LUV Again: Chevrolet's Small Brazilian Beauty Doesn't Love American
Mike Levine Posted:
06-12-08 15:19 PT
© 2008 PickupTrucks.com
prices headed for $4.50 to $5 a gallon, a number of pickup truck buyers
are thirsting for a small work truck and coming up dry.
hybrid Toyota A-BAT; it's got a nice footprint, but it's still vaporware,
aimed at hipsters and Baby Boomers. Forget the Australian-hatched Pontiac
G8 sport truck (whatever it will be called), a V-8 powered muscle
car with a bed for El Camino enthusiasts -- all 5,221 of them. Forget
the compact Ford Ranger; it's scheduled to be euthanized next year, possibly
to be replaced by a much larger F-100.
trucks? Ha! Considering how much you’ll pay for a new
one that has only marginally better fuel economy than a half-ton, you
might as well buy a full-size pickup. Which is why small-work-truck shoppers
aren’t shopping at all.
if I told you, though, that there was a truck on sale right now just
a few minutes’ drive from San Diego that could haul 1,600
pounds of cargo, get more than 30 mpg on the highway and cost around
$15,000 well-equipped? And it’s made by Chevrolet. You’d
be interested, right?
Chevrolet Tornado isn’t a mirage, but it might as well be
for American buyers. It’s a two-seat Mexican pickup built in Brazil
(where it’s sold as the Chevrolet Montana). It’s also exported
to South Africa, badged as the Opel Corsa Utility.
is no squashed Silverado. The Tornado has more in common with a Honda
Ridgeline. It’s car-based and has front-wheel drive, built
on GM’s subcompact Gamma platform. The rear suspension abandons
leaf springs and a live axle for coil springs and a torsion bar.
the Tornado’s hood is a 1.8-liter, inline-four-cylinder
engine rated at 104 horsepower and 118 pounds-feet of torque. With its
standard five-speed manual transmission, it’s good for 23 mpg in
the city and goes from zero to 60 mph in 10 seconds. Sporty? No. Efficient?
is small and sparsely equipped. The Tornado doesn’t get
much fancier than crank windows, a CD changer and air conditioning, but
the South African Opel version comes with power windows, nicer materials
and airbags. Surprisingly, there’s more than 5.5 cubic feet of
space behind the Tornado’s two seats, good enough to stow a laptop
or a small amount of luggage.
Tornado’s cargo box measures
66.5 inches by 55 inches, and it’s entirely practical. The side
walls are tall, and there are neatly integrated steps behind the B-pillar
to make loading easier. Tie-down cleats circling the bed rails make
it easy to secure cargo. The Ridgeline’s
payload area is 60 inches by 50 inches, and the Tornado’s 1,600-pound
payload capacity beats the Ridgeline by 50 pounds.
is unconventional. Most U.S. pickups are bold up front and mild in
the back, but not the Tornado. Its front clip is econo-car anonymous,
while the back half sports wildly flared fenders, like a miniature
GM sell a version of the Tornado/Montana/Corsa Utility runabout in the
U.S.? It didn’t make business sense until gas prices broke the
$3 a gallon barrier. Americans likely wouldn’t have bought a tiny
truck like the Tornado when gas was cheap.
full-size trucks are suddenly out of favor and the current crop of small
cut it. We’re
in a situation similar to the early 1970s, when small import pickups
from Toyota and Datsun suddenly became popular as oil prices spiked during
the Arab oil embargo. Ford and GM responded by bringing over pickups
from Mazda and Isuzu, renaming them the Ford Courier and Chevrolet LUV,
there are no small trucks to import from overseas. Even Japanese manufacturers
are struggling to cope with the sudden drop in pickup-truck demand,
ratcheting back their American factories, just like the domestic automakers
and safety rules are also much tougher today than they were 35 years
ago. The South African version of the Tornado comes closest to U.S.
specs, but it would take many months of reengineering and testing to
federalize the Tornado for our market.
aren’t reasons not to bring the Tornado here, though. We’re
guessing designs for smaller haulers are being pinned up in the cubicles
of all the major manufacturers right now, but they’re still just
concepts. The Tornado is on sale today. If GM brought it here and sold
it as the modern-day Chevrolet LUV, those small-truck-buyers might finally
quench their thirst for a modern-day compact with a pickup that’s
not a big drinker at the gas pump.