Can the Four-Cylinder 2019 Camaro 1LE Compete with Hot Hatches?
Believe it or not, the 2019 Camaro 1LE has a lot in common with true hot hatches. But is that enough to make it a legitimate rival to them?
We’re living in strange times. The automotive industry is changing in major ways. It’s filled with major shifts in trends and technology, big questions, and scandal. Certain automakers are discontinuing their sedans so they can focus on pumping out more trucks and SUVs. And now Roadshow has raised this question: Can the 2019 Chevrolet Camaro with the 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder engine and 1LE package compete with hot hatches such as the Ford Focus ST and Volkswagen Golf GTI?
As nuts as that may sound, there’s reason to wonder. All three cars have turbocharged four-bangers, available manual transmissions, and prices below $35,000. Roadshow‘s Associate Auto News Editor Andrew Krok starts by breaking down the Chevy’s performance. “The Camaro’s chassis is built to handle gobs of V8 power so when it comes to a two-liter inline four, putting out 275 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, well, the car feels capable of just about anything you can throw at it. That’s especially true with the 1LE package, which borrows the SS‘s suspension in addition to packing beefier Brembo brakes and wide summer tires” that are as noisy as they are sticky.
At its core, the Camaro is well balanced. Krok finds the steering to be nicely weighted and rev-matched downshifts easy to perform thanks to the six-speed’s predictable clutch. The 2.0T delivers its power smoothly and, once revved high enough, sounds properly aggressive.
Hot hatches typically stand out in a crowd with their large front air intakes, sporty stances, and pronounced aero kits. Krok’s Camaro test car gets both praise and criticism for its evolutionary looks. “The turbo is probably the best iteration of the 2019 Camaro since it lacks that dark-colored span in the middle of the front bumper that everyone, apparently, seems to hate.” However, Krok knocks the 1LE package’s black hood, mirrors, and spoiler for making the Camaro look like it came in 2nd place in a Hot Import Nights car show.
Clearly, the Camaro differs from performance hatchbacks in major and obvious ways. Whereas hatches typically offer a usable amount of space inside, the Camaro’s cockpit is limited in terms of capacity and visibility. The greenhouse is slim and surrounds a cramped passenger compartment. The trunk can only hold 9.1 cubic feet of luggage and its dimensions don’t make loading it any easier.
In the end, Krok decides the Camaro rewards you for driving it quickly, but that it’s not as versatile as cars such as the Focus ST and Golf GTI. He says, “Hot hatches offer an excellent blend of real-world capability and fun driving dynamics. If you only need the car for one job, well, the Camaro will kill it, but if you’re doing double duty, you might be wise to look elsewhere.”