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June 20, 2017

Review: 2017 Chevrolet Sail 1.5 LTZ

The explosion of the small sedan segment in the Philippines, fueled in particular by ride-sharing apps like Uber and Grab, meant that carmakers are all scrambling for a piece of that lucrative pie. Normally content on delivering more of lifestyle-oriented vehicles, Chevrolet has gotten right smack into the fray with the Sail. Replacing the slow-selling Sonic sedan (the hatchback is still around), the Sail, is for all intents and purposes, a car you get when accountants take charge. It’s simple, straightforward, and priced to sell. It should be a winner by anyone’s book; that is, until you actually drive it.

Now, before getting to the subject of driving, it’s best to reserve a few words to describe the Sail’s styling: it’s…what car is this again?

Moving along to the driving aspect, the Sail does have the guts to take on other subcompact sedans head on. On paper, it’s mighty impressive with 108 horsepower and 141 Nm of torque from its 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine. And on this range-topping LTZ trim, it’s mated to a 4-speed automatic with a +/- toggle switch on the gear lever whenever you feel like being sporty. With no expectation to its performance, the Sail feels reasonably punchy at city speeds. The hair trigger throttle and close ratio ‘box means it’ll scoot up to 80 km/h faster than any other 1.5-liter sedan out there, if the seat of the pants is the only judge.

But, better tempter those dreams about running in Talladega Nights because this Chevy’s not going to give you enough shake-and-bake muscle. Aside from being irritatingly difficult not to whiplash the passengers into submission each time the gas pedal’s squeezed, it loses steam early on. The Sail already feels close to maxed out as it reaches 100 km/h and a glance at the speedometer all but confirms this: it’s already running at 2,100 rpm on fourth gear at 80 km/h.

Moreover, the engine itself feels rough around the edges. Though it’s quiet at idle or near idle, the coarseness rears its ugly head once the revs climb. At 4,000 rpm or peak torque, you’ll begin to swear you’re driving a diesel. Accompanying the vocal-ness, there’s also some minute vibration that’s more reminiscent of a 3-cylinder rather than a 4-cylinder one. Overall, the Sail’s powertrain won’t drive you nuts, but it also shows that there are at least half a dozen better engines out there, including Chevrolet’s own Ecotec. What will potentially drive you mad is the fuel efficiency. Though the lifetime fuel consumption readout says a reasonable 9.09 km/L (after 13,000 kilometers), a week’s driving in city traffic only managed 6.75 km/L. That’s already well in the range of a gas-powered compact crossovers or larger-engined compact sedan.

Another glaring problem with the Sail is its handling. When it’s left to just sail or if you prefer, cruise, it’s alright. Apart from the heavy hydraulic power steering, it’s a Point A to Point B car. It’ll do everything you ask of it; nothing more, nothing less. The problems start coming out when you decide to provoke it even a little. Give it a poke through a series of bends and it’ll respond with understeer and body roll. It also feels low on mechanical grip. It has a tendency to break traction whenever the throttle’s loaded and the steering wheel’s a bit off-center. The brakes too feel like an on/off switch.

While the Sail’s grunt or handling doesn’t live up to expectations, it manages to redeem itself nicely with the ride. It aligns well to Chevrolet’s reputation for serving up a pliant ride that can glide through any rough surface well. Though unrelated in terms of platform, it’s close to the Sonic’s in the way the suspension’s got generous travel. If there’s one thing the Sail needs to inherit from the Sonic though, it’s the damping at the top end. The largest of bumps can still shake the cabin and jolt the occupants.

Speaking about the cabin, it’s a pleasant enough space to be in. Fit and finish are largely at par with other cars of this class although there are some bits, particularly the stalks, which are inexcusably cheap. Still, it’s got space for 5 adults so that’s something. Apart from getting their own 3-point seatbelts and adjustable headrests, the seats are cushy enough for the daily commute even if they look thin. The driver’s seat, in particular, must be commended for offering 6 ways, albeit manual, of adjustment. The rest of the ergonomics package, like the steering wheel, gauges, and shifter all work together to deliver a solid driving position. Interestingly enough, designers have carefully rearranged the controls, reducing the door trim’s footprint to a minimum to get back some precious millimeters of room. As a result, the window switches have migrated to the center console, just ahead of the shifter. It takes some getting used to, but it becomes second nature after a while.

Now comes the most interesting bit: the price. Supposed to sit in the middle of traditional sub-B (Wigo, Eon, whatever car China dishes out) and B-segment offerings (Vios, Accent), the Sail LTZ docks at P 858,888 or right smack in the middle of the B-segment. A look at its most obvious competitor, the Mirage G4, sees the Mitsubishi actually undercutting the Sail by around P 50,000. Yes, the Chevrolet does offer a larger engine, slightly bigger space, a fancy Android infotainment system, and even a nifty sunroof, but in the end, the Mirage is the better driver (and that’s saying a lot).

Although the lower variants may make more sense for those considering the Sail as an Uber or Grab vehicle (the range starts at P 713,888), the Sail 1.5 LTZ’s positioning is much more problematic. What started as a car supposedly designed by the numbers, designed to slot into a particular segment like a pair of skinny jeans, ends up being priced off market. For once, Chevrolet shouldn’t try to be the brand for everyone. They should rein in their accountants and let the product people go back to doing lifestyle-oriented vehicles.

2017 Chevrolet Sail 1.5 LTZ
Ownership 2017 Chevrolet Sail 1.5 LTZ
Year Introduced 2016
Vehicle Classification Sub-compact
The Basics
Body Type 4-door Sedan
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/F
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 1.5
Aspiration Normally Aspirated
Fuel Delivery EFI
Layout / # of Cylinders I4
BHP @ rpm 108 @ 6,000
Nm @ rpm 141 @ 4,000
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / 91~
Transmission 4AT
Cruise Control No
Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed 6.75 km/L @ 12 km/h
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,300
Width (mm) 1,735
Height (mm) 1,504
Wheelbase (mm) 2,499
Curb Weight (kg) 1,130
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Torsion Beam Axle
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Drum
Tires Michelin Energy XM2 185/55 R 16 V (f & r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 2
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes, with EBD
Traction / Stability Control No
Parking Sensors Rear with Parking Camera
Other Safety Features No
Exterior Features
Headlights Halogen
Fog Lamps Yes, Front
Auto Lights No
Rain-sensing Wipers No
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt
Steering Wheel Material Urethane
Seating Adjustment Manual
Seating Surface Fabric
Folding Rear Seat No
On-Board Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes
Climate Control Yes
Audio System Stereo
Mobile Connect Smartphone Mirroring
# of Speakers 4
Steering Controls Yes


  1. another POS car from chevy, I actually liked the sonic, just needs more marketing and a new android head unit, but no, they had to introduce this chinese made crap. and whats with the sunroof, car is cramped already, its trying to squeeze a little bit of luxury when it is just an economy car

    1. Your comment, Sir, is the summary of the article. You're correct.

    2. Chevrolet Philippines aka The Covenant Car Company Inc had no choice. GM Thailand stopped production of the Sonic, GM Korea it seems only builds higher spec Sonics with the 1.4 liter Turbo (which would be more expensive). I guess the last option was China.

  2. Regarding the Sonic hatch, GM Thailand stopped making Sonics in June 2015, exactly 2 years ago. I believe GM was selling left over pre-facelift Sonic units most of 2016. GM Korea on the other hand manufactures the facelifted Sonics (similar front styling as the new Trax).

  3. Sailing on the road. Ok yan sa mga Lalake ngayon!

    Masarap ang buhay, itodo ang arangkada ng walang palya. Bravo Biscuit, ang bagsik mo!


  4. Yeah... So my uncle just bought one of these. Damn.... May God bless him.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. may better pa ba sa top of the line? haist😂😂😂

  7. Bought one. Good power miser on gas love sunroof n ten in. Info cntre. Originally badges as a buick made by Gm/Shanghai. 3.5 million sold

  8. My ltz is 2yrs and 3 months now and I have no problem with it. My dad appreciate it so much. Every cara has their flaws. Its how you take good care of it.

  9. My Sail is now 6 yrs old and what a p.o.s.! One taillight bulb burned out in 6 yrs. So much maintenance headaches. Should have bought an EV. Lol. Noted here in Philippines they keep building new GAS stations. But not noticeably any EV charging stations that may tell you something...


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