Solving the World's problems with common sense and a flamethrower.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

In Which Dungeekin is Jeremy Clarkson. . .

Chevrolet Matiz: A whole new definition of the word 'horrid'.

So the Scarlet Honda has to go into the bodyshop following a little altercation with a wall while we were on holiday, and through my insurers Enterprise Car Rental have very kindly provided a hire car.

A DaewooChevrolet Matiz. An SE, no less. So, this gives me a wonderful chance to go all JC and do a quick review.

Many words spring to mind when you first get into the Matiz. Most of them, though, revolve around variants on the concept of 'horrid'.

I know the car's basic, but surely it doesn't have to feel quite so awful? Shutting the car door produces a sound roughly akin to flicking a Coke can with your fingernail and, quite frankly, provides a similar sense of security.

Inside, there is a reasonable amount of space, but the whole is let down by a simply abhorrent interior. The seats are narrow and too flat and the steering wheel roughly the size of that found on an ocean-going yacht (and unadjustable). You sit facing a slab of grey plastic dashboard with just warning lights in front of you and a centre-mounted speedo, rev counter (!) and fuel gauge. And the stereo, with its tiny buttons and flat volume control, is too quiet and impossible to operate while in motion.

So - not a good start for this not-very-supermini. Unfortunately, things go downhill from this point, as next you have to drive it.

I've often heard it said that superminis and city cars can be fun to drive, feeling quick and nippy around town. Certainly other small cars I've driven have had a sense of entertainment about them. However, DaewooChevy have managed to deprive the Matiz of even this small bonus.

Around town the little Matiz felt lumpen, slow and, surprisingly, rather wider than it actually is, meaning I didn't get the sense of nipping along with traffic. The acceleration is dire, with the 1.0l engine barely pulling, and on the open road it takes work to get it to 60, much less past it. Making any sort of progress is made worse by the gearchange, which is notchy, has too much play in the gearlever and has a throw length last seen on the levers in a Victorian signal box. The decrepit Fiat 127 I owned in 1988 was faster, quicker accelerating and more enjoyable.

The steering is vague and indirect, the cornering feels astonishingly ponderous (though light, especially when parking) and there's almost no feedback. Steering this car, it actually (and unbelievably) felt slower to react and turn than my Saab estate. How Chevy have managed to make a car this small feel like this, when there's essentially a wheel at each corner, is beyond me. It doesn't inspire any sense of confidence in the handling at any speed.

The pedals are tiny, and so close together that it's too easy to cover both accelerator and brake simultaneously, even with my not-particularly-large feet. Heel-and-toeing (if I could do it, which I can't) isn't something that's necessary or wanted in this car!

I found it hard to believe just how horrid the Matiz is. What does 'SE' stand for - 'Stupidly Execrable'? It didn't help that The Darling G can't stop laughing at me when I'm in it. And why does it have 4 doors and remote central locking? If you own one of these, you're highly unlikely to have 4 friends - and I can't imagine anyone will want to get into this cruddy little tin box with you.

And it's ugly too.

It's truly horrid, and I wish that I could kill it in true Clarkson fashion. I've spent my time in it fantasising about its demise in various interesting ways, though in all honesty it's so tinnily-made that if my cat jumped on the roof it would probably collapse under the pressure.

Sadly, killing this awful car might negatively affect my insurance premiums, so I'm just stuck waiting for the wonderful day the bodyshop return the Honda.