Since purchasing a newer vehicle, it has become much more difficult to write these test drive articles. Most dealers call my bluff when they see my relatively luxurious car, and I ask them to test drive an EcoSport. That kinda sucks.
Onto the review. I needed a car to drive one way 7 hours mostly because I had local friends up there to take me home, and I didn’t want to put 1000 miles on my soon to be expiring bumper-to-bumper warrenty.
A cheap rental already places you on the spectrum of “How cheap do you want the car” versus “how badly don’t you want a Mitsubishi Mirage”.
I was given 4 choices:
- Ford Fiesta
- Kio Rio
- Hyandai Accent
- Mitsubishi Mirage
Based on those choices, I decided the 7 hour interstate drive in a Ford Fiesta would be the least likely to drive me insane. I arrived at the rental counter and she gave me the keys, I promptly went outside in the cold and wandered around the parking lot for 15 minutes because I could not understand what the employee said and didn’t know where the car was.
After nearly catching hypothermia, the doors unlocked to my new temporary to me Ford Fiesta.
Oh crap! That’s not a Ford Fiesta.
Disclaimer: Budget and Ford so desperately wanted me to drive a 2017 Fiesta that they asked me to give them $80 to drive it 7 hours across the Midwest. They also made me sign paper work that had me fill the car with gas and promise not to drive it into a lake. They were so excited that I was going to do a longer term review, that they then gave me the wrong car.
This is not a Ford Fiesta... It really isn’t similar to a Ford Fiesta. Only in car rentals can you ask for one thing and get something completely different. This is like going to the Pike Place Fish Market expecting a “salmon or similar” to be thrown at you only to be hit in the face with a sirloin.
Now this does not mean I was disappointed, absolutely not. When I first saw the Chevy emblem on the keys, I thought, “Oh god, I forgot about the Spark!” The revelation that it was an Impala gave me great relief.
Preamble over, let’s get into the review.
The 2017 Chevrolet Impala 1LT- a car so unassuming one rental company thought it was similar to a Ford Fiesta... Here are some basic stats.
- Engine: 2.5L naturally aspirated I4
- Transmission: 6-speed auto with some wonky thing that claims to be manual shift
- Environment: Interstate, lots of interstate, and some city
- Similarities to a Ford Fiesta: Well they both have I4's, I guess...
Like all of my reviews. This one uses my patented, bias, non-scientific, yet brilliant auto review scale. It doesn’t use hard figures nor is it split into weekend and daily categories and goes as follow:
0 - I hate it. Please burn it down
1 - I do not particularly care for this
2 - Indifferent. So much so I could not think of a witty description
3 - Good. I find this to be notable in a positive light
4 - I love it! Why are we not funding this!
This review covers 13 categories for a total of 52 points. Keep in mind that this is a rental/fleet trim so some categories will be weak compared to higher trim models.
Exterior - 3
I like the redesign of the Impala. I though it made the car look a lot more professional than the previous generation, which is as disposable as a Fujifilm camera. The front is handsome and the lines flow nicely around the car. However, from some angles it looks awkward and it lags behind in the design of some other executive sedans like those offered by Buick, Cadillac, and Infinity.
Interior - 2
The interior of the Impala shows where it sits in GM’s lineup. Everything inside the Impala is nice, but it would be nicer inside of a Buick. Even for rental spec, the seats were reasonably comfortable and the interior plastics weren’t too hard. That being said, I did not feel like I was in luxury, it felt more like upper basic. The design inside was really smooth with few sharp edges and lots of flowing trim pieces.
Acceleration - 1
This is one of those were I wish I had a separate rating for the engine itself. This Impala was equipped with the 2.5L 4-cylinder engine. The Impala is not a small car, it is also not very light weight. However, the engine only felt supremely under powered when merging on the highway. It is perfectly suitable for city driving. That being said, if you need to quickly merge onto a highway or get out of the way of something. This car won’t do it.
Braking - 2
The brakes on this car are nothing special. They were responsive as you would expect with a new sedan. There was little feeling of sponginess.
Ride - 2
The ride in the car was fine. It would certainly be better in the similar LaCrosse. After about 4 hours of driving, I felt like I needed to get out and stretch. The car absorbed bumps quite well only letting the really big ones get through.
Handling - 2
As mentioned in the Acceleration section. This is a big car, and with a small engine, you would expect handling to be a challenge. Surprisingly, it is not. The car was very easy to drive. I definitely would not recommend auto crossing this car though. Steering was responsive, but not notable enough to be a outstanding feature. My primary complaint is that at ~80mph this car gets a bit floaty on the highway. It was a bit of a struggle keeping the car in it’s lane. I think a bit wider wheels and/or adjustment to the front aerodynamics would help.
Gearbox - 2
The transmission is a standard 6-speed auto found in most GM sedans. There is not much to write about it. However, it’s manual mode is probably one of the more convoluted setups I have experienced. Shift the car into “M” and there are buttons on top of the shifter you press to change gear up/down. It is definitely not what you would think of for a manual mode. I will admit though, it is better than when they put the sequential mode shifter in backwards.
Audio/Infotainment/Toys - 1
Starting with this review, the infotainment system has been moved to this category. It was formerly with the Dash section, but seeing as the infotainment is more for accessing radio and other features and less about car information, it should go here.
This Impala had some interesting toys. First off Chevy MyLink is the dumbest infotainment system in existence. OnStar Nav is incredibly dumb. For those who don’t now, OnStar Nav requires you to call OnStar and have them put in the directions to the navigation system. You are not allowed to input it yourself, even when stopped. That is not the purpose of OnStar. OnStar is for calling for help after I crash into a pole because I was busy typing in my destination in my navigation screen. The infortainment system does have Apple CarPlay/Android Auto; however, my phone is too old to test it. I am sure it would have improved the infotainment by 1000%.
One of the niftier features is that the center screen can be raised and reveal a compartment to store you
weed phone while also allowing you to plug it into the car with a USB port. This sounds fine and good, but it didn’t work in this car. Also, if you have a larger phone, say an iPhone 10, it will not fit in here without having to bend the charger connector. My phone (an LG Optimus G Pro) is roughly the size of the iPhone 10 or Galaxy note, and it didn’t fit while connected to a USB cable.
The radio itself was fairly basic. Speakers were nothing to write home about and played audio at reasonable quality. The media selection screen is terrible. It is slow and takes several seconds to scroll through and switch songs. I would have had better luck plugging it into an AUX jack and just using my iPod.
Also, about 5.5 hours into the 7 hour trip, the car decided not to let my phone connect via Bluetooth anymore. It is pretty safe to say that Chevy MyLink is the worst infotainment system I have experienced so far.
Sound (Engine) - 2
Being a 4 banger, it is quite loud during acceleration. It is certainly trying to get you on the highway as fast as it can even if it is not doing it. While cruising, it is pretty quiet only turning about 2,000 RPMs @ 80mph, which is pretty impressive for its size.
Dash/Gauges - 3
I have always been impressed with the way modern cars can show a lot of information in a small space. The Impala is no different. The gauges are simple and relatively easy to read. The speedometer is a bit hard, but that is because I don’t like speedo’s that read out in 20 MPH increments. The digital speedometer rectifies that. Speaking of which that little screen is quite versatile allowing you to see all of your car’s information as well as controlling your audio and Bluetooth calling. The controls on the steering wheel are easy to use and the menus are pretty intuitive.
Outside of the gauge cluster, the climate controls are very user friendly. Self-explanatory buttons makes it easy to set the climate controls where you want them. However, the Impala has an issue placing buttons in seemingly random places. the first example being the parking brake which is located to the left of the steering wheel, the trunk button, and the cluster brightness switch. Most other controls are placed logically upon the center stack except for the traction control which is located below the console, behind the cup holders, and where you would think the parking brake should be. There are a few other buttons randomly placed throughout the car in areas that seem to make little sense, but that would be better for a quirks and features video.
Visibility - 3
Visibility was pretty good. Merging was easy and reversing was no problem thanks to the big windows and large back-up camera. I was originally a bit concerned because of the high door sills that have become commonplace in many cars.
Utility Value - 3
One benefit of this being such a large car is that you can fit a lot of stuff in it. I had no issues loading my luggage into the back of this car. There was room for at least a couple more
bodies large suitcases. You could easily carry a family of 3-4 in this car.
Moreover the gas mileage of the 4 cylinder is impressive. Cruising at 80 mph netted me a 31 MPG average, which I feel is great for a car this big. Usually 4 cylinders struggle at high speed driving, but this one did a great job. You would probably get the same highway mileage out of the V6, but your city mileage would be much worse.
My only complaint about that is the start/stop technology. It feels really half-assed in this car. It only engages while you are in Drive, and if you ever so slightly let off the brake, the car restarts. However, if you get on the gas like a normal person from a red light the car lurches very noticeably upon engine restart, and it sound rather rough. I didn’t particularly care for that. I like the idea of start/stop tech, but this one really feels like it is going to do excessive wear on the engine.
Value - 3
As far a rental value goes this gets a 4; however, this category is for purchase value. The 4 cylinder Impala can be had new for anywhere between 18k-35k depending on trim and incentives. That is very wide range. CPO you can get a reasonably trimmed model very easily for under 20k with many in the 15k range which I think is a great value. If you do a lot of long drives, need lots of trunk space, or just want a full-size sedan, then consider a CPO Impala. However, if you do go for the cheaper trims, you’ll get what you pay for. Around the 15-25k range, there are some other more luxurious cars available. The main competitor being the similarly platformed LaCrosse. I would rate this a 4 if the Impala had a bit more performance guts.
Total - 29/52 - 55%
Similar to a Ford Fiesta, this is not. However, it was obvious the rental gods were shining upon me as this was the best outcome for the scenario. The Chevy Impala is a good full size sedan and will accomplish most tasks just as well as a small CUV. Road tripping in the car was an overall pleasurable experience and the performance of the small engine in such a broad shouldered car was impressive. There are not very many low end full size sedans left on the market as people shift over to crossovers and SUVs. This shift also makes the Impala a great lower budget option, especially on the ‘certified used’ market. If you are looking for a large sedan that you can take to the next town for you business meeting, yet won’t suck down gas like a old big time Cadillac, consider the Impala, seriously.