Let me just start off by stating that I needed a multi-purpose vehicle without having to go to the extremes of a van (had one, never again) or an SUV (don't need one).
Basically I needed a car with plenty of luggage space, decent towing capacity, comfortable ride with a spacious interior and good reliability. Oh, and I wanted to stay with GM. Hmmm, I don't know - was I asking for too much?
Impala was really my only choice in GM line-up, it met all the criteria and I was willing to overlook certain shortcomings I thought I could live with.
My Impala is very roomy with plenty of cargo space (for a car that trunk is HUGE), and um, that is about all the positive I can say.
Oh yes, it is a great looking vehicle on the outside. Especially in black, which adds a touch of class to it.
Once you step inside you will be instantly transported some two decades into the past. The interior is simply awful. I opted for the 3.8L engine for more reasons than the power alone, with 3.4L I'd be stuck with a column mounted shifter and a bench seat. Come on Chevrolet, I know your clientele is aging, but this and the foot-operated emergency brake (which I couldn't avoid) is so backwards, even your oldest drivers need something more inventive (?) and fresh from time to time. By the way, how does one use a foot-operated emergency brake in an emergency? I've yet to figure it out, therefore it is a "parking brake" only. Same goes for windshield wipers that are operated by the same lever that also controls cruise control.
Some of the materials used inside are so cheap, I'm contemplating using a few beach towels to cover them. I would expect it to be an upgrade for a Lada owner, but not for a consumer buying a mid-size vehicle in the 21st Century. If the shape of the dashboard is not dated, then the rubbermaid grey plastics look so out of place in a car in this class, it hurts your eyes to look at. I'd rather not get into the audio or climate controls, as they are the lowest points in an overall very cheap and inadequate interior.
Things don't function much better either. Stereo sounds like the speakers are submerged in muddy water, so much bass, but with zero punch or clarity. The climate control works poorly, windows are always fogged up in the winter and once the car has warmed up or cooled off (AC), you have to switch settings in order to have the air recirculated, as only a few settings allow you to do that. ABS brakes in my previous GM products have either seized up or worked unpredictably. This car inspires no confidence and is heading in the same direction. ABS kicks in when you least expect it, making braking judgment difficult, as stopping distances with ABS are long and the system engages even when it is clearly not slippery outside. The traction control often turns on with the slightest touch of the accelerator, so during a winter trip you basically hear the grinding of ABS followed by a groaning of traction control, followed by few body creaks mixed with dashboard rattles. Not a pleasant concert since you can even muffle it with a decent stereo sound.
Where as the car is comfortable on the highway, I was expecting a bit more plushy ride in the city as well. This car has a fairly harsh ride over uneven surface, something I wouldn't mind, if it handled corners or even lane changes with a bit more finesse. Hey, at least the horn doesn't sound too wimpy.
Sound insulation is also not this car's strong suit. Wind noise is kept to minimum, but tire and engine noise can be pretty annoying. The car feels like it is built for highway travel, because most of its shortcomings go away at speeds over 100 km/h (60 MPH).
Few other annoying details. The doors tent to close on you as you open them and when you grab on to the frame of the door, your fingers are met with a very sharp metal lip. The trunk lid is very heavy to lift, but at least it feels solid. It is hard to tell when and how the car will start. Sometimes it is instant, other times it takes a few seconds, often requiring for me to restarting after unsuccessful try. Why doesn't the fuel door lock? The motors powering mirrors and the driver seat sound like they're on their last leg. There are always some primitive noises which seem to come from the dashboard with the car idling or accelerating. I'm no mechanic, so bear with me, but is sounds like bark beetles are eating away at the wires inside the dash. I know, this must be the most pathetic description of a noise, but it is the best I can do.
I'm really trying to find more positives here, but I'm having a hard time, as I said I bought this car with few specifics in mind, it was to replace my aging Oldsmobile which is not capable of (reliably) towing my 1,500 lbs trailer anymore and since I wasn't going to go the SUV / van route I didn't have much choice, although interestingly enough, a Pontiac Vibe (which has 4 cylinders) has higher tow rating than my Impala. I tested the Vibe, but found it to be noisy and struggling to pull its own weight (thus making the tow ratings hard to believe), but since I only tow on a few trips in the summer, I'd be enjoying a much better fuel economy throughout the rest of the year.
To not sound so pessimistic, here are some positives I can think of.
1. I didn't spend over $30k on it new (that's how much it cost up here in Canada)
2. Car has a huge trunk.
3. My Impala can take of the line in a rather spirited fashion.
4. Lots of room in the trunk.
5. You can put a gallon jug of milk in the center console (but at best a small can of touch up paint in the glove box)
6. 18.6 cubic foot trunk is very large
7. Outward visibility is good.
8. Car fits in my garage.
9. Much nicer than Camry or Accord on the outside
10. Has a CD player, keyless entry and a very large trunk area.
I'm seriously thinking about pimping this car out. There are very few sources of aftermarket possibilities, but maybe I'll look into it.
Overall, I would not make the same mistake again, and likely wouldn't buy another outdated Chevrolet, although the new Malibu looks pretty good.