The Chevrolet Matiz has been around in one form or another for over ten years now. It used to be a Daewoo but since that company's Korean car-making activities were taken over by General Motors in 2002, it has been badged as a Chevy in the UK. It's best understood as a transitional product; more appealing to European tastes than earlier Korean cars but not part of the latest generation of really impressive modern Korean models such as Kia's cee'd and Sorento, Hyundai's i30 - or indeed Chevrolet's own Cruze, a sister car of the new Vauxhall Astra.
That transitional quality comes through when you meet the car in the metal – there's more than a nod to western tastes in the Matiz's neat styling – Italdesign was involved both in the original design and some of the subsequent mods, apparently – but inside, it tends more towards old-school Korean ideas about interior trim, with some surfaces being harder, shinier and lighter in colour than they would be in a European car, although its all very neatly laid out and the overall effect is more than acceptable given the Matiz's low price.
But really, more than any detail of its internal or external styling, there is one thing that dominates one's impression of the Matiz – the fact that it is narrower than just about anything else on the road. It's hard to overstate what an advantage this is in town driving; the Matiz can be squeezed through the smallest of gaps, and supermarket parking bays, like domestic garages, apparently often marked out with yesterday's less bloated cars in mind, suddenly become a doddle rather than a struggle. The interesting thing is that while the Matiz does certainly feel narrow inside as well out, adults occupying the front seats don't quite find themselves rubbing shoulders; in fact the Matiz's packaging seems to be well judged, with its rather upright proportions allowing quite a lot of space to be squeezed into a car with such a small footprint.
The Matiz isn't particularly exciting once you get it out on the open road; in particular, tall and narrow isn't a combination that will tempt the keener driver into wild cornering manoeuvres. On the other hand it's not too buzzy and wearing for such a small car at higher speeds, so for owners who use the Matiz mainly in town and just make the occasional longer trip, it'll do the job.
The Matiz is a solid effort, and it's had a long period of justified popularity as an urban runabout – recently extended by the Government's scrappage scheme, which has heavily favoured cheap cars of this sort. But its main role in life these days is to remind us a bit what the old pre-GM Daewoo-based Chevrolets used to be like before the Cruze came along.
Chevrolet Matiz 1.0SE
Engine: 1.0 litre four-cylinder petrol, 65 horsepower, 91 Newton metres of torque
Transmission: five-speed manual
Top speed: 97mph
Acceleration: 0-60 mph in 14.1 seconds
Fuel consumption: 50.4 mpg (combined cycle)
CO2 emissions: 137g/km
Rivals: Hyundai i10, Kia PicantoReuse content