2019 Chevrolet Camaro Turbo 1LE -- First Impressions

After 1500 miles, my first weeks with my 2019 Camaro 2.0T 1LE has taught me a lot about the car. With a 1500-mile break-in period, I have only been able to do “daily driver” things in the car so far. This review covers those elements, see my next story for performance driving impressions.

The Camaro was a car that I had long-believed to be a non-starter. “Terrible outward visibility” and “too heavy” come to mind. I spoke ill of Camaros many a time, both with car friends in real life and with car communities across the world wide web. I would say “I admit it’s fast, but I’d never own one.”

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Things started to change about 3 months ago, when I test-drove one.

Having just test-driven a 2019 Mazda Miata, I saw the distinctive matte-black hood of a 1LE Camaro at the Chevy dealer across the street, and thought “hey, why not?” A few minutes later, I was behind the wheel and ready for disappointment. “After the Miata, this’ll feel like a yacht,” I thought.

The test drive was surprisingly, shockingly good. Despite a 1,000-lb weight difference between the Camaro 2.0T 1LE and the Miata I’d driven just previously, the 4-cylinder “slowest Camaro” handled far more like the Miata than its hefty 3,350-pound curb weight would indicate.

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Some engineering context helps to explain. On 1LE-package 4- and 6- cylinder Camaros, many of the suspension components are actually from the 455-horsepower V8 Camaro SS. Combined with a substantial staggered wheel & tire package (245-40R20 front and 275-35R20 rear), the base-engine 1LE Camaros are overbuilt for their power outputs.

This beefed-up handling hardware helps the Camaro feel like a smaller car than it is. With a Thanos-approved 50-50 weight distribution, the 2.0T 1LE can pull 1.0 G in corners, according to Chevy.

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Fast-forward 3 months from the initial test-drive, and I am now dailying that same quintuple-black Camaro that I test-drove.

Interior

Overall, the Camaro is a car that has an interior. It’s infinitely more comfortable than my 1991 Toyota MR2 that I’d been daily driving. The seats are sporty without being uncomfortable, and the essential door- and console-armrests are positioned perfectly to rest one’s elbows on long drives.

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It’s not some huge revelation of a nice interior, but there aren’t any glaring issues I can find.

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Well, it does have some glare from the chrome trim around the instrument cluster, as well as reflections of the seats in the back window. Polarized sunglasses eliminate these complaints quite easily.

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The main touch-points of the interior are all wrapped in a suede/microsuede/faux-suede material. This means the steering wheel, shifter, and, surprisingly, the seat belt receivers, all feel relatively upscale. The rest of the interior is mostly hard plastic or cloth, but it feels well-assembled and solid.

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Out back, the trunk has a pretty high lift-over and a small-ish opening, but has plenty of space for groceries. The rear seats fold down to make this a pass-through trunk. In theory, one could fit a small surfboard or two in the car. Whether it will fit a second set of wheels & track tires remains to be seen…

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Ride & Handling

This machine feels composed. With such overbuilt suspension and riding on GM’s Alpha chassis (shared with many modern RWD Cadillacs) the Camaro is comfortable to drive in almost all situations. It handles San Diego’s questionably-maintained streets with confidence and poise. While it’s not Mercedes S-Class floaty, it still absorbs bumps better than its 20-inch wheels would lead one to believe.

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Honestly, for one of the most capable and track-focused cars available on a budget, the Camaro feels quite mellow on the street. It doesn’t whisper “faster, faster!” in your ear while driving around town.

Fuel Economy

In almost all city-driving, I averaged 22.9 MPG in the first 1500 miles. This is about 3 MPG better than the 20 MPG city EPA estimate. Not bad, but this is also the gentle break-in mileage. No lead-footed shenanigans or freeway onramp accelerations thus far.

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Still, it’s nice to know that the Camaro 2.0T’s downsized, turbocharged engine can actually turn good fuel economy if driven gently.

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Outward Visibility

The Camaro 2.0T 1LE, along with just about any other Chevrolet Camaro on sale today, has an unusual shape to its greenhouse. This is a car that, in transportation-design terms, has a very small daylight opening. This chopped-top, hot-rod style look gives the car some unique sight lines.

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As the Camaro’s visibility is a key area of controversy and internet-discussion, I’ll be writing a more in-depth analysis of that feature at a later time.

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Personally, I don’t mind the sight lines. Some adjustment is necessary to see properly, stay tuned for a piece on that in the near future.

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The backup camera is one of the best I’ve seen, by the way.

Conclusion

This is a Good Car. I can’t speak for track performance yet, but the Camaro 2.0T 1LE is a solid-handling and competent daily driver. It lends a sense of planted security and can cruise comfortably on the commute.

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Later this week, I’ll have a “performance driving” review posted up here to cover how it handles autocross use. Stay tuned...

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