Feb 162010
 
I picked up a rental special Chevy Impala earlier today.
I am not used to driving Chevy’s, I have very little problem hopping into almost any car and simply driving it, but this Impala is something else. It took a long time before I was comfortable and even after an hour I still had no idea what most of the buttons do, nor even where they were.
First impressions count for a lot and sadly they are almost entirely negative.
After driving my MINI I would expect to find anything big, but really, truly this is a big car that does nothing at all to disguise it. From the drivers seat there is no mistaking that you are driving something that is ‘real man sized’. It really feels much larger than it is. It is also very long yet the interior space seems to somehow hide that. Oddly it is slightly claustrophobic in the drivers seat.
Which brings me around to the first of many issues.
That seat is rubbish.

I picked up a rental special Chevy Impala earlier today.I am not used to driving Chevy’s, I have very little problem hopping into almost any car and simply driving it, but this Impala is something else. It took a long time before I was comfortable and even after an hour I still had no idea what most of the buttons do, nor even where they were.First impressions count for a lot and sadly they are almost entirely negative.After driving my MINI I would expect to find anything big, but really, truly this is a big car that does nothing at all to disguise it. From the drivers seat there is no mistaking that you are driving something that is ‘real man sized’. It really feels much larger than it is. It is also very long yet the interior space seems to somehow hide that. Oddly it is slightly claustrophobic in the drivers seat.Which brings me around to the first of many issues. That seat is rubbish.

The seats are, well, short in the leg. I have a 34” inseam and the seat cushion sort of ends several inches short of my knees.

The second issue is that the adjustment is weird, part electric, part manual. The manual seat angle bit is horrible to adjust, with fine adjustment virtually impossible, yet the up/down and angle is easy to adjust with a couple of rocker switches.
The seats have zero lateral support. Absolutely none. They are also very soft too. Probably not a terrible thing if you need to drive thousands of miles, but very odd when you first sit in them.
The steering wheel is thin and hard and although height adjustable there is no telescoping. Getting the seat and steering wheel into a comfortable position took some time. However, the wheel obscures a number of buttons.

Talking of buttons, the ergonomics are horrible.

There is a single ‘stalk’ that controls the indicators and the wipers. I hate this. Virtually every other car I have driven recently has two stalks – or more – the left for indicators, the right for wipers. If it rains I have no idea how I am going to operate them, the stalk looks incredibly complex.

There are cruise control, erm, controls on the wheel – on the left side – which is again the opposite to the last ‘n’ cars I have driven. There is also no dash indicator that, erm, indicates that the cruise is on, you have to look for a small light on the steering wheel.

Start the engine and it is virtually silent, the only way that you know it is running is by checking the rev counter.
There is no indicator on the gearshift, you have to move the lever and check the dash display, not terrible, but not intuitive.

At. All.

On the move it is obvious that this is a big car. The engine starts off quiet, then moves into ‘intrusive’ really really quickly. Oddly the speed barely climbs before the transmission shifts smoothly to the next cog and the cycle repeats. Performance in a straight line is not terrible, but ‘lively’ is not a a phrase that comes to mind.

The steering is completely, utterly, totally devoid of any feel whatsoever. Utterly horrible. There is no indication at all that you have grip or any indication of the road surface. There is plenty of road noise and bumps are transmitted to the cabin, but utterly insulated from the steering wheel.

Then there are the brakes.

If you breathe heavily the car will slow perceptively. Rest your foot on the pedal and the initial bite is vicious. But then there is no follow-through. Press the pedal the front of the car dives and you slow down, but the initial promise is not fulfilled. Really, really odd.

Which leads me on to the suspension. Floaty, bouncy, uncontrolled, wobbly and frankly scary. Despite the extremely soft suspension though road noise and imperfections are transmitted to the cabin rather badly. Corners are an adventure. As there is no feel from the helm, you really have no idea if you are going to get around the corner or not. There is no body control, no confidence and not really a nice ride. Unless you enjoy ocean liners.

Also from the driving seat, the mirrors are badly shaped – the severe taper makes them hard to use and the rearview mirror is thin and too close to my head.

Creature comforts are poor, the dual-zone air is OK but the controls are tiny and counter intuitive, but they work OK, there are no lights for the vanity mirrors and the stereo is ‘big’ but not really that powerful or even that nice to use – again there are loads of buttons rather than menus or any other ergonomic system.

Oh and the instrument illumination control is a joke, it is a semi-hidden knob, above it is the trunk release and below it is the TC button – on the move I opened the trunk and turned off the TC trying to dim the dash….

Finally I had to park it.

From the driving seat you cannot see any of the corners, making an educated guess as to where the corners are is just about all you can do. My first attempt was not that bad, but my second was rubbish, I hope to get better at it, but really I struggle with it.

I had a quick look in the back and it is spacious, I am sure that 5 adults would travel in comfort in this thing, the trunk is probably equally huge, but other than closing it properly after my inadvertent opening session I have not investigated it yet.

I would give it a solid 1 star. Out of ten.

I cannot imagine that any sane human with even a passing interest in driving would buy one. it has no redeeming feature that i can find. it is not even cheaper than the competition. The target market must be limited to Enterprise and Hertz because anyone that actually enjoys driving is going to hate this car.

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