GM Thinks Small (Engines, That Is)

Frank Williams
by Frank Williams

The 1.6-liter four-pot in the Chevrolet Aveo (né Daewoo Kalos) is the smallest engine GM offers in the U.S. Automotive News [sub] reports that's about to change, as The General goes smaller in a big way. The world's second largest automaker will introduce a 1.4-liter gas engine (that's just 250cc's more than half the displacement of the supercharger in the Corvette ZR1). What's that you say? GM will probably blow this one? Well, you're at least partially right. GM's boffins are going to take the 1.4-liter engine from the European Opel Astra, slap on a turbocharger and drop it into the Cobalt, U.S. Saturn Astra and God knows how many other small cars in GM's vast product portfolio. They're also looking at using it in some mid-sized vehicles. The question is, will a market that was built on "there's no replacement for displacement" take a hankerin' to the smallest engine GM's offered since the 1.0-liter three-banger in the Geo/Chevy Metro?

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  • Steve_K Steve_K on Jan 28, 2008

    I would say it's wise to use an engine that already works in the vehicle and improve it. I've been thinking (with dread) of a Golf Diesel for my next work car. If they can get close to 40mpg from the 1.4, I'd say sold. 24/32mpg is insufficient to justify driving a beer can...

  • Detroit1701 Detroit1701 on Jan 28, 2008

    A 1.4L turbo MIGHT be fun to drive if mated with a manual transmission. However, given the weight of cars and inherent nature of turbochargers, it is highly doubtable that the 1.4L will get much better mileage than the 1.8L, and probably could only barely equal the horsepower. If the 1.4L turbo (let's say 100-120hp) becomes the new base engine, with a 1.6L turbo (180hp) as the larger option, I say go for it! I am very surprised that GM did not opt for the 1.6L turbo as the Astra engine of choice -- it only gets mildly worse mileage than the 1.8L. Having said that, the new Astra is on the horizon for 2009/10, so what is up with all of these stopgap solutions?

  • Neil Neil on Jan 28, 2008

    1.4? That is pretty large still. I am holding out something smaller. A rented 75-ish hp 1.3L Corsa was fine with me...too bad I can not get one now that I am back in the states.

  • Martin Albright Martin Albright on Jan 28, 2008

    I think the lack of viable small engines is one of the big 3's biggest weaknesses. They'll sell you 10 different kinds of V8 but if you want a 4 you get an ancient, wheezy afterthought. Honda and Toyota built their reputations by making cars that had 4 cyl engines but were still fun to drive, something that the big 3 were certain was impossible. Up until now, Detroit's only answer to the quest for more power was more displacement and more cylinders. Anyone can produce more power from a bigger engine. It's high time Detroit learned that what made Honda, Toyota, Nissan, etc into the automotive giants they are was the ability to do more with less, not more with more.