Korean-developed supermini has the potential to impress - if Chevy gets the pricing right

What is it?

This is the new Chevrolet Aveo hatchback, the first in a series of cars based on GM’s small car architecture, as revealed at this autumn’s Paris motor show and due to go on sale in the UK next summer.

The platform has been developed in Korea, using a large number of European engineers, and will go on to spawn an MPV, an SUV and the next Vauxhall Corsa. But for now we’ve driven the Aveo 1.3 turbodiesel hatchback, which will probably make up the bulk of UK sales.

What’s it like?

The Aveo’s barrel-style ‘lens-less’ headlamps, familiar-looking twin grille and sculpted bonnet lead into sleek, wide-tracked, narrow-bodied car, whose roofline stays surprisingly high as it runs up to the rear window.

The packaging is excellent for the size, providing not just a big leap up from the previous model but serious competition for rivals such as the Hyundai i20 and Skoda Fabia. The rear seats will comfortably accommodate six-foot adults and, because of the unusally shaped rear doors, the access is extremely easy.

The tall, 270-litre boot is not big, but should hold a reasonable amount of real-world luggage, thanks to its sensible proportions.

Behind the wheel, the (left-hand) driving position is also impressive, with a wide range of adjustment in the seat and well placed pedals. Much of the minor switchgear is familiar from the Vauxhall Insignia, although the elegant look of the centre console is spoiled by two small vertical storage bins to either side of the central vents and what Chevrolet describes as a motorcycle-style instrument binnacle, which looks completely out of place.

Forward visibility is good, but we were unable to confirm whether the large C-pillar disrupted the view to the rear due to the full camouflage our car was wearing to protect Korean sensibilities.

There’s no clatter from the 1.3-litre, Polish-built turbodiesel, and it only becomes vocal at high revs. It has a low-end flexibility that the new 1.2-litre petrol unit sorely lacks, and lends itself to relaxed driving with minimal gear changes at motorway speeds.

The 95bhp diesel unit will be available in the UK six months after the Aveo’s launch, and comes with stop-start and a six-speed manual box as standard. Unusually for a stop-start diesel, there was no juddering as it spun up when you depressed the clutch.

Driving a pre-production car on foreign roads is never going to replicate a British driver’s experience, but South Korea’s winding ‘B-roads’ showed that the engineers have succeeded in injecting a degree of European tautness into the car’s dynamics without damaging its compliant ride.

Should I buy one?

At the moment you can’t buy one, as we’ve managed to get behind the wheel of a very early car, but initial signs are promising. Chevrolet won’t reveal pricing yet, but has confirmed it intends to compete head to head with the i20 in the UK, and on price against the Ford Fiesta. If that is the case at launch then the turbodiesel could prove a worthy adversary.

Chevrolet Aveo

Price: TBA: On sale: July 2011: Top speed: 105mph: 0-62mph: 11.4sec: Economy: 69mpg (combined, est): CO2: 109g/km (est), 99g/km with stop-start (est): Kerb weight: 1035kg (est): Engine: 4 cyls, 1248cc turbodiesel: Power: 89bhp at 4000rpm: Torque: 154lb ft at 1750rpm: Gearbox: 5-spd manual.

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Matt Saunders

Matt Saunders Autocar
Title: Road test editor

As Autocar’s chief car tester and reviewer, it’s Matt’s job to ensure the quality, objectivity, relevance and rigour of the entirety of Autocar’s reviews output, as well contributing a great many detailed road tests, group tests and drive reviews himself.

Matt has been an Autocar staffer since the autumn of 2003, and has been lucky enough to work alongside some of the magazine’s best-known writers and contributors over that time. He served as staff writer, features editor, assistant editor and digital editor, before joining the road test desk in 2011.

Since then he’s driven, measured, lap-timed, figured, and reported on cars as varied as the Bugatti Veyron, Rolls-Royce PhantomTesla RoadsterAriel Hipercar, Tata Nano, McLaren SennaRenault Twizy and Toyota Mirai. Among his wider personal highlights of the job have been covering Sebastien Loeb’s record-breaking run at Pikes Peak in 2013; doing 190mph on derestricted German autobahn in a Brabus Rocket; and driving McLaren’s legendary ‘XP5’ F1 prototype. His own car is a trusty Mazda CX-5.

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ItaloKnight 12 November 2010

Re: Chevrolet Aveo 2011

thebaldgit wrote:

It is hard to keep up with what GM wants to do with the Chevrolet brand. You have got the rebadged Korean cars, the possibility of the Corvette coming back under the Chevrolet badge. As the Hollies nearly said 'It ain't Chevvy it's another'

From what I've read, the Corvette is supposed to make it back to the UK under the Chevrolet badge; it is not supposed to be a separate "brand" any longer. Eventually the Camaro is also supposed to be sold in the UK as a "stepping stone" from the rest of the range to the Corvette.

However, as for the rest of it, I'm still waiting for this perception of Chevrolet being a "Korean car rebadge" to finally die. While I think you are being generally inquisitive with your statement, I think far too many people have dismissed them as a viable purchase since many of their cars are sourced from a factory in South Korea.

Yes, the initial range was derived from Daewoo cars, even if most of the products were improved (Lacetti), redesigned (Evanda to Epica), or all-new (Captiva).

But now, this latest crop of products all sit on GM platforms and were originally intended to be global products with input from all major divisions of GM. In fact, you'll find a large number of Europeans or Americans working on a project in South Korea and an equal number of Australians and Brazilians working on a related project in Shanghai. The fact that they are built in South Korea rather than the US (or any other country) has more to do with logistics, labor prices, and their intended market (they are supposed to compete with Kia and Hyundai in price, not necessarily Ford or Vauxhall) than anything else.

Consider that the Cruze is built in Lordstown, Ohio as well as South Korea, but they are nearly identical. The same will hold true for the Aveo (if it keeps that name in the US market) and the Spark (they are supposed to be built eventually in South America and in Michigan).

So what difference does it make at this point that they are built in Korea for import into Europe?

Is the X5 any less of a BMW since its produced only in Spartanburg, South Carolina?

Is the Jetta sedan any less of a VW since its made only in Puebla, Mexico?

Is the M-Class any less of a Mercedes SUV if it's made solely in Tuscaloosa, Alabama?

I know these aren't all the exact same to the situation with Chevrolet, but you have to ask: Does it make a difference as long as the product is solid, it is priced competitively, and consumers are happy with it?

Yes, they could source the Cruze from Lordstown, the Spark from Michigan, and the Aveo from Mexico and they'd probably look and perform the exact the same. But they'd also be more expensive, be harder to make a profit off of, and arguably compete directly with Opel/Vauxhall in price -- which undercuts the entire reason to have the Chevrolet brand in Europe to begin with, no?

I think that moving forward, many brands will take on more of an "international" feel to them, even if their home domestic market happens to be Germany, Japan, or America. In many respects, Ford and VW have already achieved this kind of perception; and I think that down the line Chevrolet will arguably achieve the same thing and no longer be associated with (or dismissed as) "South Korean" cars.

Just my two cents.

FastRenaultFan 12 November 2010

Re: Chevrolet Aveo 2011

jd28 wrote:
I really think Chevrolet are doing so much more than they get credit for, maybe these new models were intended to take up the European GM flag when Opel was to have been sold, I dont know, but I do think they are going to soon end up with a really competitive range of cars, even without factoring in the Volt, I'd actually love to have a go at their marketing here in Ireland - they have almost no presence and really deserve better
+1 I agree with you there . The Cruze is a fine car and the Aveo is looking to be good too . There new MPV is looking good too . What they need now its lots off good advertisments and good deals in Ireland and even do Scappage deals they could have done well this year iff they had a deal for that maybe it will continue next year but that depends on our goverment does,nt it hopefully they will see it makes sence to continue it or next year could be very bad maybe even worse then 09 for new car sales .

jd28 12 November 2010

Re: Chevrolet Aveo 2011

I really think Chevrolet are doing so much more than they get credit for, maybe these new models were intended to take up the European GM flag when Opel was to have been sold, I dont know, but I do think they are going to soon end up with a really competitive range of cars, even without factoring in the Volt, I'd actually love to have a go at their marketing here in Ireland - they have almost no presence and really deserve better.