With cars, first impressions carry a lot of influence. Bad first impression? Then it's on to the next candidate. But when a car connects at that first meeting, you're inclined to hang around a bit to see what else it has to offer. And so goes the story of my time with the Chevy Aveo.
The Aveo arrived after we spent a week with the luxurious and capable Cadillac SRX. To say that personally-held expectations regarding the rebadged Daewoo were low would be understating the matter. The previous generation, despite being a strong seller for GM, was stylistically uninspiring, and it would not have been the least bit surprising to find more of the same in the new one. Upon taking delivery of Autoblog's shiny blue loaner, we were taken aback. The Aveo, you see, makes quite a good first impression.
Make no mistake: this is not a car that will floor you with avant-garde looks. That said, the restyling it has undergone for the 2007 model year is very effective. The bland anonymity of the 1st-gen Aveo has been replaced by a new look that clearly and effectively defines it as a Chevy. The redesigned front end is quite good-looking -- particularly when you compare it to other cars in the econobox/sedan segment. It's definitely more attractive than its hometown (remember, the Aveo's Korean) rival, the Hyundai Accent. A chrome split-bar grille wears a prominent bowtie, clearly establishing the Aveo as a Chevy. Large headlights that sport a familial shape (think Cobalt) flank it, and the rest of the fascia is an all-body-color affair that ends with three cutouts below the bumper. The two on either end house fog/driving lights, a $110 option on our Aveo LT.
Continuing the walkaround, the car's side profile is pretty generic. Bulging wheel flares and an accent line that runs along the upper part of the body from the headlights to the taillamps help keep the car from looking overly slab-sided despite its high beltline. A second line runs along the lower half of the doors. There's no rub strip, interestingly enough. Cheap-looking black plastic inserts take the place of proper glass in the after portion of the rear windows, and the car's 15-inch five-spoke alloys look tiny against the rest of the body. The car's thick C-pillar extends deep into the rear decklid, and the tail end of the Aveo is dominated by a pair of oversized, tunerrific Altezza-style clear lamps, which are connected by a chrome accent strip like the ones seen on the rumps of numerous other Chevrolets.
Opening the door to inspect the Aveo's interior is another eyebrow-raising experience. The test car was outfitted with a very pleasant-looking tan cabin. The seats, upholstered with perforated leatherette faux hides (a $250 option), included a folding armrest for the driver. The leatherette made them look more expensive than they actually were, and the neutral color is also used on the doors and lower part of the dashboard. Woodgrain inserts act as a bridge from the lighter tone to the black plastic that make up the door panel tops and most of the dashboard. The instrument cluster is easy-to read and sensible, with semicircular units for the speedometer and tachometer, and smaller round fuel and temperature gauges set above and between them. The binnacle that surrounds it (as well as the rest of the upper dash surfaces) has a puckered, golf ball-like texture.
Trunk space is rated at 12.4 cubic feet, and it seemed plenty spacious for a car of this size. It's got a bare-bones non-carpeted liner, and if you need to carry larger items, the rear seatbacks fold down to expose a good-sized pass-through to the interior of the car. As for other interior storage, it's lacking. There's the glove box, of course, but outside of that, you'll be relying on your pockets. There's no center console storage bin; instead, you make do with a shallow tray. The door pockets are pretty deep, though, and that's where we kept things like CDs and an MP3 player when not in use. The cupholders that pop out of the center stack are pathetic at best. Designed to hold shorter containers such as 12 oz. cans, they were useless for carrying the preferred travel coffee mug of your humble correspondent. Taller cups or bottles either resided at a dangerous angle, ready to fall out or spill at any moment (if they even fit in the first place). The back seat passengers get kind of shafted, too, as they're given a single cupholder at the trailing edge of the center console. That said, it's the best one in the car. Unfortunately, it's a bit of a reach from up front unless your name is Reed Richards.
In terms of comfort, front seat passengers are treated to plenty of headroom, a commodity that is curiously lacking in back, despite the car's tall-roof look. Forward seating is comfortable enough, but don't expect much in the way of lateral support. Moving to row two, both my father and I, neither of whom is in danger of cracking an NBA lineup, found that if we placed ourselves flush to the rear seat's backrest, our heads brushed the downward slope of the roof. My father also commented that he felt like the back seat's angle was too upright, though I must admit I didn't have a big issue with it. There was no serious problem with legroom behind the driver's seat, which was set to accommodate my 5' 9" frame, but I could see where things might get dicey for taller passengers (or folks sitting behind a taller driver).
Twist the ignition key and the 1.6L Ecotec buzzes to life. Rated at 103 horsepower, it's perfectly adequate for grocery-getter duty, and as a highway commuter it does fine, just don't expect any kind of stirring performance whatsoever. Multiple publications that have done instrumented testing on the new Aveo rate its 0-60 times at 11 seconds and change, and based on Autoblog's sophisticated seat-of-the-pants test regimen, that sounds right. Long on-ramps are your friend, as the Aveo carries on with great clamor and fury as the 1.6 winds itself up to highway speeds with very little in terms of rapid forward motion to show for it. Once it hits that pace, however, it handles highway duty in a businesslike, unexciting manner. Don't expect much, and you'll have no problem.
Over the full tank we went through during its time with us, the Aveo averaged right around 25 miles per gallon. It's EPA rating is 26/34, so the 25 we observed was actually a bit disappointing. Take it with a grain of salt, of course, as it's just one tank over one week, but still: this is, above all else, an economy car, and we expected better.
So, in the end, how does the Aveo shape up? Among the crop of economy sedans, it's pretty good-looking, quite well-equipped for the money ($15,025 as shown, including destination), and has good trunkspace. It's no great performer, but it's still a capable everyday runabout. Perhaps the biggest knock against the Aveo is that it's simply not very memorable. For many people shopping for basic transportation, this is most likely irrelevant. For us, it matters, and so despite the positive first impressions it made, the Aveo left us feeling indifferent at the end of the week. We didn't dislike it, but we didn't miss it when it left us, either.
All photos Copyright ©2007 Alex Núñez / Weblogs, Inc.