crucially, the dimensions and maximum payload of this cargo area can’t match the Utility’s fiercest rival but Chevrolet offers a broader spectrum of models and engine choices. The model you see before you is the 77kW/161Nm 1.8 Sport which renders the 68kW/120Nm and N$8,000 cheaper 1.4 Sport completely pointless.
The only real-world advantages of purchasing the weaker Sport model are allegedly lower average fuel consumption and that the two models are visually identical. Nobody at the KFC drive-through will be able to tell the difference – we certainly couldn’t – as the 1.4 matches the 1.8 spec-to-spec and has the same Sport badges.
Standard kit includes the usual stuff like remote central locking, power steering and air-con, CD/mp3 radio with Bluetooth and other such bla-bla’s. More interesting are the follow-me-home lights, auto door locks, power windows and power exterior mirrors, trip computer, auto lights and ABS brakes with EBD.
If you or your overzealous company driver/s can do without all of the above-mentioned (and a few other things), save yourself sixty grand and go for the base 1.4 Utility. And if you trust your employee/s with even more grunt underfoot, the 1.8-litre engine is also available in poverty spec at a decent price.
Back to this 1.8 Sport, it took a while for my 1.95 meters to find a comfy driving position in the hard plastic landscape of the Utility’s interior. Once suitably positioned, I discovered extra space behind the seats and an overall ruggedness to the assembly of this cabin. I’m hopeful that it will outlast your five year lease.
The instruments are a strange concoction of digital and partly reversed analogue with a digital coolant gauge that won’t budge above one third. Window, mirror and ventilation controls are easy to use with only the sound system (with its display in a pod atop the dash) needing a round of practice.
As for driving the little bakkie, it didn’t take long for me to realize that you don’t need 630 horses to have fun with. Quite the opposite, actually. That amount of power isn’t fun, it’s downright frightening and you can never use it for more than a few seconds. A Chevy UTE Sport, on the other hand, can go flat out almost all day.
Pedal and steering feedback are commendable and, provided you’ve caught the right ratio from the snappy box of five cogs, the naturally breathing 8-valve motor hangs on your right foot beautifully. Top speed is a claimed 193km/h and 0-100km/h took us 10.9 seconds. If not pushing too hard, it even handles well.
So there you have it. Other company owners may be comparing TFT sizes and LED counts at the country club but you have a zippy, nippy, practical pick-up at a fraction of the cost which won’t cost you an internal organ in maintenance. And the word “Sport” on its flanks is no disappointment.
0-10km/h: 0.70 seconds
0-20km/h: 1.31 seconds
0-30km/h: 1.89 seconds
0-40km/h: 2.60 seconds
0-50km/h: 3.5 seconds
0-60km/h: 4.65 seconds
0-70km/h: 5.81 seconds
0-80km/h: 7.44 seconds
0-90km/h: 9.02 seconds
0-100km/h: 10.90 seconds
0-110km/h: 12.96 seconds
0-120km/h: 15.75 seconds
0-130km/h: 18.84 seconds
0-100m: 7.52 seconds @ 80.94km/h
0-200m: 11.42 seconds @ 102.70km/h
0-300m: 14.69 seconds @ 116.86km/h
0-400m: 17.65 seconds @ 126.44km/h
Maximum acceleration G-force: 0.57G
Data captured with Racelogic® Performance Box