It was only 8 years ago that Chevrolet was primarily known for two things in the Philippines: SUVs and even bigger SUVs. Sure, the brand has had a presence beyond the Tahoe and the Suburban with models like the Optra (we're not fans), the first Spark (bad car) the Lumina (still not fans) and the Aveo (nope, not fans at all).
Then things changed, and their parent company had to go through a Chapter 11 reorganization to get going. In a matter of just a few years, Chevrolet changed their entire line up with the Cruze, the new Spark, the Sonic, the Orlando, the Malibu, the Colorado and the Trailblazer. Of course, we love the Camaro after driving it in the mountains and the Corvette after driving it on the virtual worlds of Gran Turismo.
Chevy is really picking up, but this next new model, a 7-seater compact MPV, just might be what the market wants and needs: the Chevrolet Spin.
We drove it in Thailand last year on some pretty great highways and mountain roads, now we try it where it matters most: in our cities and on our highways.
Like we said, the Chevrolet Spin is a 7-seat compact multi-purpose vehicle. Design wise, we like the overall look, as it brings a breath of fresh air in a category that really only has the Toyota Avanza and Suzuki APV. The greenhouse towards the back beyond the C pillar is still somewhat strange to me, but design really depends on who's looking.
Inside, again, the Spin is a breath of fresh air. I like the dashboard and the cleverly functional design touches (the doorhandles double as the lock indicators), though they could have used better colors other than gray. Sitting in the driver's seat, there's that familiar Chevy digital gauge cluster similar to the one in the Spark and Sonic. The cabin just looks premium and well thought out for economy class.
The Spin is really a people carrier, and does it well given its dimensions. Seating is rather upright, but it does afford space for 7 persons inside. It's not made for generally taller people, but for the average height Filipino family with 2 to 3 to 4 to 5 kids, the Spin fits the bill. I can honestly say that a 5'6” person can fit in the 3rd row, after having tested it myself; endurance on long drives is a different matter, of course.
Even with all rows occupied, there's space for some luggage. At 164 liters it's not much space, but should you need maximum loading space, both the 3rd and 2nd rows fold relatively flat to each other. The Spin can take on up to 1608 liters with both rear seats down.
Powering this particular demo unit is a 1.5 liter S-TEC III engine. It's not particularly sophisticated, but it has ample power and torque at 107 PS and 148 Newton meters, respectively. The good part about the Spin LTZ is that it has a 6-speed automatic front-wheel drive transmission, meaning it has two more 'speeds' than its competition.
In the city and on the highway, the Spin performs as advertised. Acceleration from the powertrain is smooth and quiet, though a bit of ambient noise does permeate into the cabin; this is economy class, after all. Handling in the city is pretty good, as it's quite maneuverable and easy to park in tight mall parking spots. On the highway, the Spin is stable and gives a feeling of safety. It's not heavy enough to withstand the massive turbulence created by a bus passing beside it, but it never feels out of shape.
The Spin's fuel economy is actually what surprised me. Granted there was only two of us in the car most of the time, but at 8.9 kilometers per liter (light traffic) in the city and 14.3 on the highway (80-90 km/h cruise) the consumption is pretty good. Of course when you start loading up the cabin to capacity those numbers will go down significantly, though the Spin still feels responsive and, more importantly, comfortable. I'm still keen on trying out the 1.3L turbodiesel version with the manual, but we'll have to wait for that.
Chevrolet Philippines, under The Covenant Car Company, is on an incredible high. Last year, the brand grew significantly with sales being driven skyward by the good model line up, particularly the Trailblazer. The Chevrolet Spin 1.5 LTZ -an MPV that makes perfect sense in the metro and beyond- is well worth the money at PhP 838,888.