By Andy Enright
The problem with small used cars is that they often come with a lot of other things that are small. Mean warranties, tiny carrying capacities, meagre equipment lists and very little in the way of brand equity. Chevrolet's Kalos three-door offers a welcome break from these norms but adds a few other tiny features of its own. A modest upfront asking price, minuscule ongoing running costs and little in the way of rivals for this sort of money. Small wonder it's a smart used buy.
Models Covered: (1.2, 1.4, three-door supermini [SE, SX, Sport, Ikon])
Find yourself a three-door Kalos and you can be sure of one thing: it won't be a Daewoo. Though the Kalos supermini originally arrived in the UK as a Daewoo product, it was only as a five-door. The 'sportier' three-door variant was the first product that the Chevrolet brand launched when it took over the Daewoo brand in the UK in early 2005. Both 1.2 and 1.4-litre engines were offered in three-door hatchback guise. Trim levels ranged from entry-level S through SE to range topping SX but there was also a Sport option available with the 1.4-litre engine, leather seats and a naughtier-sounding exhaust but no extra performance. The Kalos Ikon was available briefly from August 2005.
What You Get
It's reasonable to expect this car to be little other than a Kalos five-door with two fewer doors. In one sense of course, it's exactly that but put the two versions side by side and it's almost like comparing you with your parents. The same DNA, the same look and feel but in one case, a younger, more get-up-and-go attitude. You have to look quite closely to see why that is, since the styling difference isn't down to any one feature. There's a different side profile of course, with completely different doors incorporating an upwardly sloping waistline and side rubbing strip. There's also different rear wheel arch profiling. But look carefully and you'll also note changes front and rear: a revised, sculpted rear bumper and a more aggressive apron under the front numberplate. Both could have come from a bodykit catalogue. Talking of bodykits, there's a more aggressive one on the Sport version of this car, along with a free flow exhaust and some nice Sport alloy wheels. Unfortunately, this variant doesn't offer anything more than the standard 94bhp 1.4-litre engine. Which is a pity, since other European markets got a proper turbocharged 'Sprint' model which, apparently, couldn't be engineered for right hand drive. As you'd expect, the three-door is a car of very compact dimensions (length/width/height 3880/1670/1495mm) yet like the five-door, it boasts one of the longest wheelbase you'll find on a supermini of this era. That means an interior that's a great deal more spacious than you might expect. The front headroom (955mm) is class-leading, as is rear legroom (900mm). For rear seat passengers to enter and leave the vehicle, the front passenger seat can be folded forward with only one hand before clicking back into its initial position. Storage space inside is pretty good. Drink cans and cups are held in place in fold-out cupholders on the centre console or in recesses at the end of the central transmission tunnel. To improve the driver's view, the top of the rear head restraints have been flattened, while the back of the front head rests are fitted with hooks to keep small shopping bags securely in place. Standard equipment includes a 70/30 split folding backrest. If you take advantage of this, the rear seat can be folded up and fixed into place behind the front seats using a special belt attached to the passenger seat headrest. This frees up 980 litres of cargo space, while with all the seats in place, there's still a reasonable 220 litres. The payload is 430kgs, so the storage space can usually be used to the full.
What You Pay
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What to Look For
As with all cars that get used to ferry children back and forth, check for rips, stains and other damage to upholstery and minor trim parts. Also bear in mind that the Kalos will likely have been used as an urban scoot so check for parking knocks. Other than that, expect the usual Chevrolet reliability but check the service history to ensure it's been looked after properly.
(Estimated prices, based on a 2005 1.4SX) Parts prices are hardly astronomical, a clutch assembly will be around £90 and an air filter should be close to £12. Brake pads are around £35 a front set with a water pump relieving you of nearly £60.
On the Road
On the road, it won't be the most exciting driving experience you've ever had - but then what would you expect? The 1.2-litre model's 72bhp is good enough to punt the car to sixty from rest in 13.2s on the way to 98mph but, more importantly, you should achieve nearly 43mpg, according to combined cycle official fuel figures. The 1,399cc 1.4-litre unit manages sixty from rest in 11.1s on the way to 110mph (though there's also an automatic version that struggles up to 106mph). The combined fuel consumption is officially quoted at 39.8mpg. Safety is well catered for with all models getting anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, twin front and side airbags, three-point belts on all five seats and ISOFIX anchorage points for a child seat in the back. Otherwise, expect to find power-assisted steering, height/tilt adjustable headrests, clear side repeaters, coat hooks in the back, central locking with an alarm, electric front windows, cup holders front and rear, an auxiliary power outlet and a tilt adjustable steering column. All 1.4 models have air-conditioning and the SX variants add 15" alloy wheels, electric rear windows, side airbags, an upgraded stereo with steering wheel controls, electric mirrors, a sunglasses holder and body-coloured door handles. The Sport model isn't actually any quicker but it has a naughty-sounding freeflow exhaust, special 'Sport' alloy wheels and various styling accessories.
The Chevrolet Kalos three-door is an interesting, neatly-styled car with a decent badge which represents a very useful used buy. Look for a car that's covered low mileages and hasn't been too beaten-up by city driving and you could be onto a winner.