GM Misses Out on Pocket Rockets - Again
by, 10-05-2012 at 11:57 AM (21910 Views)
The mainstream small cars at GM are good, now it's time for a niche.
October 5, 2012
By: Nick Saporito
Throughout the late 1990's and early 2000's performance compacts were all of the rage. The term "Ricer" was born during this era of ridiculously loud exhausts, lots of tuning and garish appearances. At the time, Detroit was so fixed on building trucks and SUVs, all three Detroit based automakers failed to capitalize on the trend in a timely fashion. While the trend of tuned compacts may have subsided some in recent years, there is no denying that GM is yet again missing the boat in the compact segment.
Back in 2005 Chevy launched the Cobalt SS performance compact. At the time its 220 horsepower and respectable handling gave it authentic credentials in the enthusiast and tuner crowds; credentials that only blossomed further when Chevy swapped the supercharger for a turbocharger and more extensive hardware in 2008. Throughout it's tenure on the market the Cobalt SS accomplished two things: 1) it gave GM credibility in a discerning segment, and 2) proved Chevy's coveted SS moniker can be legitimately adapted to the modern world where not everything can be powered by a Small Block V-8.
Unfortunately when the Cobalt was replaced by the Cruze, the last tuned compact left the GM stable. Instead, we've been left with a competent mainstream compact sedan, but any performance credentials the Cobalt SS gained have been left in a closet somewhere inside RenCen.
Without a doubt GM needed to get its compact car strategy shaped up before focusing on niche segments within the compact market, but they have done that. The Cruze and Sonic both represent competitive, no-excuses attempts in their respective small segments. Both are truly global vehicles, and both have been well-received on the market. Now perhaps it's time to focus on a performance compact?
The thing is, the competition already has performance compacts on the market. Honda has the new 201 horsepower Civic Si. Hyundai has the stunning Veloster Turbo. And GM's cross-town rival, Ford, is going all in with the 252 horsepower Focus ST and an equally hot Fiesta ST is coming soon. Chevy's 138 horsepower Cruze does not exactly rival any of these cars.
The irony is that GM has all of the components to make a Focus or Fiesta ST rival. Proof that the pieces exist lies in one of GM's upcoming compact cars, the Buick Verano Turbo. GM has slotted in a 250 horsepower 2.0-liter turbo and a six-speed manual in a car that shares its chassis with the Chevrolet Cruze. The only problem with the Buick? It isn't designed or intended to be a performance car that goes auto crossing on the weekend.
No, it's hard to say why GM has avoided performance compacts again. Granted, the Sonic is an athletic subcompact, but it still isn't to the level of the cars mentioned earlier.
GM, give us a performance compact. All of the pieces are there to make a proper Cruze SS, Sonic SS or Verano GS.
Or just give us the Astra GTC from Eruope. That'd work.