Size and space is what makes the U-VA stand out from its main rivals and the 1
The U-VA has a distinctively European look about it. The steeply raked windscreen which flows into the bonnet gives it an MPV-ish look. Unlike the distinctly two-box Swift, the U-VA has similar proportions to the Getz. It has a particularly long wheelbase of 2480mm, which augurs well for interior space.
Though it’s not as stylish as the Swift, the U-VA has more design flair than the conventional-looking Getz. The chiselled nose has a wedginess similar to the Aveo. The headlamps with the turn indicators integrated into them look superb and other stylistic touches include the prominent crease across the doors that drop down to the rear wheel arches. The flared wheel arches, muscular rear flanks, shapely C-pillar with quarter-glass all add up to make the U-VA an attractive-looking hatch.
The U-VA’s suspension hardly challenges convention. It is the conventional MacPherson strut set-up in front and a torsion beam axle with gas shocks at the rear. However, GM India has testes the U-VA over thousands of kilometers to arrive at an India-spec set-up for the dampers and springs. Brakes are again standard fare — a disc/drum combo — but anti-lock along with the a driver’s airbag is offered as an option on the top-end LT.
The bright and spacious cabin is the first thing that strikes you. The all-round glass area is quite generous and the quarter-windows, which cut into the C-pillar, allow in some extra light, adding to an airy feel of the interiors. However, the interiors are let down by dull grey plastics which don’t particularly look and feel upmarket.
The well-finished centre console and the mock carbonfibre trim on the inside door handles and around the power window switches are of high quality. The switches feel pretty solid and we love the hooded speedo and tachometer.
The interior design has a circular theme, which works quite well. The air con vents, doorpads, door handles and, of course, the dashboard instruments all have a circular element which give the insides some identity.
GM India has worked on the air con and blower motor to improve cooling and it shows. The air conditioner cools the cabin down quickly, even on hot days, and the air flow and vents can be angled to direct airflow where you want it.
The driver’s seat is very comfortable, with adequate thigh and back support. You are in a good position to start off and the steering is adjustable for rake, making things easier. Sadly, there’s no height adjust for the seat
The Chevy’s rear seats are high-set and the window line is low, so you get a good outside view. However, they could have been more comfortable. Though the seating position is good and there’s good thigh room, the seat back is unduly hard and there’s an excess of lower back support.
The flipside of maximised passenger space is that the boot is small and to make matters worse, the suspension towers intrude badly into the U-VA’s boot area. With its 220-litre capacity, it will just about hold one large suitcase and a few soft bags and that’s with the parcel shelf removed. The seats do have a 60:40 split/fold function which gives you some flexibility.
Performance & Economy
We were skeptical about how a small engine would perform in a large hatch. Part of that skepticism stemmed from the belief that the 1.2 is just a scaled-down version of the Aveo’s unimpressive 1.4 motor. However, we were pleasantly surprised to find that this smaller unit is a different motor altogether. It’s from a different engine family and it shows. It’s fairly refined, pretty responsive and delivers performance in a way that belies what the stopwatch or the dyno figures reveal.
The in-line four-cylinder, 1150cc engine puts out a respectable 76bhp, but even more important is its torque — 11.2kgm at 4400rpm. It breathes through eight valves (two per cylinder) and the engine’s long-stroke helps improve bottom-end responses. GM has tuned it for low-speed driveability — just look at the long intake tract designed to improve low rev responses. The ECU too has been recalibrated to improve driveability and fuel efficiency.
All-out performance, as expected, isn’t scorching. It takes a leisurely 16.4 seconds to get to 100kph from rest, identical to the Palio 1.2. But, where the Palio feels sluggish, the U-VA never feels underpowered in the city. In fact, in such conditions you would be hardpressed to tell that it’s only a 1.2-litre engine powering the car. It’s that good. And it’s this performance which explains why the U-VA doesn’t feel lethargic while dawdling around town.
The midrange and top end are quite weak though, but it’s only on the highway that the engine feels out of breath and you miss a little extra cubic capacity.
Overtaking requires a downshift, sometimes two, to get really get going. So, it’s a good thing that the five-speed gearbox is a big improvement on the Aveo’s unit.
The U-VA’s fuel economy is good for a car of its size and weight. We got a decent 10.6 kilometres per litre (kpl) in the city and a good 15kpl on the highway.
Ride & Handling
Around town, the U-VA rides well enough. It is not as choppy as the Swift, but at slow speeds, the softly-sprung Getz rides slightly better. The suspension is clunky, but it gets the job done without transferring too many shocks to the occupants.
Things improve as speeds increase and it feels well planted the faster you go and high-speed stability is particularly good. The U-VA doesn’t feel skittish like the Swift on poor surfaces and neither is it as soft as the Getz. The 185/60-R14 tyres on the top-of-the-line LT offer decent grip but lower models will get far narrower and less grippy 155/80-R13 rubber.
The U-VA’s superb stability and benign handling give the driver a lot of confidence but what is missing is the sense of fun you get in the more agile Swift. The U-VA’s steering is quite mushy and not very direct and hence doesn’t lend itself to spirited driving. So, if you’re looking for a car that will entertain you when road conditions allow, you will be disappointed. ABS is standard on the U-VA in LT trim. The brakes have good feedback and it is easy to modulate them. The U-VA came to a halt in a decent 29 metres from 80kph.
Size and space is what makes the U-VA stand out from its main rivals and the 1.2-litre engine isn’t as much of a handicap as we thought. It’s nowhere near as exciting as the Swift and neither does it have the outright performance of the Getz but as a functional, family city car, the U-VA does have some aces up its sleeve. It has the most generous passenger space, it’s easy to drive, and looks pretty good too. But that won’t be enough to overcome the competition, which is better in other areas. It’s a good car, but a little long in the tooth nonetheless, especially in the face of newer, more stylish competition from Maruti and notably, Fiat.
What it costs
Ex-showroom (Delhi) 4.65-5.68 lakh
Installation Front, transverse, front-wheel-drive
Compression ratio 9.3±0.2:1
Valve gear 2 valves per cyl, SOHC
Power 76bhp at 5500rpm
Torque 11.2kgm at 4400rpm
Power to weight 70.69bhp/10.41kgm per tonne
Gearbox Five speed manual
Ground clearance 188mm
Chassis & Body
Weight 1075 kg
Tyres 185/60 R14
Front MacPherson strut, anti-roll bar
Rear Torsion beam, gas shocks
Type Rack and pinion
Type of power assist Hydraulic
Front Ventilated discs
Tank size 45 litres