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car review

2010 Chevrolet Camaro.

Although it was officially a 2010 model when it debuted, the new Chevrolet Camaro was actually introduced in 2009, and was manufactured in Oshawa, Ont.. It still is.

GM was banking heavily on baby-boomer nostalgia with this, the fifth-generation Camaro and, aside from the fact that it delivered better fuel economy than its predecessors, had better handling and braking and was more environmentally correct, the driving experience was much the same.

Interestingly, this generation of the Camaro was based on the same platform as the defunct Pontiac G8 and took much of its engineering from the Holden Commodore, which was, and is, sold in Australia.

There were five basic versions; three with a V-6 engine and two with V-8s. The pavement-scalder of the bunch was the SS, which came with an available 6.2-litre V-8 taken from the Corvette, mated to either a six-speed manual or automatic gearbox. This engine developed a healthy 426 horsepower with 420 lb-ft of torque and the manual gearbox version could take the SS from 0 to 60 mph in about five seconds. But it required premium grade gas.

The six-speed manual transmission/V-8 combo also had a slick feature in the form of a gearshift override. During low engine revs, it automatically shifts from First to Fourth, in an effort to cut down on gas consumption. Given the substantial torque output of this engine, the transition is handled effortlessly by the drivetrain and this feature only comes into play below 30 km/h. It's also similar to a system found in some models of the Corvette. The automatic six-speed, meanwhile, featured GM's Active Fuel Management system, which shut off half the cylinders under light load for improved fuel economy. Again, an almost seamless transition.

The styling of the new Camaro was controversial. Some felt it was too angular and rough around the edges, but it did convey the requisite muscularity and bad boy persona, with a dash of nostalgia thrown in for good measure. The SS model, in particular, was an unapologetic high-performance automobile, aimed at buyers who like to drive with enthusiasm and want everyone to know it. You could also order a special "Rally Yellow" paint, which made the Camaro a bit of a ticket magnet.

A couple of notes here: Because of its low roofline and small windows, rear visibility while backing up is restrictive, and the new Camaro has turned out to be one of the most difficult vehicles on the market when it comes to parallel parking and backing up. As well, the manual transmission features a long throw between gears with heavy linkage action. Indeed, the whole driving experience of the new Camaro was, and is, pure 1960s pony car. A convertible version was also offered a year later, and it has many of the same characteristics.

Just one safety recall to report from Transport Canada. In some of the V-8 models the positive cable from the battery can chafe against the starting motor, eventually short out and possibly cause an engine stall, or worse, a fire. Easily fixed, though, and dealers will simply reroute the cable.

There are a hefty 71 technical service bulletins on file with the U.S National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for the new Camaro. They cover just about everything, from possibly leaky automatic transmissions, to shifting problems with the manual gearbox, to a glitchy fuel gauge, to a "slight engine misfire."

The model gets mixed grades from Consumer Reports. While there are no glaring problem spots and most areas of the car garner above-average marks, the magazine nonetheless gives the inaugural year of the revised Camaro an "average" used car predictability rating.

Lots of comments from owners, including: "Consumer Reports got this one wrong, "Trunk opening too small," "MP3 player quit working on first major road trip" and "Gauges could have been nicer." Lack of back-seat elbow room and poor peripheral visibility are common gripes. Issues with the transmission(s) and software gremlins seem to be prevalent, as do complaints about fuel economy. Whether you choose the V-6 or V-8 models, the new Camaro can in no way be classed as a fuel-sipper.

From a just-less-than $27,000 base price, the 2010 Camaro has held its value reasonably well, with the base LS model now going for $20,000 to $25,000, and a loaded SS with the big V-8 valued in the low-$30,000 range.

2010 Chevrolet Camaro

Original Base Price: $26,995; Black Book: $24,325-$33,325; Red Book: $20,150-$30,675

Engine: 3.6-litre V-6 and 6.2-litre V-8

Horsepower/Torque: 304 hp/273 lb-ft for V-6; 426 hp/420 lb-ft for V-8

Transmission: Six-speed automatic/six-speed manual

Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 11.4 city/6.9 hwy (V-6 with automatic); regular gas for V-6/premium for V-8

Drive: Rear-wheel

Alternatives: Dodge Challenger, Ford Mustang