By on June 29, 2012

GM do Brasil has been on a roll recently. While the early 00s saw GM running hard to get nowhere, the new decade has brought on some good news for the embattled, tired, old General. They are proving, at least in Brazil, that they still have some cartridges to burn.

To wit, the all-new, brand-new, super-new, ok, enough with all the new. A minivan: The Spin. Cool name, though somehow its significance will be lost on most Brazilians. The Spin seats 5 or 7, and in our tax-break-fueled-heated-up market, it’s sure to become a hot one. Don’t worry, be happy and buy now. Following the trail burned by our beloved technocrats in Brasília, Brazilians, and soon I’m sure, many hermanos, will be able to take the latest and the greatest from Detroit via São Caetano do Sul for, well, a spin. That is, if you have roughly 22 thousand greenbacks in your pocket, considering that now the dollar begets about 2 of our reais.

Seating 5 in LT trim and 7 in LTZ guise, the Spin sits on a version of GM’s new global small car platform. In this iteration, it stretches out to its maximum limits. It is that most rare of things, an honest to God new car. For our American friends up North, the Spin, which is, underneath, a version of the highly-praised Brazilian Cobalt, is a bigger twin of the Sonic. They are platform siblings.

In LT (hat tip to Brazilian enthusiast site bestcars.com.br for all preceding and following info) guise, the Chevy Spin comes with OEM hydraulic power steering, A/C, ABS and EDS brakes, double frontal airbags, power windows and locks, and driver-seat and steering height adjustment. Of course, you can obtain other goodies, but you’ll pay more (through the nose) to get it. The LTZ adds, for about 4 thousand more dollars, a third row of seats, car computer, parking sensors, and radio controls mounted on the steering wheel. In this market segment, an automatic is slowly becoming a must and the General doesn’t disappoint. For about 2,500 dollars you can add a 6-speed auto. If you decide to keep that money for yourself and spend it on better things, the van comes with a 5-speed manual.

What disappoints immensely is Chevy’s ignoble decision to straddle this all new, otherwise attractive beast, with its ancient 1.8 liter motor. Derived from an engine in production in Brazil from at least the 80s, and, of course, modernized over time, it can’t hide the fact that it’s like eons old. Proof of that is that it has just 2 valves per cylinder and puts out a paltry 107 hp. Not to mention its thirst. GM builds in Brazil a good 1.8 16v that develops 120 horses, is present in the Cruze and is exported in Brazilian-made GM cars to our neighbors. Why did GM choose to saddle us with this dog? It boggles the mind, and it takes out enough of the car to make the Nissan Livina, among others, a much better choice.

Summing-up: Global new car architecture. Mechanics conceived and developed before I was born. Epic short-sightedness. In a word, fail. Don’t buy now. Force GM to put a real engine in this car.

The new GM do Brasil. So much promise, so much hubris.

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33 Comments on “GM’s Brazilian Spin: Dog Of An Engine Devours Any Desire To Buy...”


  • avatar
    lon888

    My gosh, that thing is UGLY. Did the same joker who penned the Aztek, do this piece of crap also?

  • avatar

    to frosajf:

    Hi Francisco!

    Sorry I only catched your post today!

    If your car is more than ten years old, it can be imported to Brazil on allegations of historical significance. This means it’ll be imported free of tax.

    Now, wait a minute, the more I think about it I’m not really sure if the time limit is 10 years or 25…Sorry, would have to check. If younger than that the taxes are so high it would be nigh impossible to do. At least from a financial viewpoint. I’m sure there are many law offices that could help you with that. Hope it helped!

    Thaks for reading!

    • 0 avatar
      Viquitor

      25 years, my fellow countryman. Btw, I agree on the engine. But remember the 16v Meriva?

      Being a Meriva replacement, GM knows a huge part of the sales is likely to come from taxi drivers, an they hate 16v engines, deeming them as being more expensive to mantain. The same applies to the Cobalt.

      • 0 avatar

        E aí?

        Beleza, agree on this premise. However, nobody ever grew a company or conquered sales by pleasing taxi drivers or mechanics. GM can justify this anyway they please, but as they’re appealing to the lowest denominator they deserve to be bashed.

  • avatar
    cRacK hEaD aLLeY

    Oh Dear God. The Chevrolet Monza 1.8 engine lives on. Mind you, to have a “1.8″ badge on the trunk of your Black GM Monza meant you made it big time. In 1984.

    • 0 avatar

      Right you are! Again. Sad day for modern cars in Brazil when this sh”\" came out. And to think the platform is so good. Such a waste.

      • 0 avatar
        wmba

        At least this new Spin’s old engine has SOHC. The Cavalier wheezed through the eighties with an even older piece of s**t, a 1.8 litre overhead valve motor. Then they enlarged it to 2.2 litres for the Corsica. Now that engine really was a dog, and may have been designed originally by Holden, although that may have been to disguise its origin by blaming people in faraway places.

        I think when Pontiac offered a turbo on the Sunfire, that was the first use of the engine (outside of Germany) we’re talking about here in the Spin, a 1.8 litre SOHC two valver designed by Opel.

        It was shortly after in the late ’80s that GM finally hired Cosworth to design a modern 4 valve head for Opel, with narrow angled valves, much like the Mitsubishi Eclipse 4G63 they also did, and the Mercedes 2.3 16 valve engine.

        Of course, Opel spun the 4 valve head as the exclusive design of some engineer called Fritz Indra, when Cosworth actually did the work. No doubt Mr. Indra signed the relevant PO’s!

        So yup, the engine in the Spin is quite an old dog, all right. What a pity.

        Then Opel finally hired Cosworth, and ended up with a modern 4valve heaD

      • 0 avatar
        wmba

        At least this new Spin’s old engine has SOHC. The Cavalier wheezed through the eighties with an even older piece of s**t, a 1.8 litre overhead valve motor. Then they enlarged it to 2.2 litres for the Corsica. Now that engine really was a dog, and may have been designed originally by Holden, although that may have been to disguise its origin by blaming people in faraway places.

        I think when Pontiac offered a turbo on the Sunfire, that was the first use of the engine (outside of Germany) we’re talking about here in the Spin, a 1.8 litre SOHC two valver designed by Opel.

        It was shortly after in the late ’80s that GM finally hired Cosworth to design a modern 4 valve head for Opel, with narrow angled valves, much like the Mitsubishi Eclipse 4G63 they also did, and the Mercedes 2.3 16 valve engine.

        Of course, Opel spun the 4 valve head as the exclusive design of some engineer called Fritz Indra, when Cosworth actually did the work. No doubt Mr. Indra signed the relevant PO’s!

        So yup, the engine in the Spin is quite an old dog, all right. What a pity.

  • avatar
    Acubra

    Nothing bad in an old banger per se.
    As long as it is simple, reliable and blessed with a long and uneventful service life (I dunno if this is the case with this unit, though).
    2 valves per are good for a low down torque as far as I remember. Horsepower here is not as critical as lb-ft. So again, for a stuff hauler it is not such a bad thing in itself.

    The only serious weak point would be thirst – but that is not a result of an older configuration, but rather its current state of tune and emissions equipment.

    And the whole vehicle is fashionably ugly and poor visibility, I agree with earlier comments.

    • 0 avatar

      Hahaha! You just pointed out GM’s justificatioin of the engine. It don’t convince. Like that proverbial town dummy, GM is beginning to look like one. All other maklers offer engines with lower displacement and higher hps (and torque). Some in the market buy your argument, but in this case the (real world) economy hit is just too big toi justify it. This engine was old in the 90s. Imagine in the 10s. And like pointed out in article, its not like GM doesn’t have anything else readily available. It’s just decades old, stupid, savage capitalism Brazilian style. When Fiat bought this engine from Gm a while ago it cost them something like 300 dollars a pop.

      Oh well, it makes them shareholders back in America happy! At the expense of a future down here.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    The Spin? Think how well it would sell in Washington D.C.

    • 0 avatar

      too poor for washington standards…

      • 0 avatar
        TonyJZX

        i think that didn’t pass the language barrier

        look up the meaning of the phrase “spin doctor” and you’ll get it

        GM needs to get rid of all the old Family II motors including the 1.8 DOHC four in the basic LS Cruze and Sparks etc.

        they need to standardise on the new ‘Family 0′ 1.4 turbo that does 100kW/200Nm as is standard on most of the better GM small cars

  • avatar
    Dirk Wiggler

    Holy Asstek offspring Batman!!!

  • avatar
    Magnusmaster

    Why can’t GM Brazil hire competent designers? At least the front looks good now, but the rear is lazy and the third window panel doesn’t fit the rest of the car.

    It’s too bad that GM Brazil still hasn’t replaced the ancient Powertrain. I guess the Ecotec is way too expensive but don’t they have cheaper engines that are still better than this crap?

    Also, the poor engine isn’t the only problem with this car. No side airbags (which the ancient Zafira did have), no ESP, no Flex system, and to give you an idea of how bad things are: DRUM-BRAKES! On a minivan! No thanks. At least it’s built on a modern platform, but it means nothing with such cost cutting. What a wasted opportunity.

  • avatar
    "scarey"

    Buy now ! They will be collector’s items in 15 years. I mean ANY GM product, not just this one.

  • avatar
    MrWhopee

    I’ve been waiting for your report on this little car, Marcello. Rumors are these will show up in our neck of the woods soon, GM’s answer to the king of Indonesia’s cars, the Avanza/Xenia twin. They even revived an old, long defunct factory of theirs to build them locally. Though I doubt they’ll have the engine you reported on. That engine would be a death sentence in Indonesia, where a new rule is soon to take effect that cars with more than 1.5l in capacity will no longer be allowed to buy subsidized fuel (which costs half the non-subsidized one, though quality is rather suspect). So for Indonesia they would need a 1.5l engine or smaller, with all the latest technology so it won’t be lacking power. As comparison, all of its competitor’s engine has DOHC and variable valve timings and all the doo dads, save for GDI. I don’t know about the 1.4l turbo, though, it might not cope well with the piss poor quality subsidized fuel here. Do GM Brazil have such engines? I suppose since it’s gonna be built here they can source any engine from GM worldwide for it.

    BTW, does this have any kind of rear a/c outlets at all? These might not matter much in Brazil, but would be crucial in Indonesia for three row vehicles.

    Plus the price is too high too. At $22k it will compete with the next higher segment of vehicles, which defeats its purpose (GM already have the Orlando in that market). In Indonesia cars of this type costs from $15k and tops out at $20k.

    • 0 avatar

      hi mr whopee! txs for reading. Thus car is one simple machine. In Brazil that means it won’t get 3rd row ac outlets. But it was probably designed in, but kept out of Braziliancars.

      GMdoes in fact make a turbo 1.4. However, none of their cars in Brazil get the turbo, just the normally aspirated 1.4Quite gutsy but not quite up to the task ofmoving this biggish car. It moves, but slowly!

      Seems like the Spin fits in the wgole Avanza segment. Designn and space-wise. COuld this be the carGM takes to the top in Indonesua? Keep us posted.

      • 0 avatar
        MrWhopee

        Thanks Marcello! Once these show up in these shores, I’ll be sure to take a test drive and maybe submit a report here (would be my first!) In fact I’m considering pitching to my brother it to replace his current Avanza (mostly for the 6-speed auto, the Avanza’s auto is still 4-speed.)

        As for your last comment, that’s what GM folks had in mind, I’m sure. You can’t be big in Indonesia without a car in this huge segment.

  • avatar

    fala Marcelo, beleza?

    when I saw the first spy shots of the Spin I thought “here’s another bland design by GM”, in the likes of our Cobalt, the Malibu and even the last Opels sold as Chevrolets in Brazil. then the camo came out and I thought this is so HIDEOUS it could only beat an Agile at a beauty contest.

    adding the Família 1 engine to the package only makes things worst, but let’s remember Brazilian Chevrolet always seem to add a piece of “vintage” engineering to its cars: Agile is built on a 20-year old platform, the Spin has this 30-year old engine, the Classic lived long enough to bury its successor and our “third Vectra” was actually built with the underpinnings of the second-gen Astra.

    they could fit the Spin with the same 1,6-liter engine of the Sonic, and it would be more than enough to move the car. they could offer the Cruze 1,8-liter engine for the upmarket versions. GM could even go multivalve for the 1,4-liter that it sold on Merivas or turbocharge it but they didn’t.

    when the Cruze was announced I thought GM could be taking his plot again in Brazil. now I know they’re not.

  • avatar
    Dimwit

    When it’s all said and done, what do you think is the problem? Doesn’t GM have a modern engine plant in Brazil? Or anywhere in SA? Weird cost cutting, though I’m lead to believe that engines are expensive enough that you don’t save much by going the “old technology” route.

    • 0 avatar

      Hi Dimwit. Sad thing is they do have a modern, all new factory dedicated to building just engines in São Carlos, SP. Unfortunately they chose to squeeze every last penny they could from this Familia 1 engine. The engine’s problems are manyfold. It’s not just that it’s old. It’s gruff, thirsty and sadly with a car with this name, doesn’t like to spin. Read Palandi above to see of summary of available options.

      This is pure greed and short sightedness and what could’ve been a great hit is going to be not so big ’cause many with the coin to spend will go with the competitors’ more modern offerings.

      That’s the problem and it’s why I decided to call them out for it.

  • avatar
    Magnusmaster

    Things aren’t as simple as they seem though. Since most GM models built on Argentina and Brazil use only the old 1.4 from the Monza and 1.8 Powertrain engines, with the only exceptions being both CKD built (Sonic and Cruze), it seems they still haven’t gotten around to “nationalize” the new engines.

  • avatar
    BuzzDog

    Yeah, it’s unattractive and yeah, it’s got a coarse engine that was obsolete in 1985.

    But you know what? It has something appealing, and something that’s sorely lacking in new vehicles. It’s simple and straightforward.

    Year after year, I keep hoping that some manufacturer will come out with something that’s simple, attractive, desirable and affordable. Even with all of the equipment that’s mandated by regulations, I’m still convinced it could be done. And perhaps even sold in numbers that would generate economies of scale and make a profit possible.


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