If you come across one of these on your next rental, look past the badge and give it try. You won’t be disappointed.
Car Class: Full size/FCAR (Avis/Budget, Hertz/Dollar/Thrifty), Premium Elite/PXAR (Enterprise/National/Alamo)
Availability: All major rental agencies
Alternatives: Full-size – Chevrolet Malibu, Dodge Charger, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry, Volkswagen Passat, Premium – Chrysler 300, Buick Lacrosse, Buick Regal, Ford Taurus, Nissan Maxima
|Drive off||Walk away|
|Quiet cabin||Lack of heated features|
|Good ride quality||‘Rental car’ image|
|Acres of interior and trunk space||Poor rear visibility|
First introduced in 1958, the Chevrolet Impala has been one of the longest standing nameplates of the brand. More recently, however, the Impala has been relegated to mostly rental and fleet duties with retail buyers flocking to alternatives from other manufacturers. What gives? This week, we take a deep dive at the 2019 Impala Premier to see if the latest iteration of the flagship sedan still have what it takes to compete in the all important full-size and premium rental segments.
The Impala is offered with a couple of engines choices. Standard on the LS and LT trims is a 2.5L Ecotec four cylinder producing 197 horsepower and 191 lb-ft of torque. Premier trims (like our rental) are equipped with 3.6L V6 engine producing 305 horsepower and 264 lb-ft of torque. All engines are mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. With the uplevel engine, there is more than enough power for this full-size sedan. Acceleration from stop lights and on ramps are never dramatic, with the linear power delivery providing a seamless build up of speed. Adding to the drivetrain’s polish, the transmission makes imperceptible shifts and never gets itself noticed. Over our week with the vehicle, we achieved an average fuel economy of 11.2L/100km, which is bit thirsty for its class, but expected given the V6’s performance. Frugal renters should look for the 4-cylinder models, which are identified by the smaller wheels and lack of dual outlet exhausts. Keep in mind though, Premier models are all equipped with the V6.
Standard on the top of the line trim are 19-inch wheels. Despite the larger rims and low-profile tires, the vehicle rides surprisingly well. Most bumps and imperfections are barely perceptible with only larger potholes transmitting a subtle thud into the cabin. Given the lower LT trims are equipped with 18-inch wheels, we expect the ride to be even better in those variants. Like its upscale cousins, the Buick Lacrosse and Cadillac XTS, cabin noise in the Impala is kept to a minimum. It’s so serene in here that we sometimes forget that the engine was already running. Credit has to go to the acoustic windshield and side glass, which is usually a feature reserved for more premium models.
Overall visibility is not bad. The view down the hood and to the sides are decent with sizable windows and low dashboard. Aiding lane changes are standard blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert on the Premier trim. The view out of the back though is impeded by the high decklid, which has the tendency to hide tailgating vehicles from the rear-view mirror. Fortunately, a backup camera is standard and our rental also comes with rear parking sensors.
Comfort and Convenience
As the highest trim available on the Impala, the Premier has a lengthy list of standard features including a 8-inch MyLink infotaiment system with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, navigation and 3 USB ports, Bose premium surround sound, dual zone automatic climate control, proximity key with push button start, leather upholstery with heated 10-way power front seats, panoramic sunroof, wireless phone charging, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert and ambient lighting. Unfortunately, active safety features such as automatic emergency braking and lane departure warning are only available in a option package and we have yet to seen an Impala on the rental lots equipped with these important safety aids.
As Chevrolet’s flagship sedan, the interior of the Impala is a nice place to spend time in. Soft touch materials are liberally applied across the dash and all four doors. Yellow stitching are also present to complete the handcrafted look. Leather seats, standard on the Premier trim are also garnished by the same coloured stitching and piping as that on the doors and dash. We must admit the end effect is pretty convincing at first glance. It is only after closer examination and prodding did we find hard touch plastic on the lower dash and doors.
While not as soft as the leather in Cadillacs, the seats provide a good amount of support and the 10-way adjustment enabled us to easily find a comfortable driving position. Heated seats are standard on the Premier trim and available on a package in LT trims. A heated steering wheel, on the other hand, is only available as a package on all trims. If you are renting in the winter, do check if your Impala is equipped with these heated features, Otherwise, consider moving on to something else, your butts and hands will thank you.
East of Use
At the centre of the dashboard lies Chevrolet’s MyLink, which is a reskinned variant of Buick and GMC’s Intellilink infotainment system. Utilizing an 8-inch colour touchscreen, MyLink controls various vehicle functions including audio, phone, navigation, smartphone connectivity as well as vehicle settings. The touch responses are generally quick with the occasional lag when transiting in and out of the map display. Unlike other vehicles which have removed buttons in favor of touchscreens, Chevrolet still puts hard shortcut buttons as well as volume/tuning knobs for quick access to commonly used functions. An interesting touch is the hidden cubby behind the infotainment screen. Accessed by a button on the dash, the compartment is fairly large and contains a USB port, which makes it the ideal place to store and charge a phone while driving. In addition to the hidden USB port, our Premier rental also comes with 2 additional USBs, a wireless charging pad (that works with an iPhone X) and a household outlet to ensure everyone’s devices remain juiced throughout the trip.
Dressed in traditional Chevrolet fonts and colour, the conservative looking gauges feature a 4.3-inch color display that can be customized to show vehicle, audio, phone and navigation information. While we like the ability to display a wide range of information, we found ourselves constantly scrolling between the various menus during our drive, which is distracting. We wish that there is an ability for the screen to display multiple snippets of information.
In a departure from our previous rentals, the Impala’s steering wheel features a limited number of clearly labelled buttons with the left group controlling the cruise control and the right controlling the gauge display. Where is the audio and volume controls? They are toggles hidden behind the steering wheel with the right set for volume and left set for track forward/backward.
As Chevy’s largest sedan, the Impala packs a ton of interior space. Legroom front and rear are never an issue even with 6 footers occupying both rows. Headroom, while abundant in front, may be slightly limited for taller folks in back due to the panoramic roof. We expect Impalas without the feature to have less of an issue. Given the vehicle’s width, fitting three across the rear bench is also a fairly easy task that shouldn’t involve too much jostling and elbowing. Do note however, there is a significant hump in the middle of the rear floor, which baffles us given that this is a front wheel drive only vehicle.
As the tall deck lid and long rear overhang suggest, the trunk space of the Impala is ginormous. With 19 cubic foot of space, the trunk can easily swallow a family’s week worth of luggage and still have some room to spare. For even more space, the rear seats can be folded 60/40 but no ski pass through is available.
Among its GM cousins, drivers of the Impala can be glad that they will not be mistaken for a limo driver (Cadillac XTS) or a retiree (Buick Lacrosse). However, they will be more than likely be labelled as tourists. As much as GM tried to reinvent the Impala with the most recent redesign, years of neglect has tarnished its reputation and relegated it to rental lots. This is shame, really, because from our experience, the Impala is one heck of a rental car, offering a compelling blend of luxury, comfort and performance all for the price of a full-size or premium rental. If you come across one of these on your next rental, look past the badge and give it try. You won’t be disappointed.
Avis/Budget: Classified as a full-size rental, most Impalas with Avis/Budget are of the LT trim with the 4-cylinder engine and convenience package, which include niceties such as a panoramic sunroof, heated steering wheel and heated front seats.
Enterprise/National/Alamo: Somewhat justifying its classification as a premium elite rental, Impalas at Enterprise/Nationa/Alamo are mostly Premier trims with some LT trims lurking the lots. If you are on premium reservation, make sure you receive one of the Premier trims or else you are better off with one of the other alternatives.
Hertz/Dollar/Thrifty: Like Avis/Budget, the Impala is classified as a full-size vehicle. While we have yet to see many Impalas on the lot, those that have been spotted are all of the LT trim.