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New Car/Review

WOMAN ON WHEELS: 1999 OLDSMOBILE ALERO

By Laura Heilig
The Car Chick

Oldsmobile introduced the Alero as a replacement for the Achieva. I own a 1994 Achieva, the first year it was built. So it was especially important that I was able to compare the "new" Achieva with the old one.

DRESS

My road test Alero had a Jade Green exterior. It is a nice classy color choice compared to the teal of the Achieva. I realize tastes in new car colors have changed over the years and now I like the Jade Green better than the Teal.

Oldsmobile is also trying to upgrade the appearance of a compact car with the optional neutral-colored leather seats and trim. The two-toned color, however, cheapens the look.

I loved the lines of the Alero. It looks like a marriage between an Achieva and a classy Acura (with the square features that the Acura has). The optional polished aluminum wheels also make the car stand out.

Alero has a very large trunk (exactly like mine) with the terrific addition of a split folding rear seat. You can always use more space.

As in my Achieva the seats are extremely comfy and the entire console and controls are geared to the driver (it makes life easier on long commutes). The seats are puckier on the sides to allow for more legroom. Alero has a roomy rear seat that can seat three people with adequate legroom. Thatís important in a compact car.

The steering wheel was too fat for my tastes.

Under the hoods, the fluid level checkers and fillers were very accessible.

ACCESSORIES

Itís scary how similar the Alero interior is to the Achieva. Only someone who drives an Achieva every day could notice the similarities. Fortunately for Alero, it seems that the parts are built to last, unlike another car Iíve talked about. The interior is what sold me on my car and is what really sells me on Alero. Every accessory is in its logical and correct place. But why not?

I like the tilted forward (or slanted) sunglass holder in the console above the rearview mirror. Mine doesnít hold sunglasses - they fall out.

The sound system is great with a CD and tape player. Heating and cooling controls are in the right place. There is a deep storage compartment under the radio.

What I missed from the Achieva was door storage. There is very little in the Alero. Another thing I miss is the comfortable shifter. Thereís a bad slant on this one that appears to be geared toward the driver but it didnít work for me.

The gauge display is blah and the foot brake lever looks out of place. The cupholder is thin, but itís deep. It wonít hold Big Gulps. And if thereís supposed to be a cupholder under the radio itís useless.

SHOES

Alero has terrific handling on turns. It has tight steering and really responds to the driverís input. In addition, it has traction control to get the power to the wheels on slippery surfaces.

The 3.4-liter V6 engine gave quick acceleration. This is a car that could be almost invisible to the police, but could still please people who like to speed. You can go well over the speed limit with this car and probably wouldnít attract a lot of attention because itís so "normal" looking.

I had a lot of fun driving the Alero. Like my Achieva, itís quick and handles well. The steering wheel and the center and door-mounted armrests are in the right places for comfortable driving.

Gas mileage was 20 in the city and 28 on the highway. I averaged around 24 mpg over mixed roads.

PURSE

Alero has a price tag of $20,875 with options (V6, leather, six-way power seats, remote entry, pretty wheels). This is a great car for the price but I would also like the model minus the options. I think it would still be as nice.

Iím apprehensive about the similarities to the Achieva. I pray the Alero designers worked the bugs out before the introduction year. If they did, itís a great car. If they didnít, chalk up another "oops" vehicle for Oldsmobile.