Rental Car Review: The Last Impala

There seems to be a theme unfolding here. A disturbing and sad theme, but it is the reality that 2020 had yielded for us. 

On top of a pandemic and the movement towards social justice, many car lines are being eliminated by the end of this calendar year. 

Not just the Ford Fusion I just rented and reviewed. Toyota has announced it will drop the Mazda-made Yaris lineup in North America. Honda just announced they will no longer sell the Fit subcompact. 

General Motors had earlier planned on eliminating several models from their lineup due to lack of sales and interest. One of them is featured right here – the Chevrolet Impala. 

Perhaps it was serendipity that I would eventually cross paths with this final generation of the big Impala. My only time was for the extra day I spent in Los Angeles for the 2014 auto show. I wound up with a rented LS sedan with the four-cylinder engine. It was suitable enough for the task of getting me from the place I was staying in South Orange County to the San Fernando Valley, and back to LAX for my first leg home. 

"Suitable" was fine. Perhaps it was a suitable entrant for the dying breed of large sedans sold in this country. Chevrolet found only two kinds of buyers for this final iteration of the once-desired Impala since its debut in 2013: Fleets and a large car lovers. The latter seemed too few and far between in some places. 

The Impala’s relevance in the marketplace had diminished to the point that GM had to make a decision on its future. Last year, it was confirmed that one of the two plants that the Impala was produced would close – the one in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. The plan was to consolidate production at the Hamtramck plant in Detroit and run it out for one final model year. 

This is where I was at. I rented a car to get some stress released. I was selected a 2019 Impala LT sedan for that purpose. Maybe this last round with this car will answer some questions as to why GM would eliminate this car by the end of this model year. 

The big Impala is quite contemporary looking. It follows the low-slung sedan design philosophy that dictated automotive styling the last decade. While handsome, there are bits of heftiness in the lines. Also, have you noticed how the front part of the Impala looked awkward from the side? 

Still, no one would mistake this sedan as a Chevrolet Impala. Especially, the clamshell trunk lid and the sweeping roofline towards it. My LT rental had the appearance of a gray flannel suit by not only its paint color. It’s 18-inch painted alloy wheels gave the Impala LT a finish that was very business-like.

The same should be said about the interior. The black cloth-leatherette upholstery set the mood for no-nonsense driving. There was some faux-wood trim on a few places, which keeps the subtlety level on point. The dashboard had an interesting sweep design that was also part of the 2010s, with a stand-out instrument binnacle that was clean and overdesigned. The steering wheel may have been the inspiration of what we’re seeing out of Genesis with a very wide center spoke and two supporting spokes from the lower half of the wheel. 

Controls were OK – typical GM from the 2010s. Chevrolet’s infotainment system was also a last-gen effort that connected quick and provided equally quick smartphone integration. At least the gear lever for the transmission was not as long as some GM models of that vintage. 

Human space is generous. The front seats were large and provided some comfort and support. Rear seat room was good with plenty of leg space, but just enough head room for six-footers. You do get a massive trunk in the Impala, measuring 18.8 cubic feet. The rear seatbacks to do fold down for longer cargo. 

The 2019 model year marked the end of the engine that lies underneath this hood. Powering my LT rental is a 197-horsepower 2.5-liter ECOTEC four-cylinder engine. It was more than adequate in terms of highway performance. However, I did feel it struggle on a few maneuvers. 

That engine is attached to a six-speed automatic transmission that shifted well. The combination returned a fuel economy average of 29.8 MPG in my care – pretty good for a non-hybrid big car.

The ride quality on the Impala is pretty good. It is smooth of some really good stretches of road, while it tries to keep an even keel on rougher ones. Handling is decent, with some lean and roll on some sharper curves. It maneuvers quite well for a big car. 

Because it is a big car, the steering system tries its best to make things, ahem, smaller. On-center feel is good. The turning radius is a bit on the wider side of things. The brakes offer good pedal feel and sure stops. Overall stopping power is quite good in the Impala. 

One thing I wished this big Chevrolet Impala had was an assortment of driver assistance features. You had to drive the top-of-the-line Premier model to get them for the 2019 model year. For 2020, some of them are available in a package for the LT model. 

Pricing for the last remining 2020 Chevrolet Impala start from $32,495 for an LT model. Please note that all 2020 models will be powered by the 305-horsepower 3.6-liter V6. When this 2019 LT was new, pricing started at $31,395 – with the four-cylinder engine. These former rentals and some lease returns will probably see a deeper discount from that price. Although, I would think that getting a V6 instead of the four-cylinder would offer a better driving experience overall. 

When the last Chevrolet Impala rolled down the Hamtramck assembly line, only a few large sedans were left on sale in this country. The fact that Chevrolet will leave the big space is not the headline here. It is the end of a nomenclature that had been in the American lexicon since the 1958 model year. 

To be honest, the Chevrolet Impala deserved a better ending. Let this be it. 

DISCLAIMER: Vehicle rented by Victory & Reseda

All photos by Randy Stern

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