Marcus De Guzman / Kelvin Christian Go | August 25, 2016 16:54
New Kid On The Block
The B-Segment is a popular choice for first time car buyers, as well as those looking for a second runabout. These may be small cars but it serves as one of the biggest segments in the local market today. Viewed as an alternative choice to C-segment sedans, B-segment sedans have now established themselves a reputation of bridging the gap between value for money and getting more bang for the buck.
Wanting a slice of the lucrative market is Chevrolet Philippines and debuted the their contender during the 2016 Manila International Auto Show. Called the Sail, it fills the shoes of the four-door Sonic and hopes to capture the minds (and checkbooks) of the buying public.
Let's start things off with the exterior. Compared to the outgoing four-door Sonic which started life as a hatchback, the Sail's overall shape is a sedan through and through. However, Chevrolet appeared to have played it safe in designing their new B-segment contender. The bow-tie brand's latest sedan features a pretty conservative exterior and, in a sea of sedans, the Sail does not stand out from the rest.
It does still feature Chevrolet's signature dual-port grill which lets everyone know it's from the bow-tie brand. Lifting the Sail's exterior are a set of 16-inch gunmetal alloy wheels and a power sunroof which is a welcome feature in this segment. If one is curious about its dimensions, the Sail measures 4,300mm long, 1,735mm wide and 1,504mm tall. It also has a 2,499mm wheelbase, pitting it squarely against the other B-segment stalwarts in terms of interior space.
If the Sail's exterior was average, the interior is a completely different story. Stepping inside, you are greeted by a huge Android-based infotainment system. The screen measures in at 9 inches and is perhaps the largest in the local B-segment. As a bonus, it has preloaded apps like Waze, Google, Facebook and Spotify which makes for a great traffic companion. It even supports USB, Aux and Bluetooth for those that want to play their tunes off their phone / MP3 player.
The black fabric seats were comfortable and have decent lumbar support. The dials were easy to see as well as the multi-information display. The steering wheel looks small but is sized just right in my opinion. The 2016 Sail also delivered communicable steering which was a welcome change in an era where feedback is lacking.
The Sail could use some improvements to its cabin ambiance. First, I found the airconditioning a little on the warm side. I often found myself having to set the fan speed high just to feel comfortable inside the car. In other cars I have reviewed, even the lowest fan setting was enough to cool down the inside. Second, the Sail could benefit from better sound insulation. For instance, I was still able to hear radiator fan whirring away even though the audio system was on. One notable quirk in the sail was its power window controls. It is mounted just below the air-con switches whereas most cars have them on the door panels.
Motivating the Sail is a 1.5-liter four-cylinder DOHC engine and it benefits from dual variable valve timing (D-VVT). The result is an output 109 PS at 6000 rpm along with 141 Nm of torque at 4000 rpm. Chevrolet took a different route for its transmission. Instead of a 6-speed automatic or a CVT, it gets a 4-speed automatic gearbox with active select, the Sail delivered decent power and was quite zippy around town. Moreover, the transmission always knew when to keep the revs low or kickdown when overtaking. However, load it up with passengers and the engine begins to struggle going up steep inclines.
Show the Sail some corners and it felt light footed and easy to guide through the turns. Unlike most cars in its class, it uses a hydraulic power steering system instead of electronic. Call it antiquated, it provides more feel and feedback through the wheel. As for ride quality, the Sail's suspension tuning is towards the softer side.
Around the city, the Sail was able to average 10.3 km/l of fuel while heavier traffic conditions yielded about 7.6 km/l. Out on the highway, Chevy's new B-segment sedan was able to achieve 15.5 km/l at a steady 90 km/h.
In this segment, pricing is very important as a difference of a few thousand pesos can mean the difference of a sale or a customer walking away. This top of the line LTZ model retails for PhP 858,000, about on par with the competition. Its exterior design may not justify its price for some but it does have rather generous equipment. It also comes with a host of and safety features too such as SRS airbags, ISOFIX anchors, rear parking sensors and anti-lock brakes.
So what can we say about the Sail? If we were to rate cars on looks, the Sail is far from an immediate standout. Take a closer look however and the Sail does put up quite a proposition.