Chevrolet is on a big roll. In the past 3 years, they have launched a number of important models to rebuild a brand that was reeling from the problems of the last decade.
Now Chevrolet has launched two new players in two key classes: the 7-seat diesel SUV segment, as well as the highly competitive subcompact segment: the Trailblazer and the Sonic. The Covenant Car Company Inc. recently held a driving event to showcase the abilities of the two new models, and show us what made them unique in their classes.
The media contingent were driven up to the Tagaytay Highlands, where they were greeted by various variants of the Sonic and Trailblazer. After a briefing held by Chevy’s top brass and product experts, the members of the press got acquainted with the two models they were about to drive that day.
The Chevy Sonic is the brand’s eagerly awaited entry into the subcompact segment, and is available both as either a hatchback or as a sedan, replacing the Aveo hatch and sedan which have been on sale since 2006. The Sonic comes with a revamped style statement, as well as class leading features not normally found in the subcompact class like, for instance, the retractable armrest for the driver.
On the other hand, the Chevrolet Trailblazer is a highly anticipated competitor in the 7-seat diesel SUV category. Manufactured in Thailand, the Trailblazer features 7 seats arranged in a 2-3-2 format, and comes with class-leading features such as an 800 millimeter wading depth, shift-on-the-fly 4×4 system, hill descent control, hill start assist, traction control and an electronic stability program.
After the morning brief, event organizers led by Mr. Georges Ramirez, orchestrated a challenging on-road course to showcase the abilities of the Chevrolet Sonic in a time trial. We were to drive both the Sonic Hatchback and the Sedan -both powered by 1.4 liter engines with 100 horsepower- on the challenging road course and try to achieve the target time. And being a contest amongst media members, expect quite a bit of competition, not to mention friendly trash talk.
Georges really built a nice and challenging track in the midst of the still-under-development Tagaytay Midlands. Much like a tight road course, you had to navigate the track, accomplishing a few little challenges in between, and try to make it back to the start line in exactly 2 minutes 10 seconds.
The course was full of 90 degree and acutely angled corners, so it did simulate tight city streets somewhat. The Sonic actually performed well. The suspension is definitely on the soft side, giving it plenty of comfortable attributes in city driving, though slightly compromising handling and increases body roll. Power is decent, though it could really do with a slightly larger 1.6 liter or even perhaps the turbocharged 1.4 they sell over in the States.
Leading the Trail
After getting out of the Sonic (both the hatch and the sedan), I then then hopped aboard the all new Trailblazer. What’s unusual is that beside me in the passenger seat is Jojo Silverio of the famed Silverio racing clan, a good friend of Georges and instructor for this part of the event.
The actual layout of the off-road track was designed specifically to showcase the many technologies found in the Trailblazer 4×4 such as hill descent control, the hill start assist, as well as the shift on the fly 4×4 system. Drivers had to drive down a steep incline and back up again, demonstrating what the 4×4 system as well as the powerful 2.8 liter Duramax turbo diesel engine in the Chevrolet Trailblazer can do.
I was very impressed with the technology they put into this all new Trailblazer. No other vehicle in its class can even come close, as none of them have traction and stability control, nor do they have hill hold functions or hill descent control.
The off road trail actually took us through some pretty steep gradients, upwards (and downwards) at about 30-35 degrees… maybe even a bit more. Taking them on with a push of a button was a breeze. On the flatter portions of the off road course, I got the chance to give the Duramax motor some room to stretch its legs, and the advertised power and torque are definitely there, and you can feel the stability control working for you on the loose/semi-packed dirt surface.
Of course only a full test will really show what the Trailblazer and Sonic will be like as daily drivers. Judging from how the new cars drove, Chevrolet is definitely demonstrating that they are not just another brand, as they’re giving the Philippine market a pair of models determined to raise the bar in the 7-seat SUV segment as well as the much coveted subcompact car class.