Chevrolet Epica LT 2.0VCDi Auto - The Verdict

 

Price: £17,695
Engine: 2.0litre four-cylinder turbocharged diesel
Top speed: 127 mph
Acceleration: 0-62 mph in 10.6 seconds
Average fuel consumption: 37.2 mpg
CO2 emissions: 210 g/km
Also worth considering? Kia Magentis, Hyundai Sonata, Skoda Superb

One of the big motoring themes of the past couple of years has been the progress being made by Korean car manufacturers in developing products to match the market-leading models from Europe and Japan. But while the Koreans' performance has been impressive, it has also been uneven. For example, recent models from corporate sisters Kia and Hyundai have been winning plaudits, while at the other end of the scale, Ssangyong's range of big, sometimes awkwardly styled people carriers and 4x4s have fared less well.

Somewhere between these two extremes lie the cars – badged as Chevrolets – produced by the former Daewoo operations bought by General Motors in 2001. In the Golf class, for example, the Chevrolet Lacetti is a sensible, well-equipped car, but lacks the outright ability of Kia's Cee'd and Hyundai's i30.

But move up to the market for medium-large saloon cars, and with its new Epica, Chevrolet has a product that closely matches – and in some areas noses ahead of – the Kia Magentis and the Hyundai Sonata.

First the similarities. It is no surprise to discover that when it comes to most of their main measurements, Kia's Magentis and Hyundai's Sonata are almost exactly the same size. And the Epica's designers seem to have been looking over their shoulders, because they have produced a car that matches the Magenta and Sonata almost to within an inch.

In terms of styling, the Epica again takes a leaf out of the Magentis/Sonata book; it is moderately handsome, if anonymous, with hints of detailing from mainstream European and Japanese models. On the road, it has the same sort of safe if slightly stodgy handling, with reasonable levels of comfort. But in two areas the Epica pulls ahead. First, it's available with a straight-six two-litre petrol engine for less than £14,000. Second, the diesel model is available with a six-speed automatic gearbox – although it is slightly unresponsive for its type.

Overall, the Epica represents a sensible choice, but the big Korean budget saloons face stiff competition in the shape of the new Skoda Superb, which is launched this autumn.

John Lambert, 32, IT consultant, Wellesbourne
Usual car: Citroen BX

The Chevrolet looks classy and I was surprised by the high level of standard equipment; it is incredible how much you get for the price. To drive, it is competent rather than inspiring. It is capable in town and in its element on the motorway – at the speed limit, the engine is turning over at less than 2,000rpm. The diesel engine is pretty refined but the automatic transmission felt a bit slow-witted. Handling is not a strong point either, but it doesn’t pretend to be a sporting car and most buyers probably wouldn’t notice. The Epica is an interesting alternative to a Focus or Golf. I quite liked it, but I think I’d prefer the six-cylinder petrol model.

Nick Humphry, 47, chartered engineer, Reydon
Usual car: Seat Leon TDi (& BMW R1100S bike)

Although the Epica is unmistakably Korean, the styling is quite sleek, while the interior is almost European. Although it’s a large family car, it didn’t feel like a large car to drive; in fact, it was so easy to drive (especially with the six-speed auto box) that once I’d electrically adjusted the leather seat, I didn’t have to worry about much else. It would be unfair to call this car bland, but no strong features really stand out. But if you want a car that can easily carry a family with luggage, does pretty good MPG and is a reasonable price, then you wouldn’t go far wrong with the Epica. However, the Chevrolet badges come across as a bit cheap and spoil the look of the car somewhat.

Martin Lowe, 38, IT Consultant, Nottingham
Usual cars: Skoda Octavia vRS, TVR S3, Saab 9-3

First impressions of the Epica are positive – it’s a decent-sized vehicle that isn’t too outlandish in its styling, and doesn’t look out of place alongside a VW Passat or Toyota Avensis. Inside, there’s comfortable and supportive seats in the front, and a lot of leg room in the back. As with other modern saloons, the boot is huge and the load space increases with folding split-level sets, but the aperture between boot space and rear-seat space is small. The model tested was a diesel, and it seemed as quiet as its contemporaries. It was responsive enough in moving from a standing start, but the automatic gearbox was very slow in changing down when attempting to overtake other vehicles. However, it’s light enough to manoeuvre around small roads and happy enough on motorways.

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