Got the opportunity to test drive a CNG Optra (A) Magnum Sedan, courtesy of GM S'pore.
Outlook wise, this Optra looks much better than the pre-face lift ones for sure... especially the front, it looks much handsome now.
Interior, I see an updated centre console with factory fitted HU and a small CNG/Petrol indicator on the right hand side of the dashboard. The rest remains the good old ways.
Driving it,... I was told that the conditions for the car to switch from Petrol to CNG happens under these conditions: 1) Engine rev be brought up to 1600rpm and above, 2) water temp above 50 degrees. So crank starting the car means that it'll always be fueled by petrol first. Once conditions for CNG reaches, car will run on CNG automatically. Driver may however choose to run on either fuel source when car is up and running.
During the short test drive, I actually switched from CNG to petrol and vice versa for 4 times! The switch between the 2 fuel source was almost unnoticeable! These switches took place while the car was cruising at 70-80km/h on 4th gear. All it takes is a press of a button! That simple! Probably it's just me, but I felt that the engine was actually smoother when it's running on CNG!
Moving on, this Optra had 3 passangers and a driver for the test drive, an empty boot less the CNG tank. It shows the same grit as its petrol version moving off from stand still. Cruising was a breeze... guess this is the sweetspot for all Optras. Even when I wanted a more brisky run, shifting down to D2, this CNG Optra still behaves much the same like its petrol only sibling! Step and it goes. The ride is comfortable, (thanks to the re-tuned suspension setup to accomodate the CNG.) especially at the rear. My only complain was the spongy brakes feel...
The hardware? Being factory fitted, GM offers 3yrs or 100000km warranty for this CNG ride. Being factory fitted, you'll also get a nicely CNG'ed boot with its interior panel sheets neatly moulded to cover the CNG cylinder. But because of the CNG tank, the Optra's boot now is almost the same size as that of an Aveo5 but wider... swallowing a golf bag or a baby pram shouldn't be much of a problem yet. Well, guess this is the give and take part...
Over at the engine bay, the additional pipings were also neatly run along. There's an additional guage to show the gas pressure of the CNG tank.
Lastly, to help clear the air as to the case of "engine died on me" as per the ST review some time back, GM narrowed it down to sensor problems and had already rectified the problem.
My verdict? I think GM is really offering a value for money 1.6 CNG ride to the masses. With one of the largest legroom space to offer in its class, and its reknown ride comfort + stability at cruising speed; at its current price tag, it's a real deal. If you're one who covers KMs real fast, this CNG ride will sure save you the $!!!
Factory fitted CNG power! Wonderful ride comfort and handling. Plentiful legroom and space.
Not enough CNG refilling stations around the island.