The Chevrolet Aveo is an affordable and fuel-efficient subcompact car for scampering around town and getting to and from the office. Its appeal extends to first-time buyers and anyone who has to keep an eye on the monthly car payment. With its combined city/highway rating of 30 mpg the Aveo is near the top of the EPA’s rating for subcompact cars.
Aveo arrived in the U.S. in 2004, a result of the 2002 General Motors’ takeover of the bankrupt South Korean car company, Daewoo. Since then it has undergone makeovers to better compete in the fiercely competitive subcompact segment. Kelly Blue Book says that despite its weaknesses, the Aveo does cover all the bases. “It’s comfortable, reasonably scooty, fuel-efficient and easy to drive. It simply doesn’t cover them nearly as well as its rivals.”
If you’re thinking about buying a Chevy Aveo, you might also consider a Ford Focus or Kia Rio. Compare these vehicles.
In 2010, the Aveo’s engine received a modest horsepower increase and the hatchback version was redesigned. There are no changes for the 2011 model year.
The Aveo has two body styles, a four-door sedan and a four-door hatchback named Aveo5. Each is available in three trim offerings: a bare bones LS, the 1LT and 2LT. The hatchback is constructed on the same 97.6-inch wheelbase (the distance between the front and rear axles) but its 154.3-inch length is more than 15 inches shorter than the sedan. Yet, each has the same 91 cubic feet of passenger volume.
For fuel economy, the Aveo has an EPA rating of 27 city/35 highway with a manual transmission. With an automatic, it rates at 25 city/34 highway. The combined 30 mpg equals that of the top-selling subcompact Nissan Versa.
Exterior And Interior
While the Aveo sedan has a fresh, clean design, it’s not particularly distinctive. The V-shaped hood and the grille’s horizontal bar confirms its Chevrolet heritage and, indeed, from a distance it could be mistaken for the larger Chevy Cobalt. Three-dimensional headlights and bold, round taillights do give the car some flair.
The Aveo5’s front end looks nothing like the sedan. An Audi-like drop-jaw grille and oversize flared headlamps set it apart from its companion, while a couple of character lines along the flanks and an available hatch-top spoiler provide a sporty look.
Inside, the Aveo doesn’t reflect its bargain-basement price. Standard-for-the-class hard plastic materials are nicely textured, erasing the shiny, cheap-looking surfaces that persist in some competitors. The dash layout is simple and the uplevel LT adds a bit of flair with brushed chrome swoops that give the impression of a dual cockpit. Audio and climate controls lay easy to hand and the instrument cluster would feel at home in a sports car. With an eye on youthful car shoppers, even the base LS can connect to iPods and other music players.
Despite its small exterior dimensions, the Aveo’s cabin is surprisingly roomy, though not great by absolute standards. The driver and front passenger will find plenty of headroom, but come up short on leg space. In back, theater-style seating enhances the view, however, legs again will want more room. And, like all subcompact sedans and hatchbacks, the Aveo is classified as a five-passenger vehicle but the reality is four adults and one small child.
The sedan’s trunk holds 12.4 cubic feet of cargo, dimensions that are comparable to most cars in its class; the notable exception is the Nissan Versa with a trunk capacity of nearly 14 cubic feet. The hatchback has a miserly 7.1 cubic feet behind the rear seats, enough space for just a single row of grocery bags. Flip-and-fold the 60/40-split rear seats and room expands to a respectable 42 cubic feet, but that’s less than several competitors.
On The Road
Both the Aveo sedan and Aveo5 hatchback are propelled by GM’s Ecotec 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing. A five-speed manual transmission is standard; a four-speed automatic is optional but not the base LS model. In these days of unrestrained horsepower wars, the engine’s 108 horsepower output doesn’t sound like much, but at 2,500 pounds-and-change, the Aveo doesn’t need a lot of motivation. Acceleration response is immediate, keeping the little car from feeling underpowered around town. Head for the freeway and the briskness becomes dampened at around 50 mph. Equipped with the five-speed manual transmission our tester did have enough oomph to attain freeway speeds without a lot of drama, the fuel-efficiency numbers easing the pain of the stroll to 65 mph.
The steering is well-weighted, avoiding the too-light feel that plagues so many entry-level cars, and has great on-center feel, reducing the effort drivers expend keeping the Aveo in its lane. A slight lean is evident when corners are taken at speed but the overall driving experience is pleasant. As expected from this class of vehicle, extraneous sounds enter the cabin, but a variety of sound-damping measures hold road and wind noise to acceptable levels.
During our week with the Aveo, fuel economy exceeded the government’s estimate. Driving in our normal fashion—no trying to squeeze the most miles out of a gallon of gas—we clocked 227 miles of mixed city and highway trips with a return of 33.1 miles per gallon.
The 2011 Chevy Aveo is an opportunity to begin enjoying that new-car smell on the cheap. The base LS sedan starts at $11,965, the hatchback LS at $12,115. While not quite a bare bones model—remote keyless entry, power locks, tilt steering column and an AM/FM stereo radio are standard—air conditioning, power windows, power outside mirrors and cruise control are not even available.
Ironically, a number of years ago GM pioneered low-cost and standard anti-lock brake systems, but it is not available in the entry LS and is a $400 option on the other trim levels. Top competitors include ABS as standard on every model, and Toyota equips its Yaris subcompact with the added safety margin of an electronic stability and traction control system, a safety feature not available on any Aveo model. Additionally, front-and side impact airbags are standard; side curtain airbags are not available, unlike most competitors.
A value added feature of the Aveo is the warranty. It doesn’t quite match the Kia Rio or Hyundai Accent coverage, however, it trounces the Honda Fit, Nissan Versa and Toyota Yaris. Coverage includes 3-years/36,000-miles bumper-to-bumper and 5-years/100,000-miles powertrain. In addition, Aveo buyers receive 24-hour roadside assistance at no extra charge for 5-years/100,000 miles.
The Aveo was the third best-selling subcompact car in 2010, trailing only the Nissan Versa and Honda Fit. Obviously, Aveo’s comfortable ride, easy to drive manners, decent performance and fuel-efficiency have won over a significant number of buyers.
Prices are Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) at time of publication and do not include destination charges, taxes or licensing.