Chevrolet Sail U-VA review, test drive

    Does GM’s re-engineered-for-India Sail U-VA hatchback hit the nail on the head? Read our comprehensive road test review to find out.

    Published on Jan 31, 2013 05:17:00 PM


    The Sail U-VA is available with either a petrol or a diesel engine. The petrol engine is the same 1.2-litre, twin-cam, four-valve-per-head unit that you get in the Beat, though revised tuning and a higher compression ratio (10.5:1 versus 9.8:1) have helped bump the power up to 85bhp. What’s nice about this engine is that it’s quite responsive at low speeds, part-throttle responses are good and power delivery is linear, all of which make it well suited to humdrum city driving. Straight-line performance is pretty good too, with a 14.66sec 0-100kph time that makes it quicker than most of its petrol rivals. If there is an issue, it’s with this engine’s refinement. It gets noisy quite early in the rev range and really buzzy after 4000rpm, so you won’t find yourself holding gears longer than needed.

    It’s the diesel that is our pick of the two engines. To give you a brief, the Sail uses the same Fiat-sourced 1.3 Multijet engine as the Fiat Grande Punto, Maruti Swift and Tata Vista. However, GM has modified it, giving it a different air filter, a new inlet and exhaust, and a new fixed-geometry turbocharger. Peak power is now up to 77bhp. These changes, along with the revised tuning, have worked well; the engine not only feels more refined, but its responses have improved too. No, the Sail still doesn’t have the effortless bottom-end pull of the Ford Figo’s motor, but it doesn’t feel more responsive than the Swift’s. Like the petrol car, the diesel comes with GM’s new F17 five-speed manual gearbox. Short throws and a narrow gate make this gearbox fun to use, though gearshifts do require some effort and there’s also some whine from the transmission. The diesel’s clutch is on the heavier side too, which is a slight irritant in slow-moving traffic.

    Where the Sail does feel noticeably better than the Swift (and for that matter, the Punto and Vista) is around the 2000rpm mark. A sudden spike in power when the turbo kicks in has always been a problem on the 1.3 Multijet motor, but GM’s engineers have succeeded in smoothening this transition to the meat of the engine’s powerband, and this helps make the Sail diesel nice to drive. There’s a good spread of power right till the 4200rpm mark, so overtaking is never an issue. It’s just that the Sail’s diesel doesn’t have much of a top end. However, for the majority, the Sail diesel’s 13.1kpl city and 19kpl highway figures will be the big draw. 

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