Budget brand is aiming to offer Ford Mondeo space and versatility at a Focus price.
In the UK, Chevrolet is positioned as a value for money brand, and that’s certainly what the Epica aims to deliver – it’s a big car with a small price tag. Standard equipment is generous, but poor build quality and a disappointing driving experience ensure it feels behind the times. Residuals aren’t likely to be very strong, either – so if you’re looking for a family car, our advice would be to head for the second-hand market, or downsize to a Ford Focus.
The Chevrolet range doesn’t have the depth of the Ford or Volkswagen line-ups just yet, but it’s growing in appeal.
Models like the Captiva SUV have been a real success in recent months. And with the Lacetti-replacing Ultra due later this year, plus a new small car based on the Beat – the bold three-door concept seen at last year’s New York Motor Show – General Motors’ budget brand has a big future.
So is the Epica another model to get excited about? We tried it in left-hand-drive in Issue 971, and weren’t smitten. Now the saloon has arrived in the UK, has our opinion changed?
Prices start from £13,595 for the entry-level 2.0-litre petrol variant and £14,595 for the 2.0-litre diesel. That’s Ford Focus money for a model which is about as big as a Mondeo, so you do get a lot of car for your cash.
It’s also loaded with equipment – the LS has air-conditioning, electric windows front and rear, a CD stereo with an MP3 player input, cruise control and 16-inch alloys as standard.
Top-spec LT trim – available only with the diesel engine – adds climate control, rear parking sensors, leather trim and other goodies such as a CD autochanger and powered seats. Yet whichever model you go for, the rear offers plenty of space for adults and the boot has a 480-litre capacity.
However, those are pretty much the only nice things you can say about the Epica! Although Chevrolet bosses are trying to shrug off the company’s Daewoo past, the newcomer looks as if it’s from that era.
It has a bland saloon shape, nondescript front end and awkward over-hangs. It’s a similar story inside, where the cabin is rather drab and dated.
On the road, the driving experience feels a decade old, too. The Epica rides comfortably, but it rolls through corners, is blighted by numb, slow steering and doesn’t manage to hide the fact that it’s large and lethargic.
The 2.0-litre six-cylinder powerplant doesn’t help. It delivers 141bhp, but is neither refined nor punchy. And to make matters worse, the five-speed manual gearbox is notchy with a disappointingly long throw.
Clearly, the 148bhp 2.0 diesel will be a better bet, while a six-speed automatic gearbox is on the way. If you’re after a big, well equipped saloon with a bargain price, the Epica could well fit the bill. But in every other respect, it’s hard to recommend. While Chevrolet now has a range of models that are worth shouting about, the new Epica isn’t one of them.