Overview

The Chevrolet Aveo offers affordable transportation in a choice of four-door sedan or five-door hatchback. Starting below $10,000, the Aveo challenges the Toyota Echo, Scion xA, Kia Rio, and Hyundai Accent for the base rung of the transportation ladder. Aveo is based on the Daewoo Kalo, a Korean car that's popular in many countries around the world.

The base models are basic, but the interiors are quite nice. The front seats are comfortable and the back seats are surprisingly roomy. The Aveo looks good, particularly the sedan, and the body panels fit well. Both models get zippy performance from a twin-cam four-cylinder engine built by GM. Sharp steering makes the Aveo fun to drive, while its decent ride and reasonably quiet cabin make for pleasant transportation.

Model Lineup

The 2005 Chevy Aveo comes in three trim levels, each of which is available in the four-door sedan and five-door hatchback body styles. All are powered by a 103-horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. A five-speed manual gearbox comes standard; an automatic ($850) is an option for LS and LT models.

Least expensive is the Special Value model ($9,455), which comes standard with single-stage airbags, halogen headlamps, vented front disc brakes, a height-adjustable driver's seat, child safety seat system, manually operated side-view mirrors, tinted glass, tilt steering wheel, 60/40 split folding rear seat, AM/FM stereo, two-speed intermittent variable wipers, and a rear window defogger. Air conditioning is not available; in fact, the only option is an engine block heater ($35). The hatchback is priced the same as the sedan, and adds a wiper/washer on the liftgate window.

LS ($11,300) adds air conditioning and carpeted floormats. Again, the hatchback costs the same as the sedan.

LT ($12,795) gets deluxe front seats, power windows, power locks with remote keyless entry, power passenger-side mirror, a CD player with MP3 capability, 14-inch aluminum wheels. The LT hatchback ($12,570) also gets a spoiler.

Anti-lock brakes (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) are available on LS and LT ($400). The CD/MP3 stereo is offered on LS ($300); while LT models can be ordered with six-speaker premium sound ($250). A power sunroof ($725) can be ordered on LT.

Walkaround

The Chevrolet Aveo body was created, believe it or not, in Giorgetto Giugiaro's Italdesign studio in Turin, Italy. And the Italian influence shows, especially in the smooth sedan, which is better looking than the Hyundai Accent or Kia Rio. The sedan and five-door hatchback ride on the same relatively generous 97.6-inch wheelbase, but the sedan stretches 14 inches longer overall, and Giugiaro used that extra length to make the sedan look more like a real car, and not so much like a toy.

The nose is nice: simple and clean with tidy shapes. The headlights are horizontal and nicely rounded at the corners, underlined in amber by long, thin turn signals. The grille smiles at you with its bright crossbar and Chevy bowtie set against inconspicuous black mesh. Both front and rear bumpers are body colored and integrate well with the shape of the car.

As sleek little hatchbacks go, the Aveo five-door isn't quite as good looking as Toyota's Scion xA, but it holds its own. The taillights, chunky and efficient, have a nice physical edge to them. The roofline is rounded, sloping back to meet the optional spoiler over the liftgate. There are character lines running back from the front wheelwell to the rear, which may or may not add character. The fit of the body panels is visibly tight, something not usually seen in such a low-priced, entry-level car.

Aveo aced the Federal frontal crash test with five stars for both driver and passenger. The body structure is designed to provide as much crash protection as possible. The cabin is built like a steel cage, with steel members running vertically from the door hinge up the A-pillars to the roofline, then back to reinforced B- and C-pillars, and down to the rocker panels. Each of the four doors contains a side-impact beam which when hit directs energy up through the side rails to a large front longitudinal member, then through a flat crossmember to the front axle and wheelhouse and finally down to the fender-door support.

Interior Features

The Aveo interior is better than you might expect for such a low-cost car. The seats offer a solid fit and are quite comfortable, with high-density foam under the LT's tweedy deluxe cloth. There's a comfortable four-spoke steering wheel, finished in matt black. The instrument panel is simple, while still presenting the important information in big gauges: speedo, tach, fuel and coolant temp. There's some silly pseudo carbon fiber in the door handles, and the golfball grain on the dash looks rough; but Cadillacs have it too. There are a number of thoughtful slots and pockets for storing things, including a lighted glovebox. There's a floor console with a storage compartment, and an extra 12-volt power outlet.

Our test model was an LT with all the conveniences. We drove it on a hot Texas day, and the air conditioning was excellent. There's a storage slot big enough for your whole hand under the CD player. The big, round, old-fashioned black gearshift knob with black boot seems simple and appropriate for the no-frills Aveo.

We crawled in the back seat and discovered lots of room back there, as well as good visibility, thanks to Aveo's stadium seating. The rear seats are elevated, a feat made possible by Aveo's high roof. The rear seat of the sedan folds flat and opens up the 11.7 cubic-foot trunk, while the rear seat of the five-door further flips forward with the touch of one finger, yielding a relatively cavernous 42 cubic-foot cargo area.

To minimize wind, road and engine noise, there's a lot of sound insulation located under the hood and floor, and in the doors and dash panel.

Driving Impressions

With an inexpensive compact car, there is no middle ground in acceleration: it's either zippy or it's a dog. The Aveo is zippy with zoom to spare, at least with the standard manual transmission, a solid-feeling five-speed gearbox. The gas pedal seems a bit mushy, but the engine works hard to overcome it. The little Aveo will chirp the tires in second gear, which will surely impress an audience of a likely owner's peers. Secretaries? High-school boys and girls? Little old people? Whomever, a chirp will impress them. The Aveo is a common-ground kind of car. It brings people together.

On the other hand, the Aveo also features some surprisingly sophisticated engineering. Its little engine breathes through a variable-geometry intake system that helps fatten the torque curve at low rpm. As a result, there's plenty of power from 2000 rpm in the lower gears all the way up to 6000 rpm. The power band is remarkably linear, with no lapses or surges as the tach needle climbs to 6500, where a rev-limiter abruptly interrupts forward progress; so you upshift and all is well again. We accelerated all the way up to 85 mph in fourth gear, and the engine stayed with us all the way. But you can't expect miracles from 103 horsepower, and Aveo won't exactly catapult you toward the horizon if you stomp it at 65 mph in fifth.

Out on a Texas Interstate we ran with the 80-mph traffic, mostly big ol' pickups. We noticed how pleasantly, surprisingly quiet it was inside the Aveo's cabin, with nary a buzz from under the hood. The engine noise is low thanks to the deep-skirt construction of the block itself, along with a large intake resonator and dual-muffler exhaust system.

We gave the gearbox some good hard downshifts, and it took them without complaint. The gearshift lever has kind of a long throw, but then Aveo isn't trying to be a sports car. The optional four-speed automatic is gated; by depressing a Hold button on the shifter, the driver can shift manually, even starting in a higher gear for better traction on ice or snow. One has to admire this simple, mechanical alternative to the electronic tip-shift devices found on far more expensive automobiles.

From behind the wheel the sedan seems bigger than it is, or maybe it's actually bigger than it seems it should be. Whatever the reason, it's a good thing for a subcompact to feel bigger. The rack-and-pinion steering is sharp, and the torsion beam rear axle gives the car a grown-up feel. With a turning circle of just 16 feet, Aveo can make a U-turn in a ridiculously small space. That makes it extremely maneuverable in tight, crowded quarters. Aveo is no sports car, however, as its narrow 14-inch tires will quickly remind you if you try taking turns like a road racer.

Our test route took us through a choppy construction zone and over some twisty back roads. There were a number of spots where the ride might have felt harsh if it were going to, and it didn't. We were driving a number of new GM cars over the same route, everything from a Chevrolet SSR to a Cadillac SRX. It was interesting to notice how the Aveo handled a particularly severe dip every bit as well as the higher-priced cars.

If you lock the brakes, you will come to a screeching halt without veering. The vented front discs are large for the size of the car, and the rear drums have wide linings. We recommend the optional anti-lock brakes with brake force distribution, which improves stability and helps the driver maintain control under hard braking. In any case, wear your seat belts as that's your first line of defense in a crash.

Summary

The Chevrolet Aveo offers a lot for not much money. The frame structure is designed with safety in mind. The engine offers zippy acceleration and delivers an estimated 27/35 city/highway mpg with the manual transmission. The cabin is quiet, and there's good room in the rear seats. If all you want to spend is $10,000 or $12,000 for a new car and you don't need anything more than a small five-seater, it's hard to see how you could go wrong with the Chevy Aveo.

New Car Test Drive correspondent Sam Moses filed this report from San Antonio, Texas.

Model Line Overview
Base Price (MSRP)
$9,455
Model lineup:
Chevrolet Aveo Special Value Model ($9,455); LS ($11,300); LT hatchback ($12,570), LT sedan ($12,795)
Engines:
1.6-liter DOHC 16-valve inline-4
Transmissions:
5-speed manual; 4-speed automatic
Safety equipment (Standard):
single-stage front airbags; seat belt pretensioners; LATCH anchors and tethers for child safety seats; trunk entrapment release system
Safety equipment (Optional):
ABS with EBD
Basic warranty:
3 years/60,000 miles
Assembled in:
Bupyong, South Korea
Specifications As Tested
Model tested (MSRP):
Chevrolet Aveo LT sedan ($12,795)
Standard equipment:
air conditioning, power windows, power door locks, remote keyless entry, heated folding outside mirrors with power on the passenger side, upgraded seat fabric, halogen headlamps, tinted glass, tilt steering wheel, 60/40 split folding rear seat, AM/FM stereo, two-speed intermittent variable wipers, rear window defogger, CD player with MP3 playback
Options as tested:
N/A
Destination charge:
540
Gas Guzzler Tax:
N/A
Price as tested (MSRP)
$13,335
Layout:
front-wheel drive
Engine:
1.6-liter DOHC 16-valve inline-four
Horsepower (hp @ rpm):
103 @ 6000
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm):
107 @ 3600
Transmission:
5-speed manual
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy:
27/35 mpg.
Wheelbase:
97.6 in.
Length/width/height:
166.7/65.7/58.9 in.
Track, f/r:
57.1/55.5 in.
Turning circle:
16.0 ft.
Seating capacity:
5
Head/hip/leg room, f:
39.3/51.6/41.3 in.
Head/hip/leg room, m:
N/A
Head/hip/leg room, r:
37.6/52.8/35.4 in.
Cargo volume:
11.7 cu. ft.
Payload:
N/A
Towing capacity:
N/A
Suspension F:
independent, MacPherson struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar
Suspension R:
torsion-beam axle, trailing arms, coil springs
Ground clearance:
N/A
Curb weight:
2370 lbs.
Tires:
P185/60R14
Brakes, f/r:
disc/drum in.
Fuel capacity:
11.9 gal.

Sam Moses

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