By Hafriz Shah
Deputy Editor
While the Cruze is widely touted as Chevrolet’s first ‘world’ car, the older Optra could also lay claim to that title. After all, it was marketed around the world with no less than five different brands pasted on its nose (Chevrolet, Daewoo, Holden, Suzuki, Buick), and seven different names – Optra, Lacetti, Nubira, Viva, Forenza, Excelle, and SRV.
For a name that has been relatively new in this country (it was here prior to the 1960s and then disappeared until 2003), there are quite a few Chevrolets available in our classifieds listing, with the Aveo hatchback and Optra sedan in particular being sold at affordable prices.
Whatever the badge up front may say, the Optra is predominantly a Daewoo underneath, as its full research and development programme was carried out in General Motor’s South Korean arm. It has more in common with a Samsung washing machine than it has with a Chevrolet Camaro but here in this region, that’s an entirely good thing. Most importantly, its engine size is well within the average Malaysians’ sustainable range and not closer to adult shoe sizes.
Two engines are available – a 1.6 and 1.8-litre – both mated to a 4-speed automatic gearbox. With either 106 bhp or 120 bhp, the Optra’s performance can be described as sufficient at best though on the bright side, it does return reasonable mileage. This is, of course, a huge plus for those whose main wish is to have painless and affordable motoring.
Always request for a lengthy test drive before putting your money down and listen for any suspicious noises coming from the engine or suspension. The Optra, which was imported from Thailand, does not have any major failings that you have to look out for but as always, it’s best to be safe than sorry.
Specifications are high for the car, with airbags and alloy wheels fitted as standard, and certain versions have leather seats as well.
At prices starting from a bit above RM25,000, you’d be hard pressed to find a bigger or better equipped car without spending significantly more. A comparable Toyota Corolla Altis or Honda Civic, for instance, costs twice as much to buy, and may not justify the price difference. For those who are influenced by brand strength, we would still say that the Chevrolet brand should not be dismissed just because it’s not among the more popular ones in this country.

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