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After a short break, Chevrolet is heading back into the Irish market with its broad range of cars through a 10-dealer-strong network.

Chevrolet UK takes over the reins as Ireland distributor. As part of the world's number one carmaker, GM, it has the backing to make an impact on sales in Ireland.

Motors went to Cambridge in the UK recently to test drive a couple of the more interesting cars in the range, namely the Volt (Opel Ampera sister car) and the new 1.7-litre diesel Cruze.

Chevrolet Cruze is a Ford Focus-sized hatchback that can seat five. The exterior is smart without being striking. It features bold Chevrolet badging set in a distinctive grille. Large 17-inch wheels and relatively high profile tyres fill out the wheel arches well. Cruze is a big car, and this is reflected in the cabin, where the space for passengers is good. The driving position is decent and materials used are average for the class. The instrument dials (black interior picture) are a little dull and not as easy to read as the best of the competition.

The 1.7-litre diesel engine provides impressive power with 130bhp and 300nm of torque. The six-speed gearbox is nice to use, but there is a lack of polish to the clutch action - around the beautiful streets of the iconic university town I stalled once or twice. Thankfully, the auto stop/start system saved my blushes, kicking in briskly. On the open road the car pulls strongly and the ride is well damped. The handling on twisty bits is neutral though not overly involving. Pricing should be competitive and will be announced in late May when the range officially goes on sale in Ireland.

Chevrolet Volt (white interior picture) is joint holder of the European Car of the Year title with Opel Ampera (see our review archive). It is an electric-powered vehicle with a petrol engine. The petrol engine is not used to turn the wheels but rather to provide power to an electrical generator and to charge up the battery pack. Volt can run on electricity alone and therefore produces zero emissions. When the batteries run low the engine kicks in to power the generator and make sure you aren't stranded. You can keep driving using the petrol engine, making this technology really useful.

Volt is virtually identical in every way with Ampera but should sit below it in terms of price - a few toys will be missing to deliver this.
Volt is a weighty car and you notice this most under braking where, despite being an EV, there is little or no braking when you lift off the throttle. A firm press on the brake pedal is needed to scrub off speed. About town in EV mode Volt is hushed and very pleasant. On faster carriageways Volt has meaty torque and cruises effortlessly at motorway speeds.

Volt is a strict four-seater and the hatchback boot is far from secure as it is covered by a flimsy bit of stretchy fabric. You can access the boot from a gap between the two rear seats. The reason Volt is configured as a four-seater is down to the T-bar-shaped battery pack that sits under the chassis and appears like a transmission tunnel through the centre of the car. Volt is an 'extended range' electric vehicle (EREV) that is the solution to those early adopters who commute and want to be greener. The fuel savings, coupled with the lack of conventional EV 'range anxiety', should see Volt do well - if people can afford it. We must wait until May 21 for Ireland pricing.

The Chevrolet range has an identity and youthfulness that will appeal to many especially if the price is right, so roll on late May.

Michael Sheridan