REVIEWS: Review: 2006 Chevrolet Aveo

August 15, 2005
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General Motors's first attempt to compete on a heads-up basis with entry-level Asian econoboxes involved a partnership with Suzuki. The progeny of this corporate marriage was a little runt called the Metro, which was retired five years ago. Now, GM is trying again, only this time, it's hooked up with a Korean rather than a Japanese manufacturer. The Aveo is the car formerly known and marketed elsewhere in the world as the Daewoo Kalos. It was adopted by the Chevrolet family as a 2004 model after Daewoo Motor America ceased selling cars in the United States. (Ironically, other Daewoo models are sold in the States as Suzukis.) The Aveo is among the cheapest cars sold in America, with bare-bones examples--known technically as SVMs, or Special Value Models--starting at less than $10,000. This segment of the market is the basement of the automotive world, where compromises in space, creature comforts, safety, and general refinement come with the territory. But by the standards of the class, the Aveo is stylish and friendly, and it will wipe away the acrid taste left in consumers' mouths by the unloved, unlamented Metro. It's configured as a four-door sedan and five-door hatchback, each available in SVM, LS, and LT trim levels.
Exterior design is the Aveo's most distinctive feature, especially in hatchback form. The styling is the work of Giorgetto Giugiaro's renowned Italdesign studio, which gives the car instant credibility in the looks department. Riding high on a narrow track, it shares the tall-boy stance of the Toyota Echo and Suzuki Aerio while sporting a much lower weirdness quotient. Despite the gold bowtie--an American icon--mounted prominently on the grille, it's easy to imagine the Aveo scooting playfully through the narrow, twisty streets of Europe. With a mere 2,348 pounds riding on four comically small 185/60R14 tires, it doesn't look quite as at home here in the land of sport/utes and full-size pickups. But the hatchback exudes spunk, and even the conventional sedan has a smidgen of attitude. In either form, the Aveo benefits from its large, airy greenhouse and could even be considered as hipper than its dowdy rivals, the Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio.
369 0507 Intz Review 2005 Chevy Aveo+2006 Chevrolet Aveo+Front Interior View
The exterior styling is what everybody notices first, naturally, but interior design is the most winning feature of the five-passenger Aveo. The big news is that the cockpit feels surprisingly roomy and far larger than the exterior dimensions would seem to suggest. The tall proportions of the car provide ample headroom. Rear legroom could be better--an almost universal lament--but there's a decent 11.7 cubic-foot trunk in the sedan, and the rear seat of the hatchback folds flat and flips forward to form a cavernous 42 cubic-foot storage compartment. The driver sits up high in a well-bolstered, height-adjustable seat and scans the tasteful twin-pod instrument panel--which includes a tachometer--through a tilt steering wheel. New seat fabrics are offered for 2006, and adjustable headrests have supplanted fixed-angle units. Although hard plastics abound, they're a cut above the expected industrial-grade materials, and they even fit together well. Given the price point, the Aveo doesn't coddle with high-line amenities, but the bare essentials are well presented. The SVM comes with four tires, an engine, and not much else. Air conditioning is standard in the LS, and the LT features power windows and locks, a keyless remote, and a CD/MP3 player.
369 0507 Extz Review 2005 Chevy Aveo+2006 Chevrolet Aveo+Wheel View
The good news is that the Aveo earned top marks in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration frontal impact tests. All Aveos are equipped with driver and passenger airbags, and for 2006, side-impact airbags are now standard on all body styles and trims. Stopping power is provided by vented disc brakes at the front and drums at the rear. ABS is optional. Given the price-sensitivity of this market, there may be a temptation to save money by omitting ABS, but it is a valuable safety feature on all vehicles. Remember, the laws of Newtonian physics still apply, and when driving around in a car that weighs one-third as much as the monstrous Ford Excursion, you need all the accident-avoidance help you can get.
All Aveos are powered by 1.6-liter inline-fours with an aluminum head. This double overhead-cam engine--the Opel-developed derivative of the domestic Ecotec--generates 103 horsepower, but only when it's wound up like rubber band in a model airplane to 6,000 rpm. A variable-geometry intake system allows 107 lb-ft of torque to be developed at a more useful 3,600 rpm. This blesses the Aveo with marginally better performance than most of its $10K rivals, though acceleration is still no better than adequate. Manual transmissions are usually the best option to take full advantage of anemic engines, but the Aveo is fitted with a peculiarly coarse five-speed unit featuring long throws, rubbery feel, and oddly spaced gearing. The optional four-speed automatic is as slushy as hour-old sherbet and is slow to kick down when a downshift is necessary, but at least it's less work than the manual.
369 0507 Dashz Review 2005 Chevy Aveo+2006 Chevrolet Aveo+Front Dashboard View
The Aveo provides basic transportation. Period. It's designed to get from Point A to Point B as cheaply as possible, and fun isn't part of the equation. That said, Chevrolet at least went to the trouble to retune the simple suspension for 2006--MacPherson struts at the front and torsion bars at the rear--for a supple ride that glides over expansion joints and road imperfections. The quite-limited handling from last year has been improved for '06, though it doesn't possess the dynamic acumen of the $13K-$15K compacts--and that's only fair given the car's price. For everyday driving, the Aveo is satisfyingly quiet, thanks to an intake resonator, dual-muffler exhaust, and other sound deadening material. There's a touch of torque-steer, but it's hardly a deal-breaker.
The Aveo offers slightly more than it has to--more style, more comfort, even a better warranty, namely five-year/60,000-mile powertrain coverage to go along with a conventional three-year/36,000-miles bumper-to-bumper warranty and roadside assistance. The manual-shift cars earn 27/35 city/highway mpg, and automatics give up only one mpg in exchange for their convenience. There's nothing to suggest that the Aveo will be anything but thrifty and reliable. But if history is a guide, depreciation will take its toll on overall Cost of Ownership. This makes for a challenging purchase decision, as consumers must weight the importance of savings today versus a smarter long-term investment in a pricier model.
An appliance with character, the Aveo provides affordable transportation in a smartly designed package.
What's Hot
  • Stylish exterior design
  • Roomy and comfy cockpit
  • Better than it has to be
  • What's Not
  • Engine huffs and puffs
  • Transmission precision
  • Relative Cost of Ownership
  • In its third year, the Aveo line sees numerous detail upgrades that help make buying an entry-level vehicle more palatable. The visible changes include interior fabric upgrades, coat hooks, and new wheels. The most significant changes are the unseen modifications to the suspension to improve its response and the side airbags, which everyone hopes never to see deployed.
    369 0507 Optz Review 2005 Chevy Aveo+2006 Chevrolet Aveo+Sunroof View
    In its third year, the Aveo line sees numerous detail upgrades that help make buying an entry-level vehicle more palatable. The visible changes include interior fabric upgrades, coat hooks, and new wheels. The most significant changes are the unseen modifications to the suspension to improve its response and the side airbags, which everyone hopes never to see deployed.

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    2005 Chevrolet Aveo

    Special Value FWD 5-Dr Hatchback I4
    starting at (MSRP)
    $9,455
    Engine
    1.6L I4
    Fuel Economy
    NA City NA Hwy
    2005 Chevrolet Aveo