2009 Chevrolet Aveo5 5-door Hatchback

If nothing else, the Aveo stands as a testament to how much the sub-compact segment has advanced. When it came out, the Aveo received strong reviews and became an instant hit in Chevrolet's lineup. Fast-forward four years, and it simply can't compete with the competition's refinement and sophistication.

Decked out in, yes, "Tahiti Green" paint and well equipped with power windows, air conditioning and cruise control, our Aveo5 test car makes a decent first impression. Inside, one is confronted with the expected swath of dull, hard plastics, but the overall design and fit is acceptable. It also has GM's fairly nice stereo head unit with an auxiliary jack.

As you drive it though, the Aveo quickly betrays its bottom-dweller status. The manual shifter is numb and rubbery, which wouldn't be all that terrible if you didn't have to downshift constantly just to keep up with traffic. I don't expect exhilarating performance from a subcompact, but the Aveo's 106 hp four-cylinder straddles the line of adequacy for normal driving. Lane changes require careful planning; right turns are best left for green lights. The mere thought of having to merge onto a highway was enough for me to make sure I'd passed the Aveo on to another unsuspecting staffer before making a trip to Chicago. On a positive note, ride control is fairly good. At one point I had a used record player strapped into the back seat, and none of its delicate parts were damaged, even after riding over potholes and railroad tracks.

The Aveo5 only makes sense as stripped down, no-nonsense transportation. Whereas there's a certain quirky logic to paying $18,000 for a loaded Fit, it's almost impossible to see why someone would pay more than $14,000 for an Aveo.

David Zenlea, Assistant Editor

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