2010 Chevrolet Optra is Chevy’s Family Face For the Family Saloon

2010 Chevrolet Optra is Chevy’s Family Face For the Family Saloon

Like an adopted child that is now confirmed as a member of the family, the Chevrolet Optra sheds its three-section Daewoo grille, and gets a new chromed Chevrolet ‘face’ to make it part of the family. It is to Pininfarina’s credit that the Chevy ‘bowtie’ actually looked quite at home on the original Optra, and as it was only sold as a GM-Daewoo model in Korea and certain European markets, most of us were none the wiser of its Daewoo origins.

More importantly, as the launch model for the Chevrolet brand in Singapore two years ago, its handsome Italianate lines and solid build quality helped to ensure that the American brand gained a strong foothold in the market place. It is no coincidence that in every dimension, the Optra is almost identical to the Toyota Corolla Altis, the car to beat in this segment.

While the new grille helps to make it look more like a Chevrolet, it also cements GM’s commitment, not just to its Korean operations, but also to its Southeast Asian production plant based in Rayong, Thailand. Of the three Optra models sold here, the Station Wagon and Optra5 hatchback are built in Korea, but the sedan is made in Thailand. This explains why the Korean models received the new family grille before the sedan.

The Optra’s new front end is the most visible upgrade, but the gear ratios have been raised to make the Optra cruise quieter with better fuel efficiency. The E-TEC 1.6-litre engine remains unobtrusive, but loses out to the best Japanese engines for smoothness and refinement. It continues to be a well-built car, and the fit and finish show no signs of it being of Korean/Thai origins. In fact, there is a very European feel to the Optra, from the well-weighted powered steering to the German-style quality of the dashboard grain. The zig-zag transmission gate and the blend of wood and metal surfaces are also very European.

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The Optra, as well as the rest of the Aveo range, is a rare success story for GM, and is being used by the American giant to gain a foothold in the major Asia Pacific markets. It is sold in China as the Buick Excelle and it has just been announced that Holden will be selling it as the Viva in Australia. GM has definitely gained from bailing out Daewoo from bankruptcy, a far cry from some of its less successful American ventures, such as the US$1 billion spent on the now defunct EV1 electric car programme, or the setting up of the Saturn factory in Tennessee, which continues to bleed the company nearly 20 years on.

With things looking grim for GM in Europe as well, perhaps it really is no surprise that the Optra has been given a new face, and is so warmly embraced by the GM family.