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Review and photos by Greg Wilson
A car that makes you feel good
As , when you compare the 2004 Chevrolet Epica LS directly with the Chevrolet Malibu LS V6, or even the Honda Accord LX-G 4 cylinder and Toyota Camry LE 4 cylinder, the Epica offers less horsepower, less trunk space, fewer available safety features, and worse fuel consumption for about the same price as its competitors. And it’s unlikely the Epica will be able to match the Accord and Camry’s resale values and perceived quality.
The Epica LS does have a few more standard features than the Malibu LS V6 sedan, but on the whole, the Epica seems a bit overpriced.
That is, until you get in the car and drive it.
The Epica is such a comfortable, quiet, smooth and easy car to drive, that all of a sudden, it doesn’t seem quite so expensive. In fact, it drives and rides like a much more expensive car. It’s not something you’d expect just looking at the Epica, so it comes as a bit of a surprise.
The heart of this car is its butter-smooth inline six cylinder engine. The Epica’s all-aluminum 2.5 litre inline six cylinder engine with four valves per cylinder, twin overhead cams, and variable intake induction, is mounted sideways in the front driving the front wheels. Under acceleration, it revs smoothly and evenly to its redline with little noise or vibration. Its 155 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque won’t push you back in your seat – the Epica is no performance sedan – but the power is entirely adequate for everyday driving needs and you won’t have to worry about torque-steer. On the freeway, the engine turns over a comfortable, vibration-free 2300 at 100 km/h, and 2800 at 120 km/h in top gear.
Kudos must also go to the Epica’s smooth-changing four-speed automatic transmission. Though Grant Yoxon found it “lazy”, I liked its quiet, smooth operation. It may not be as responsive as some automatic transmissions, but I didn’t find it hesitant when I really needed it. The transmission adjusts automatically for uphill or downhill driving by holding in gear. The only thing I didn’t like was its irregular, stainless-steel shift gate which makes it difficult to manoeuvre the gear lever without some effort. However, the lever allows the driver to pull straight back from D to 3 for downshifting on hills.
Fuel consumption is comparatively poor: 11.9 l/100 km (24 mpg) city and 7.9 l/100 km (36 mpg) highway. As the Epica weighs about the same as the Malibu and has a smaller engine with 45 less horsepower, it’s difficult to understand why its fuel consumption is so much worse. My guess is that the Epica’s fuel injection system and electronic controls are not as sophisticated. Still, you couldn’t call the Epica a gas hog.
The Epica’s suspension is soft. That means more lean in the corners, but it also means you don’t have to suffer every time you hit potholes and cracked pavement, of which there seems to be increasingly more of. 15 inch tires are standard on LS models, but my car had the optional 16 inch tires: Kumho Xta HT4 205/65R-16 inch all-season tires mounted on alloy rims. These tires provided good all around wet and dry performance and were noiseless on the freeway.
The Epica’s agility and comfortable ride are partly due to its fully independent suspension (front double wishbone/rear multi-link). And its speed sensitive rack and pinion power steering is nicely weighted for easy operation at all speeds. The Epica’s turning circle is just 10.4 metres (34.1 ft.), or about four feet less than the Malibu. This is all the more remarkable when you consider the straight six under the hood is mounted sideways, leaving less room for the front wheels to turn.
Brakes are standard discs at all four corners but ABS is optional on LS models. Interestingly, the Epica LS with ABS stopped ten feet shorter than the Malibu LS with ABS in a 100 km/h to 0 braking test conducted by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada. The Epica’s 137 feet braking distance can be considered good in its class.
The Epica’s unitbody is tight and rattle-free – impressive when you consider that previous Daewoos were near the bottom of the list in this department. Whatever GM is doing at its Korean assembly plants seems to be paying off.
Keyless remote is standard on the Epica. A button on the key, not on a separate key fob, unlocks all the doors with the first press. For safety, most new cars have remote keys which open the driver’s door with one press, and all the other doors with the second press. This is something that future Epica’s should address. When locking the doors remotely, an audible screech, that sounds like a Starling being strangled, startles anyone who happens to be passing by, including the birds.
Inside, the Epica has an attractive interior that might be slightly out of date, but is generally user-friendly. The 8-way cloth power driver’s seat with height adjustment, seat cushion tilt, and recline is comfortable, and wide footwells and a wide “dead” pedal provide plenty of footroom. The ignition key receptacle is on the dash beside the steering wheel, not on the steering column.
The interior includes soft, fabric-covered seats, cloth door inserts and cloth seats, two-tone textured dash plastic, and warm, artificial walnut trim on the console. The three gauges include a tachometer, speedo and coolant/fuel/transmission indicator. Stalk and dash controls are easy to see and use – with the exception of the radio’s Tune button which is the “turn and stop” type that you’ll find really irritating. The standard AM/FM/CD, with optional MP3 player, has a bright green display which is easy to read. The sound quality is fairly good, but not outstanding.
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Other noteworthy interior features are three heater dials with ribbed, rubber grips, and on the lower left dash, a unique slide-out coin tray with a slot for a credit/debit/gas card. The centre armrest/storage is small, and interior storage room is not particularly generous. Two cupholders reside under a flip-up cover, and in the rear, two cupholders and storage are contained in the fold-down centre armrest.
The rear bench has adequate headroom and legroom for two adults but may be a bit narrow for three adults. The raised front seat cushions allow generous footroom for the rear passengers, and there are two rear height-adjustable head restraints.
The 13.4 cubic feet trunk is not as spacious as the Malibu’s 15.4 cubic feet trunk, but it’s adequate and offers 60/40 split folding rear seats for longer items. There is a remote power trunk release on the ignition key.
The Epica’s relatively poor fuel consumption and mediocre horsepower rating can almost be forgiven when you discover how comfortable, quiet and easy to drive this car is.
Read Grant Yoxon’s review of the
Technical Data: 2004 Chevrolet Epica LS
|Options||$390 (MP3 player $75; 16 inch tires/alloy wheels $315)|
|Price as tested||$26,030|
|Type||4-door, 5 passenger mid-size sedan|
|Layout||transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive|
|Engine||2.5 litre inline 6 cylinder, DOHC, 24 valves|
|Horsepower||155 @ 5800 rpm|
|Torque||177 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm|
|Tires||Kumho Xta HT4 205/65R-16 inch all-season|
|Curb weight||1533 kg (3373 lb.)|
|Wheelbase||2700 mm (106.3 in.)|
|Length||4770 mm (187.8 in.)|
|Width||1815 mm (71.5 in.)|
|Height||1450 mm (57.1 in.)|
|Trunk space||380 litres (13.4 cu. ft.)|
|Fuel consumption||City: 11.9 l/100 km (24 mpg)|
|Hwy: 7.9 l/100 km (36 mpg)|
|Warranty||3 yrs/60,000 km|
|Powertrain Warranty||5 yrs/100,000 km|
|Assembly location||Bupyong, South Korea|