Chevrolet redesigned the Cavalier several years ago, making it bigger and fancier so it could better compete with the Honda Civic. As a result, it needed a new entry-level model. That is the Aveo, which is built by the Korean automaker Daewoo.
For the 2007 model year, the Chevrolet Aveo sedan has been updated, although it still relies on the basic mechanical underpinnings, or architecture, from the 2006 model year. That reworking was a good idea since the Aveo has to face new and serious competition such as the Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris and Hyundai Accent.
What is attractive about the front-wheel-drive Aveo is the price and, for an economy car, a surprisingly handsome interior, in the case of the fancier LT model we tested. It also has a nice amount of standard equipment.
The Aveo's role in motoring life is sensible, day-to-day transportation including a ride that is aimed at comfort and not sporty driving. That is where the Aveo differs from the frisky Honda Fit, for example.
The 1.6 liter four-cylinder is rated at 103 horsepower, which is adequate. Transmission choices are either a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimate is 26/34 miles per gallon City/Highway with the automatic. Pick the manual and the EPA estimate is 27/37 mpg. For consumers whose goal is maximum mileage the Aveo's fuel economy is not as good as that of the Fit and Yaris.
One concern with the Aveo, as with all small cars, is a collision with a larger vehicle. In frontal and side-impact crash tests conducted by the federal government the Aveo did well. However, in more severe tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Aveo got only an "acceptable" rating for frontal-crash protection and "marginal" for side-impact protection. The institute uses a system of good, acceptable, marginal or poor. The frontal ratings should only be compared among other small cars of similar size and weight. It doesn't mean the Aveo's performance will be "good" in a collision with a larger vehicle. The side-impact ratings can be compared among vehicles of all sizes.
What the Aveo has going for it is price, a relatively handsome interior and a ride that is comfortable for a small car. One question mark, however, is long-term reliability, an area where slightly more expensive competitors such as Honda and Toyota are known quantities.
There are two versions of the Chevrolet Aveo sedan.
The Aveo LS is the base model and includes air conditioning; variable-speed wipers; 14-inch wheels; AM/FM stereo; height-adjustable driver's seat; rear-window defogger and 60/40 split fold-down rear seat.
The Aveo LT adds power windows and door locks; remote/keyless entry; AM/FM/compact disc player; power/heated outside mirrors; cruise control; 15-inch aluminum wheels and a 60/40 folding rear seat.
Options: anti-lock brakes ($400); four-speed automatic transmission ($850); sunroof ($725); cruise control and remote/keyless entry ($425); power windows ($295); AM/FM/compact disc ($325): fog lights ($110) and rear spoiler ($225).
Safety features include seat-mounted air bags for front seats and seat-belt pretensioners for the front seats. The latter take slack out of the belt in a crash.
The 2007 Chevy Aveo gets a new appearance and a more aerodynamic shape, one of the benefits of which is to reduce wind noise at highway speeds. Like many cars it has a look that tries to find wide acceptability by not offending anybody by being either too boring or too radical. The result is a lack of personality.
The Aveo is about the same length as the Toyota Yaris but it is almost a foot shorter than the Honda Fit.
The big surprise with the interior of the Chevrolet Aveo LT was the handsomeness of the Charcoal Deluxe seat fabric which shames the manufacturers of some more expensive vehicles. That combines with a tidy and sensible layout to minimize its economy-car status. It doesn't scream "cheap" so much as "econo-sensible."
The Aveo's basic controls, such as climate and stereo, are simple and easy to use.
The driver's seat is height adjustable, a nice feature for driver's short and tall. One problem with the front seats is that the bottom seat cushion is a bit shorter for those with long legs, cutting some occupants a little short on thigh support.
More rear legroom is an advantage the Aveo has over the Honda Fit and the Toyota Yaris, according to the automakers' specifications. With some consideration from the people in the front it is possible to carry four tall adults (six-footers) for a short distance without anybody being traumatized.
The Aveo's trunk is rated at 12.4 cubic feet. That's competitive in a segment like this and the back seat folds down if the priority becomes carrying stuff instead of people.
General Motors reworked the suspension on the Aveo, although the basic mechanical underpinnings are still based on the 2006 model. The automaker says the goal was a more refined ride and more precise handling, two things which the old model needed.
Spend some time in the Aveo sedan and it becomes clear that GM has created a comfortable small car with so-so handling.
The Chevrolet Aveo is front-wheel drive, and like many front-wheel-drive cars it feels nose heavy, which means a slight pause when the driver turns the wheel and asks it to make a big change in direction. The hesitancy isn't unusual nor is it threatening. It just means that the Aveo is not the kind of quick-to-react playmate one finds in the Honda Fit (which is also front-wheel drive).
Try and go a bit faster through a moderately tight turn and the Aveo's body leans quite a bit. That's part of the price its occupants pay for a more comfortable ride, particularly on a broken surface. It is also the Aveo's way of reminding the driver that it really wasn't designed as a sports sedan.
The noise and vibration from the 1.6 liter engine is nicely controlled, for a four-cylinder engine. The exception is when the driver slams the accelerator pedal to the floor and holds it there. Then things get a bit noisy at the higher engine speeds.
The Aveo's 103 horsepower is a few less than what's served up by the Yaris or Fit, each of which also weigh slightly less than the Aveo, increasing their advantage.
But the four-speed automatic on the Aveo we tested was fairly quick to respond and the acceleration was adequate. The Aveo would be a bad choice for a tight pass on a two-lane road, but with a little thought and planning there should never be a major problem merging onto a busy interstate with two adults on board.
The Chevrolet Aveo sedan offers attractive pricing and a pleasant interior. There is nothing about it that makes it stand out, including fuel economy which is significantly below its major competitors. Plus, questions about the long-term reliability of the Daewoo-built Aveo make better-known brands such as Honda and Toyota far safer bets although they cost more.
Christopher Jensen filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com from New England.