Versus the competiton:
The Chevy GEO Storm has been on our list of recommended buys ever sinceit first appeared as a 1990 model. There`s no reason to question its rankingfor 1992 now that the top-of-the-line GSi performance model has added apeppier four-cylinder engine.
The GSi has upgraded powerplants to a 1.8-liter, 140-horsepower, 16-valve, dual overhead-cam four-cylinder engine for `92. The Storm always haslooked fairly sporty, but with the new engine it now acts more aggressivelythan when the 1.6-liter, 95 horsepower, single overhead-cam four-cylinder was the standard engine.
We test-drove the Storm GSi with the optional four-speed automatic. Theautomatic makes it much easier to put up with bumper-to-bumper rush-hourtraffic, but for the ease of not having to shift on your own you pay a pricein performance. When starting from the light you momentarily feel the reinspull on those 140 horses, whereas with the standard five-speed manual they`dquickly break into a trot.
The mileage rating with automatic is 22 m.p.g. city/30 highway,respectably stingy and only 1 mile per gallon less than the 23 city/31highway rating with the five-speed.
If you do a lot of stop-and-go city driving and constant shifting, the 1m.p.g. difference in mileage between manual and automatic is a wash and favorsthe automatic.
The manual does have merit-it shifts smoothly and those five gears allowyou to downshift so the engine helps you brake rather than having to apply thebinders at snow-covered intersections.
The Storm GSi is one of those subcompact economy cars dressed up insports clothing, from hatchback spoiler in the rear to air dam and fog lights up front. For a styling touchup, there are now mini-quad headlamps,aerodynamic wheel covers and two new exterior colors-turquoise metallic andcobalt blue metallic.
The intent is to offer a vehicle that can flex its muscle when needed,yet still focus on mileage when you`re simply cruising down the highway. The1.8-liter, 140-horsepower engine is more lively than the 1.6-liter, but the1.8 still isn`t so powerful that it will intimidate the driver.
Storm is an excellent choice for youth because it delivers optimummileage while not looking like an economy car.
From a safety standpoint, a driver-side air bag is standard. Antilockbrakes aren`t offered, however.
While Storm is a personal favorite, Chevy needs to tell Isuzu of Japan,builder and supplier of the car, that a few changes are overdue.
The handles are recessed and hidden inside the door, a gimmick used tocontribute to the overall sporty appearance. But the hidden handles are nailbusters for women and will result in ring scratches along the body by men orwomen reaching in that little compartment for the handle.
The rear seat still handles no more than a couple of little kids becauseof the severe lack of head room. At least the rear seat backs can be folded toconvert the seats t o cargo hauling since people won`t fit.
Our biggest gripe was the tires. The GSi comes equipped with 15-inchBridgestone Potenza RE93 all-season treads. Usually 15-inch tires on such asmall car (96.5-inch wheelbase, 164-inch length) contribute to improvedhandling.
But these treads had an aversion to metal bridges. On two occasions wehad to cross metal bridges that were slightly wet, and the vehicle immediatelystarted to dance-a jitterbug, not a waltz. It felt as if we were driving over a bed of Vasoline. That`s not a confidence builder in the Snow Belt.
Base price of the Storm GSi is $13,300. Our test-car added the four-speed automatic and air conditioning, each priced at $745, along with electronicallytuned AM-FM stereo with cassette tape and digital clock at $140 and color-keyed front and rear floor mats at $30. The sticker read $14,960 plus a$345 freight charge.