The Chevrolet Aveo fights it out with some of the best cars in the business; anyone entering the marketplace should think twice before picking a fight with the Ford Fiesta, Fiat 500, or even the Hyundai i10 – but that’s exactly what Chevy has done with the baby in its range.
It claims that the Aveo “has been engineered to make everyday driving in a small car a dynamic and enjoyable experience, while delivering great value for money.” Is that an accurate assessment of the little Chevy – or just marketing guff? Read on, to find out…
The exterior is Euro-spec generic in side-profile but unmistakably American from the front and back, mainly due to the hideous black plastic light surrounds (inspired by the lights on a motorcycle, apparently…) and the gold-bling Chevrolet badge; you’d never fall in love with it at first sight.
Peer more closely though and you start to get an inkling of the qualities that lurk within: the wheels are pushed deep into the corners, maximising the interior space; the roofline is flat and high, further cosseting the occupants; and the rear doors – hidden a la Alfa Romeo 159 – make access to the rear seats easy. It’s not pretty, but it is practical.
Things are a bit better inside – but not much. There is a fair bit of space but the fit and finish is poor and a bit, well, random. The motorcycle-inspired (again!) instrument binnacle is plonked on top of the dash and is dominated by the huge rev counter, a curious choice for an environmentally conscious diesel. The speedometer is digital and hard to take in with a quick glance, unlike an analogue version, and its constantly-changing digits are a distraction I could have done without.
The quality of the plastics used is variable, ranging from cheap and brittle through to mid-spec acceptable, but it doesn’t flow or provide any cohesion and the doors close with a tinny clang. The seat material – Dark Titanium – is attractive and looks to be hard wearing though, so not all is lost.
The driving position is good, with a wide range of adjustment and (despite what you might read elsewhere) rear seat legroom is on the generous side of average, which was a pleasant surprise.
The boot is evenly shaped and decently big too. These qualities, along with plenty of neat little storage cubbies in the cabin, make it an easy car to live with.
The Aveo drives rather well. The ride is better than average and while the soft suspension absorbs the bumps and imperfections of 21st century driving it also caters for the enthusiastic driver, controlling body roll better than you might expect. Sure, it’s not sports car but if you drive it carefully and smoothly it is satisfying and good fun.
High-speed motorway work is refined and quiet (if you ignore the ever-present distant engine clatter) and you don’t need to keep changing down from fifth to fourth every time you come to a hill, either. Not that that would be a hardship, because the five-speed gearbox might lack a ratio but it is light and easy to use, as are the brakes (and the pedals are nicely spaced for a bit of heel-and-toeing too, should the urge overtake you).
City work is a doddle thanks to the compact shape and light steering.
The 1.3-litre VCDi Eco diesel engine goes well enough and is very economical but it isn’t half noisy. The clatter starts when you turn it on and is a constant companion throughout every journey. It’s not an unpleasant noise, just ever-present.
However, if you are happy to turn a deaf ear to it then it does deliver; the 0-62mph time of 11.7 seconds is bang on the money and the top speed of 108mph allows an 80mph cruise to be undertaken in comfort. True, the long gearing of the Eco model (albeit coupled to a more powerful 94bhp engine rather than the 74bhp of the standard car) does blunt the performance a little but mid-range torque (140lb ft for both Eco and standard car) is strong and allows the driver to post some very fast journey times.
Economy is claimed to be in the mid-seventies, but you won’t manage that; expect 60mpg+ in everyday use and you won’t be disappointed, which is pretty good nonetheless.
Value for Money
The Aveo range starts at £10,295 for a basic LS with a 1.2-litre petrol engine and five-speed manual gearbox and rises to just over £14,000 for a 1.3-litre diesel with a six-speed manual gearbox.
The mid-range LT that we drove is well equipped with air-con, Bluetooth, electric windows, 16-inch alloy wheels, a trip computer, and outside air temperature display. The Borocay Blue paint on our test car (Summit White is the only no-cost option) is very attractive and well worth the £425 asking price but it does bring the total cost of our car to £13,220.
Chevrolet will sell you a three-year, 30,000-mile servicing package for £349, which sounds like good value to us, helping take any worry and uncertainty out of the ownership experience.
We normally like Chevrolet’s cars; we loved the electric Volt and were very pleasantly surprised by the Orlando MPV
– so the Aveo came as a bit of a shock to us. Its biggest problem isn’t just the weird looks, or noisy engine, or even the sub-par interior – it is that you are always conscious you are driving a cheap car, something that the best of its rivals manages to avoid.
As a result it just doesn’t match the Fiesta’s
all-round competence, the Fiat 500’s
cheeky sense of fun, or the Suzuki Swift’s
spirited chassis. Hard-core Chevrolet fans will find plenty to like but others would be well advised to take a long and careful look at the marketplace before committing.