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2009 Chevrolet Aveo5 5-door Hatchback

This Aveo is an interesting vehicle. Unfortunately, the XFE Cobalt starts at $16,330 (plus destination) and returns better fuel economy on the highway (25 city/37 highway and a combined 30 mpg) and gives you a little more power. Since I drive mostly highway miles, I'd much rather fork over the extra cash and get a Cobalt.

Inside, the Aveo is a strange mix of cheap appointments and wood trim. The driver's side of the car doesn't have a grab handle, but there is a sunglasses holster where you'd expect one. I wonder how many of these will get ripped off by accident. Luckily the radio looks and sounds good and offers an auxiliary input. I'd love to know why there is wood trim in this thing; it's not like you're going to trick anyone into thinking this is a luxury ride.

If you just want a small car, the Aveo fits the bill. If you're looking to save on gas, there are several Chevrolet vehicles that offer better highway mpg numbers than the Aveo and give you more room.

Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor

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

I drove an Aveo a few months ago, and my opinion certainly has not changed: it's completely outclassed in the subcompact segment. Sure, our particular example was pretty cheery, what with its bright, teal-blue paint and its decently turned-out interior, but to drive this thing is to feel the full brunt of the economy-car experience. Body control, steering feel, brake pedal feel - all of that "feel" stuff is of another era, and that era would be during the Clinton administration. The Aveo is refined enough, but the tactile feedback will be a big disappointment to anyone who has ever driven a Honda, a Toyota, or a Mazda. There are better small cars out there than this, for sure.

Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor

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

2009 Chevrolet Aveo5 5-door Hatchback

Base Price (with destination): $14,255Price as tested: $14,930

Options: -Power and Convenience Package - $425-Cruise Control - $250

Fuel Economy: 27/34/30 mpg (city/hwy/combined)

Engine: Size: 1.6L DOHC I-4HP: 106 HP @ 6400 rpmTorque: 106 lb-ft @ 3800 rpm

Transmission: 5-Speed manual

Weight: 2546 lbs

Wheels: 14-inch x 5.5-inchTires: P185/60R14 all-season touring