2009 Chevy Aveo5

The American Asian

Of the half-dozen subcompacts on the market, Chevrolet's Aveo is the only domestic out there - if you're looking at the brand name. Look a little closer at the window sticker and you'll realize that there aren't actually any American subcompacts. The Aveo is just as Asian as the Honda Fit, Hyundai Accent, Toyota Yaris, and Suzuki SX4, with manufacturing taking place in Bupyong, South Korea.

The Aveo5 doesn't just come from a Korean plant, it's actually a rebadged car from GM's Korean brand, Daewoo. The major Korean automakers, Hyundai and Kia, have made major strides in both reliability and perceived quality in recent years. The same can't be said for Daewoo, and while both the exterior and interior may belie that the Aveo5 is truly a Daewoo, GM still hasn't figured out how to mask that truth in the driving experience.

A nose job worth the money

The Aveo is offered in both a sedan body style and a five-door hatchback style known as the Aveo5. For the 2009 model year, the Aveo5 arrives with a significant facelift. A gaping grille and aggressive headlights now fill the place formerly occupied by dweeby two-piece headlamps and a narrow slot. Chevrolet says the horizontally divided grille is part of its new global family look that was inspired by the new Malibu and also appears on the new Traverse crossover. There's also new tail lamps and an optional new rear spoiler that add to the sporty appeal. Chrome fender vents have sprouted at the front of the Aveo5's flanks. With its first appearance on a subcompact, we hope this overused styling-touch-du-jour can finally die. Please?

Overall, the style changes are much appreciated. The 2009 car looks much more like a confident, American ride, in contrast to the previous model, whose awkward appearance surely must have been dictated by cost rather than aesthetics.

A nice view from behind the wheel

While base Aveo5s come pretty bare, you can quickly option it into a well-equipped ride while keeping the price reasonable. Opting for the top-of-the-line 2LT model brings power windows, locks, and mirrors, keyless entry, cruise control and heated outside mirrors. An auxiliary input is standard on all Aveos and steering wheel audio controls and XM satellite radio come as options or standard on higher trims. There's also an available sunroof.

We were impressed by the materials, finish, and style inside the Aveo5. That doesn't mean that our Aveo5 was devoid of a few harsh plastics, but for this price point, the Aveo is almost a class leader, falling just short of the Honda Fit.

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