Epica's uninspired looks and underwhelming driving experience are far from epic
The Epica is cheap, spacious, generously equipped and very comfortable. But the big saloon feels decades behind the class leaders in every other way. If you want a large family car and have £13,000 to spend, we’d suggest you look to the second-hand market. Or consider downsizing to a new Astra or Focus.
With its new high-perofrmance Mégane diesel, Renault has mixed fun and eco-friendliness in one package. And although it’s far from perfect, it shows that the company has its finger on the pulse of modern motoring.
Take one look at Chevrolet’s Epica, though, and you would be forgiven for thinking you had stepped back in time. Revealed at last year’s Geneva Motor Show, the four-door has been available around the world for the last 18 months. But only now are bosses planning to bring it here.
The Mercedes E-Class-sized model has the kind of boxy saloon shape that went out of fashion in the Eighties. It has been designed to appeal to buyers who want a large car, but don’t want to pay much for it.
And with a £13,500 price tag for the flagship LT model driven here, they certainly won’t have to. In fact, the Epica undercuts the Hyundai Sonata – its closest competitor in today’s market – by a significant £3,500.
But the Chevrolet is loaded with equipment. Our car came with electric heated leather seats, cruise and climate control, plus an MP3-compatible stereo and rear parking sensors. Inside, however, it’s not exactly cutting edge, with lots of grey plastic and low-rent leather upholstery. There’s plenty of space in the rear for adults, though, and the boot is a useful 435 litres.
On the road, the driving experience is underwhelming. The Epica rides well enough, but it rolls heavily through corners, has vague, slow steering and generally feels cumbersome.
The 142bhp 2.0-litre straight-six fails to shine, too. It’s neither refined nor responsive. A new six-speed auto, due next year, should help, although the unit’s sub-30mpg economy makes the 150bhp 2.0 diesel a better choice.
But really, it’s difficult to recommend any Epica model. With a radical new Lacetti out next year, plus a replacement for the Matiz, Chevy has some exciting cars up its sleeve. This isn’t one of them.