Motor Trend magazine in an August 1970 review of the basic sedan MT said, "The low dollar Vega is a complete automobile. It requires nothing more to be an enjoyable, functional piece of transportation;" "The Vega will get you there without generating any unscheduled stops;" "The 90 horses under the hood are pretty much out of it above 55 mph when it comes to any rapid passing," "It does have limits but the only one that might cause a little concern is the panic braking; the machine goes into a hairy left skid, but the whole thing is controllable.
Of the GT coupe MT said, "The Vega GT with a 19 sec. quarter mile e.t. doesn't rattle any splines. But forget it if that's all you want. Even at 19 seconds the GT fills you with as much adrenalin as some of its faster big brothers." "Some cars get a little scary the faster you push them; this one is just the opposite, the handling improves. There's no roll steer of any kind, tied in with car's refreshing neutral steering give the GT some exciting handling characteristics;" "Only the shifter is a little disappointing; it doesn't have a short throw and that solid snick, click feeling as it drops into gear;" "In summary the Vega GT comes close to what a racing GT car should be, in handling, performance and comfort. Because it's basically a low-priced compact, the results are all the more surprising and rewarding;"
Of the wagon MT said, "Under normal driving conditions, the wagon is well behaved and takes you where you want to go with a minimum of fuss and maximum comfort." "In spite of the understeer, for a wagon the handling is quite good;" "the wagon has some brake problems - panic stopping from 60 mph produces wheel hop. Not as violent as the coupe, but disconcerting."
Road and Track's editor, John R. Bond said in September 1970, "I think the Vega is beyond a doubt the best handling passenger car ever built in the U.S. It has many other good qualities, but the roadholding impressed and surprised me most of all."
Car Life magazine in September 1970 said, "How good is the Vega? In two words, very good."
Road Test magazine in September 1970 said, "Chevy pulled out the stops on this one-aluminum ohc engines, four body styles, high style options put it in a class by itself." "It's innovative without being complex."
Sports Car Graphic magazine said in September, 1970: "The new die-cast aluminum Vega 2300 (engine) is a masterpiece of simplicity. There are many innovations made to reduce the number of pieces and improve repairability.."
Super Stock magazine in October 1970 said, "What Chevrolet did was engineer a completely new car for the tastes and needs of the 1970s, and they've done a beautiful job."
Road & Track in a November 1970 road test of Vegas Plain and Fancy said, "The plain Vega sedan is as good-looking a car as you'll find in its class...with the Vega, they've turned out one of the finest-looking compact sedans in the world." "The engine proved a let down. It's extremely rough and noisy..on the positive side, freeway cruising is relaxed and quiet, the slow-running engine's noise covered by wind and road noise, and it was economical not withstanding our overall mileage figures which include some very hard driving." "Ride and handling were departments in which we also expected good things and here we weren't disappointed. The Vega in standard form rides and handles very well indeed." "Inside one finds that the large glass area–so reminiscent of those of the Fiat 124 Coupe — give outstanding vision in all directions;" "The steering is in a word, light;" "The basic Vega, pretty and intelligently designed though it is, is poorly equipped and rather unpleasant to drive and we don't think many customers will settle for it. The optioned car however is a decidedly good package;" "Optioned, the Vega becomes a pleasant car to drive, marred only by the unseemly engine racket. It also becomes something other than a low-priced economy sedan, but one is hard put to name a coupe as attractive and capable as this at a comparable price."
Road Test said in a November 1970 road test. "To put it bluntly, the the Vega with the 110-hp engine, is sort of a junior hot rod; it reminded us vaguely of some flying time behind the stick of a military Piper." "With the inexpensive handling package, our test car has no peers in the cornering department. Fast turns are level, safe and normal." "Standard disc brakes give Vega stopping power that touch a record for us — of 140 feet from 60 mph." "We like the Vega;" "One negative is that the Vega is noisy, we wonder if this will be acceptable to the owner of a current American compact."
Hot Rod magazine in November 1970 said, "The Vega is a hard car not to like. Even the men who run companies that build competitive cars admit that. It is the result of the largest single expenditure by Chevrolet and General Motors for any single car model. The investment reaches into the hundreds of millions of dollars."
Motor Trend included the Vega as one of the "Ten Best Cars of 1971" and awarded the Vega "Motor Trend Car of the Year" for 1971. "The base Vega is a magnificent automobile without any options at all." "We choose the Vega as the Car of the Year because of Vega's engineering excellence, timeliness, styling, and overall value...for the money, no other American car can deliver more."
Road and Track on the Yenko Turbo Stinger II in April 1971 said, "A turbo-charger and other good things transform the Vega into a sports car. Even the SCCA says so. Yenko says the prototype using the optional 3.36 gears did the quarter mile in 15.5 sec."
Track and Traffic magazine in April 1971 said, "There's one thing the Vega will (hopefully) do for the North American driver, and that's to educate him on the joys of good handling."
Car and Driver in 1971 said, "The Vega's interior, A stylist's idea of the American dream, drew heavy criticism. It's deeply contoured plastic door panels and the dash are inordinately complex but short on function. The treatment is too heavy for a car the Vega's size. The controls, too, were unlike the imports. Every lever, pedal and crank - shifter, clutch, window winders, etc. - required exceptionally long travel to do its job. The engineers were obviously obsessed with minimizing driver effort where possible;" "Considering the Vega's overall size (almost seven inches longer than the Pinto) the interior room is disappointing. The front seat passengers should have no complaints and the trunk is generous, but knee room in the rear is in tight supply."
Car and Driver said in a December 1971 road test, "We've always thought of the Vega as a well engineered car, but many of its virtues are blocked by some equally impressive vises. For one thing its noisy - and most of it can be blamed on the log stroke four which vibrates the hell out of the car."
Car and Driver in their 1972 "Tire Test" said, "We had chosen a Vega as the test car because it was one of the few Showroom Stockers with handling balanced enough that we could be sure it was the tires we were testing and not some quirk of the car."
Hot Rod magazine road tested a Vega GT Kammback in March 1972. HR said, "The car never looks like something you had to buy...It's the kind of car we'd buy to look good in, work on, add to, and wash once a week."
Hot Rod voted the Vega GT "Best Buy" of the entire 1972 Chevrolet line.
Super Stock magazine in a July 1972 road test of a Vega GT said, "It is a damn nice little car with plenty of room, great handling, and a pretty high level of overall finish."
Service Station Management and Motor Service magazines in a July 1972 survey, the Vega was voted –"Easiest to service, least mechanical problems and best overall in its class" by independent servicemen."
Road & Track in a 1971-72 model owner survey said, "The level of assembly doesn't match the virtues of the design. 70% would buy another Vega and 30% wouldn't, show a high degree of dissatisfaction with the car."
Road & Track in a driving impression of a 1972 Vega sedan said, "The changes all count for something; there's a little glovebox on the dash, the assembly quality is noticeably better, and the engine is quieter."
Small Cars magazine, said in 1972, "Z/29 Vega GT: It's either the sportiest economy car in the world or the most economical sports car in the world."
Road & Track in a Vega GT road test in June 1973 said, "The 1973 Vega is still the stylish, somewhat sporting economy car it was when new, but improved. The engine is doubly improved, as it has the reduced emissions required by law and better performance (regardless of official power ratings)." "The gearshift has been reworked to match the new transmission.. It's less balky and more precise than the original units." R&T concluded, "After what we've said about earlier Vegas, it's a pleasure to report the current Vega is attractive, respectably quick, and frugal-and it's the best highway car in class. Well done Chevrolet."
Road Test magazine in a 1973 Vega GT coupe road test said, "The Vega could be thrown into just about any kind of turn with full expectation of making it through;" "the cornering force developed was far beyond expectation." "The bucking engine has somehow been tamed by invisible means." "The four-speed gearbox was crisp, precise and impossible to fault." "The disc/drum brakes performed flawlessly at all times. Panic stopping tests were accomplished with no tendency to swerve;" "The air-conditioning is easily the best of any of the so-called "little cars;" "The interior, seats and carpeting were well done and of good materials.
Hot Rod on the Millionth Vega in 1973 said, "..Chevrolet was so smitten with the car, they've built 6143 Millionth Vegas. The series is basically a styled-up Vega GT with some nice interior touches..They'll probably sell a million of 'em."
Road Test in a July 1974 Test report on a Vega LX Notchback said, "Vega engineers have tamed the low-speed characteristics of the engine. It's wonderfully torquey and flexible at drive-away speeds, and you can shift early into fourth and chug around town all day if you like..in normal driving low and mid-range torque is what counts and this engine has plenty of it." "The Vega ride is not like that of a Caprice, but neither is it a choppy "little-car" ride thanks to the big car rear suspension (coil springs and control arms), ample suspension travel and reasonably good damping..." "The standard manual steering is on the heavy side and is too slow to permit fancy maneuvering..." "Braking performance is right in there too, which is credited to the brakes themselves and the big (radial) tires." "In summary, the 1974 Vega is a vastly improved car over the original and even over last year's model. All of the important gripes have been taken care of and it can now face up to its competition, domestic and imported, on a feature for feature basis.
Car and Driver in May 1974 said of the Vega GT, "What we have here is a car that will cut and run with the best of them. It is a natural on a road course, sure footed and fleet, with a sense of balance that you rarely find in a sedan." "We particularly like the solid feel of the shifter." "The test car was also optioned out with variable ratio power steering which offers a very quick 3.0 turns lock to lock and quite an accurate feel. "The carpets, the door panels and the seat coverings are high quality, particularly in light of the Vega's low overall price."
Car and Driver in a 1974 Vega GT coupe road test said, "It takes far more than than low price and the Vega's multitude of other virtues to redeem the engine." "The high braking effort stands in rather stark contrast to that of the other controls and plushy softness of the Vega's optional custom interior."
The Vega was included in Motor Trend's "10 Best Selling (American Made) Cars" test in 1975. "The Vega has been vacillating on the sales charts from just out of the top 10 to just into the top 10. We have to conclude that Monza sales have hurt the Vega and will continue to do so."
Road and Track in 1975 Vega GT track test said, "The Vega has two primary problems: too much weight and not enough power. Its 87 hp just isn't up to the task of of propelling the 2725 lb (curb weight) car with much verve. The pedals are positioned so poorly, heel and toeing is almost impossible. The Vega's steering is light but vague.
Motor Trend in a Cosworth Vega test in October 1975 said: "The Cosworth Vega goes like the proverbial bat out of Carlsburg Caverns." "At moderate speeds, the car is as close to neutral handling as any American car I have ever driven."
Car and Driver in a 1975 Cosworth Vega test said, "The outstanding feature of the Cosworth Vega is its excellent balance..Roll-stiffness distribution is ideal, with little understeer entering a turn, and just the right amount of drift from the tail as you put your foot down to exit ..Through the woods or down a mountain, the Cosworth is a feisty aggressor willing, if not altogether able to take on the world's best GT cars."
Road & Track in a 1976 Cosworth Vega road test in March 1976 said, "For all its exotic features the Cosworth Vega engine is not a high-performance unit. It develops 110 bhp and while this is 36 percent more than the standard 1-barrel Vega it still represents only 55 bhp per liter - modest indeed compared to engines of equal sophistication;" "The five-speed gearbox shift pattern and operation leave something to be desired;" "There is no optional power assist for the brakes, so the pedal effort for a 0.5g stop is a rather high 45 lb;" "We can't resist saying that with the Cosworth Vega engine, the Vega now runs the way it should have run all the time-easy, smooth, good response, good handling: a nice balance between performance and economy." "The Cosworth Vega's handling is very good."
Car and Driver in a September 1976 Short Take on the Cosworth Vega said, "The Cosworth is no more..a noble experiment that failed..the execution was a severe disappointment. Time and weight killed the Cosworth. The low priority of a project contrary to the corporate grain dragged the motor through a five-year gestation period while the Vega for which it was destined grew fat and heavy.. one regulation after another took its toll on the car's power to weight ratio."
Car and Driver, in its 35th anniversary retrospective issue in 1990, mentioned the Vega three times. Detroit Fights Back - Ford Pinto and Vega 2300: "...they are the best, most import-beating subcompacts that American Technology knows how to build. If VW and the other small intruders survive this attack, they'll be assumed invincible." Cosworth Vega Preview - "A sixteen-valve head on a Vega aluminum block seems like a neat idea to us, so we rev up our prose. The car when it finally arrives, cannot keep up with our feverish preview." Showroom-Stock Challenge III - "We win again, this time in a Vega GT, proof that truth is stranger than fiction."
Motor Trend in its 50th Anniversary Issue in September 1999 said, "The Vega seemed well placed to set the standard for subcompacts in the 70s, but it was troubled by one of the most vulnerable Achilles heels in modern automotive history; an alloy four-cylinder engine block that self destructed all too easily, and all too often. Once the word got out the damage was done, even though the engine had been revamped."
Collectible Automobile magazine in the April 2000 issue said, "The Vega engine was, without a doubt, the most extraordinary part of the car..." "For '76 GM started to get it right. The Vega was now a fairly decent car, but Chevrolet's release of the even less expensive Chevette in 1976 put the handwriting on the wall."
"The Chevy Vega has become a symbol of all the problems Detroit faced in the 70's. Ed Cole and the corporation initially had high hopes for the Vega, But then, little by little, everything that could go wrong, did. Had its big engineering and manufacturing plans succeeded, the last laugh might have belonged to Chevy. The greatest toll came in the damage it did to Chevrolet's and GM's reputation. The other effect the Vega had on GM was to help make the corporation conservative, and dull its will to lead."
Motor Trend Classic magazine in the Fall 2010 issue featuring "A Loving Look Back" Gremlin-Vega-Pinto retrospective comparison test said, "Chevrolet spun the Vega as a more American, upscale car. And let's face it, the car looked hot. So can you blame us for falling hook, line, and sinker for the Vega and naming it 1971's Car of the Year?" "Well-maintained examples are great looking, nice-driving, economical classics—like Baltic Ave. with a Hotel, the best ones can be had for $10K or less.
Vega versus competitors
As domestic automakers entered the subcompact class, The introduction of the Chevrolet Vega on September 10, 1970 followed the AMC Gremlin by six months and preceded the Ford Pinto by one day. Motor Trend in February, 1971 said conservative estimates had placed the cost of bringing the Vega (XP-887) from drawing board to production reality at a staggering $200 million compared to about $5 million for the AMC Gremlin. The Vega competed directly with its domestic rivals and Japanese imports from Toyota and Datsun as well as the successful, but aging VW Beetle.
Five months prior to the Vega's public introduction, Chevrolet invited six publications to participate in a test run from Denver, Colorado to Phoenix, Arizona. Six cars were provided, driven out to Denver from the GM Proving Grounds in Milford, Michigan. Three Vegas - a sedan, coupe, and wagon, VW Beetle, Toyota Corona, and Ford Maverick.
August, 1970 Motor Trend and September, 1970 Car Life magazines reported on the two-day test run: "The motoring press took an 890-mile trip in three Vegas and three competitors. The Vegas won." "The most impressive part of the trip was the cornering power of the three Vegas. None of the other cars could begin to keep up." Michael Lamm said, "We all agreed that the three Vegas were well put together, that they were comfortable, roomy, reasonably quiet, and fun to drive." John Bond, publisher of Road and Track and Car Life, who'd never been overly fond of American automobiles said he thought the Vega handled better than any economy car he'd ever driven. The highest speed attained on a level road was 105 mph at 5,250 rpm by the Vega coupe with the L-11 performance option. The highest fuel mileage recorded was the Vega sedan at 25.5 mpg. The best 0-60 time was the L-11 Vega coupe at 13.5 seconds.
Car and Driver in 1971 awarded top pick to the Vega above the Ford Pinto, AMC Gremlin, VW Beetle, Toyota Corolla and Chrysler Simca. C&D said: "The Vega was the most expensive car in the test by almost $300 but the Vega's virtues are nicely in proportion to its price and it was the unanimous favorite." "The Vega pulls down the number one position because of its particular suitability to American driving conditions. In general the Vega is quick and nimble without the sports car harshness most American car drivers find objectionable." "The Vega's tall 2.53:1 axle ratio allowed a low 3,000 rpm at 80 mph."
"It was the quickest of the cars tested, taking 12.2 seconds to reach 60 mph." "The Vega is an excellent combination of performance and economy." "It's a car for all occasions."
Car and Driver in a 1971 comparison with the Ford Pinto said, "The Vega hits its stride on the open highway. It has good directional stability and the front bucket seats are comfortable for most drivers;" it was agreed that the Vega's far superior flow-through ventilation system was more than enough to offset the driveline tunnel heat."
Motor Trend in a 1971 VW-Pinto-Vega comparison said, "The engine in the Vega is the strongest of the three...its drag strip performance will blow the doors off both the Pinto and the VW. The Vega, while enjoyable to drive, is a more serious car. It's faster, more comfortable, quieter and better riding than either the Pinto or VW while still delivering respectable fuel economy."
Road & Track in a 1971 "5 Economy Sedans" comparison said, "Chevrolet's Vega is the heaviest, longest, lowest and most stylish of the group and has the largest engine at 2287 cc. It's slow-turning engine is not the most powerful however, being rated at 90 bhp." "All five drivers thought it was the best looking of the group, a subjective triumph; on other things like interior trim-finish-appearance, body structure and gearbox it was considered worst of the group. But in matters of roadability–handling and braking–Vega rated best."
Motor Trend in a 1972 comparison test "Back Door To Economy" chose the Vega GT best car over the Ford Pinto Runabout and Gremlin X saying, "Chevy has had it all along." "Even extended trips do not induce excessive driver fatigue and that is one reason why it was the Car of the Year in 1971."
Car and Driver in a 6-Car Comparison Test Super Coupes in 1972 rated the Vega GT's styling over Pinto Runabout, Opel 1900 Rallye, Mazda RX-2, Capri 2000, and Toyota Celica, saying: "...If looks alone determined the best Super coupe, the Vega GT would win hands down without ever turning a wheel."
The Vega Wagon's 27.083 mpg fuel economy was rated number ten in Motor Trend's mid-summer cruise of "15 Cars To Own in a Gas Crisis" in 1973. The Vega LX Notchback's 30.0 mpg was rated number nine in Motor Trend's "50 Cars Worth Their Weight In Gold" in 1974.
Road Test magazine in the 1976 Super Coupe Shootout — Alfa vs. Mazda vs. Lancia vs. Saab vs. Cosworth Vega, RT said: "The results are in Figure 2. Read 'em and weep, all you foreign-is-better nuts, because right there at the top, and by a long way at that, is the Cosworth Vega. It had the fastest 0-60 time, the fastest quarter-mile time, and tied with the Saab for the shortest braking distance". "The Cosworth is American, and a collector's item, and it came close, damn close to winning the whole thing."
Motor Trend Classic magazine in the Fall 2010 issue's "Loving Look Back" comparison — 1973 Vega GT, 1972 Pinto Runabout and 1971 Gremlin X, Frank Markus, Technical Director of Motor Trend said of the original 6k-miles 1973 Vega GT, "After a few gentle miles, I begin to understand how this car won its awards and comparison tests." He closes the article agreeing with MT's initial assessment of the Vega and how it fared compared to its domestic competition; he wrote, "Emotionally, Jim Brokaw summed it up in January 1972: Gremlin has power, but Pinto has the price, and a much quieter ride. Which car is best? Vega."
Motor Trend Classic magazine in the Spring 2013 iisue's "Toxic Throwdown" comparison — 1976 Cosworth Vega and 1976 Capri II said, "Motor Trend's October 1975 article pitted the Cosworth against the Capri II 2.8 with each trimmed in matching black paint with gold wheels and pinstripping. For this test, we were fortunate enough to find two superb cars, each owned by a marque expert.
Overblown - "The China Syndrome might have overhyped the TMI (Three-Mile Island) incident as bad press might have exaggerated the Vega's woes." "I can definitely sense some of the Vega's raw, untamed nature that my predecessors described." "Stylish and historically significant but ridiculously overpriced in its day and ultimately a bit unfinished, the ultimate Vega now represents a serious collector bargain."