2009 Chevrolet Aveo5 5-door Hatchback

Four years ago, the cheap, efficient Aveo found a receptive audience in a market largely devoid of subcompacts. But I've got to question its future - more and more automakers are launching their own small cars, and in order to win the hearts of buyers downsizing in the name of fuel economy, they're becoming increasingly sophisticated.

The Aveo, for whatever reason, seems to buck that trend. Though the car was refreshed for 2008, the majority is carryover from the last model. Perhaps that's most notable on the Aveo5 hatchback, where the only external changes lie with an ungainly front fascia and a pair of new taillight lenses. On the interior, our LT test car sported a two-tone cabin complete with faux-wood accents, but the dash is the same-ol' Daewoo instrument panel first seen (overseas) in 2002.

It's a similar story underhood - although the engine now wears an Ecotec badge, the Aveo5 uses the same Daewoo 1.6-liter I-4. It's good for 106 hp at 6800 rpm, but the engine is slow to rev, making it hard to make good use of the torque curve. The manual transaxle is a mixed blessing - it allows you to more easily stay in that rev band, but the shift action is rather sloppy, and the optional ABS can't be had with the manual.

The car does manage to ride fairly well (though its soft suspension induces some lean in corners) and has a fair amount of space, but as Phil said, a Cobalt XFE offers more refinement and sophistication without a huge sacrifice in fuel economy or fiscal budgeting. I'd go for the Cobalt, lest you crave a subcompact or the flexibility of a five-door hatch - and in that case, I'd eyeball a Versa or Fit before settling on this one.

Evan McCausland, Web Producer

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