2004 Chevrolet Aveo Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
Efficient transportation for less than $10,000.
The Chevrolet Aveo is an all-new subcompact available as a four-door sedan or five-door hatchback. It's based on a globally popular model called the Kalos built by Korean carmaker Daewoo. New to Chevrolet's 2004 lineup, the Aveo will complement the upcoming Chevy Cobalt, a premium small car planned to replace the Cavalier.
Aveo uses a proven GM 1.6-liter double-overhead-camshaft engine and comes standard with a five-speed gearbox. It's out to challenge the Toyota Echo, Scion xA, Kia Rio, and Hyundai Accent. The Echo and Scion are higher priced, however, leaving the ten-grand cars to the Koreans.
The basic models are basic, but the interiors are better than you'd expect, 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. It delivers zippy performance, sharp steering and a decent ride. All of this makes the Chevy Aveo an attractive alternative to a used car.
The Chevy Aveo comes in four-door and five-door hatchback body styles, priced the same. It's available in three trim levels: Special Value, Base and LS. They all use the 103-horsepower inline-4 engine with a standard five-speed gearbox.
Least expensive is the Special Value model ($9,455), which comes standard with single-stage airbags, halogen headlamps, ventilated front disc brakes, child safety seat system, folding sideview mirrors, tinted glass, tilt steering wheel, 60/40 split folding rear seat, AM/FM stereo, two-speed intermittent variable wipers, rear window defogger and, on the five-door, a wiper/washer on the liftgate window. There are no options.
The base model ($11,150) adds air conditioning with cabin filtration, carpeted floor mats, and a few other convenience features, but you still get windup windows. With the LS ($12,045) you get convenience: power locks and windows and remote entry, heated outside mirrors with power on the passenger side, upgraded seat fabric, and a CD player with MP3 playback. Fog lights are standard on the five-door base and LS models.
Aveo comes in eight lively colors, including yellow and bright blue. Options include a four-speed automatic transmission ($850) and anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution ($400). A stereo with CD and MP3 players is available for base models ($300) and late-2004 LS models offer a six-speaker premium sound system and power sunroof. Appearance packages include fog lights, alloy wheels, and a spoiler for the five-door.
The body structure is designed to provide as much crash protection to occupants 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.
The Chevrolet Aveo body was created, believe it or not, in the Giugiaro Italdesign studio in Turin, Italy. And it shows, especially in the smooth sedan, which is better looking than the Hyundai Accent or Rio. The sedan and five-door have the same wheelbase, but the sedan is 14 inches longer, and with that extra length to work with, Giugiaro made the car look real, 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, with long thin turn signals like amber underlines. There's a little smiley-face grille, inconspicuous in black mesh, with a tidy Chevy bowtie symbol in the center. Both front and rear bumpers are body colored and part of 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 especially, 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 with low-priced entry-level cars.
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 LS's deluxe cloth in a tweedy pattern. There's a good 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 LS with the conveniences. We drove it on a hot Texas day, and the air conditioning was excellent. There was a CD player in the dash, and a storage slot big enough for your whole hand under the CD slot. The big round old-fashioned black gearshift knob with black boot was 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 given the stadium seating, with elevated seats which are possible thanks to a high roof. The rear seat of the sedan folds flat and opens up to the trunk, while the rear seat of the five-door further flips forward with the touch of one finger, yielding a relatively cavernous cargo area.
Minimizing 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.
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 room to spare, at least with the standard manual transmission, a solid five-speed gearbox. The gas pedal feels 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 an 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.
There's plenty of power from 2000 rpm in lower gears all the way up to 6000. The powerband is remarkably linear, with no lapses and surges as the tach needle climbs to 6500, where a rev-limiter abruptly chops acceleration; so you upshift and all is well. We accelerated all the way up to 85 mph in fourth gear, and the engine stayed with it all the way. But you can't expect miracles from 103 horsepower, so it won't exactly shoot you forward if you stomp it at 65 mph in fifth gear.
We gave the gearbox some good hard downshifts, and it took them without complaint. The gearshift lever had kind of a long throw, but then it isn't trying to be a sports car. The optional four-speed automatic is gated, so you can shift it like a manual. Aveo ingeniously offers manual capabilities that other cars use expensive technology to provide: Pressing a button on the shifter will hold it in second gear for starting on ice.
From behind the wheel the sedan seems to feel 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, but with the turning circle a ridiculously small 16 feet, the car feels like a toy at the right time. However if you try to get too sporty in the curves, the narrow 14-inch tires will bring you back to reality.
Out on a Texas Interstate we ran with the 80-mph flow of traffic, mostly big ol' pickups, and it was pleasantly, surprisingly quiet inside the Aveo cabin, with nary a buzz from under the hood. The engine noise is low thanks to construction of the block itself, along with a large intake resonator and dual muffler exhaust system.
We're happy to report that when you lock the brakes, you will at least come to a screeching halt without veering. We found out by surprise that our LS did have the optional anti-lock brakes with brake force distribution. The front ventilated discs are large for the size of the car, and the rear drums have wide linings.
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, including everything from the Chevrolet SSR to Cadillac SRX, and it was interesting to compare them to each other in one particular dip, where the Aveo stayed right with the high-priced cars in the way it handled the dip.
The Chevrolet Aveo offers a lot for not much money. The frame structure has been designed with safety in mind. The engine offers zippy acceleration and delivers an estimated 27/39 miles per gallon, according to Chevrolet, 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.
Chevrolet Aveo Special Value ($9,455); Base ($11,150); LS ($12,045).
Options As Tested
Chevrolet Aveo LS Sedan ($12,045).
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