First DriveThe luke-warm Chevrolet Sonic RS is a nod towards a hot hatch for the American market. It may get a European launch, but is unlikely to bother the class-best
First DriveThe Chevrolet Aveo marks a big step forward for the brand, although this petrol version isn't as appealing as the diesel equivalent
What is it?
Probably the best and most desirable version of the all-new Chevrolet Aveo, which goes on sale in the UK this month. Economy-minded superminis may not be the most obvious products of desire, of course. But the Aveo 1.3 VCDi Eco isn’t your typical economy hatchback.
While so many low-emissions models have that telling hint of try-hard austerity about them, this Aveo really doesn’t. On paper, it actually offers more power and better accelerative performance than any of Chevrolet’s other Aveo variants, as well as the lowest emissions and best fuel economy in the range. As mid-spec LT trimmed model, it’s quite well equipped. And it’s just over £1000 cheaper than a less powerful Skoda Fabia Greenline, and £2.5k cheaper than an equivalent Ford Fiesta Econetic.
What’s it like?
Spacious, comfortable, economical and, from a ride and handling perspective, unexpectedly well rounded. All of which you’ll already know if you’ve read any of our previous reviews of the new Aveo. It’ll come as more of a surprise, though, if you’re used to the mediocre standards of the last Aveo, nee Daewoo Kalos.
The key to the Aveo’s rapid advancement is General Motors’ new global ‘Gamma II’ platform, which has been developed by GM Korea, by a team lead by European engineers, and that will serve underneath the next Vauxhall Corsa as well as this car. It’s conventional enough: a steel monocoque with a transverse engine, with MacPherson strut suspension up front and a torsion beam at the rear. But it’s also new enough – and clearly good enough – to give this budget hatch capacities and talents significantly beyond those of its forebear.
Fine packaging gives the Aveo a generous cabin, with the kind of headroom to accommodate even tall adults. The car’s driving position is excellent, with rare and plentiful downwards adjustment on the seat, and lots of reach and rake adjustment on the steering wheel.
The dashboard design, like the exterior, may be a little ‘funky’ for moderate tastes. The stylized motorbike-inspired instrument binnacle, with its digital speedometer and faux drilled casing, is compact and pleasingly simple, if a bit contrived. However, there’s an abundance of oddment storage, and while the material quality of the car’s hard fascia plastics is predictably run-of-the-mill, their fit-and-finish is quite good.
In mixed everyday driving on UK roads, this Aveo performs strongly and conducts itself with assured dynamic competence. The reason it’s faster, at least on paper, than the non-‘Eco’ 94bhp diesel are its gear ratios. A longer final drive than standard, and longer first and second gears than the six-speed version, allows this Aveo to crack 60mph in 2nd gear. The truth is, in gear acceleration in the six-speed car would be much better, aided by an additional 15lb ft of torque over this model. But the five-speed Aveo Eco feels more than brisk and flexible enough on most roads and situations.
And this is a genuinely economical car to boot. Not quite frugal enough to match the 78mpg of Chevrolet’s claim, but – in the case our still-tight, 1500-mile test car – frugal enough for better than 60 to the gallon on a mixed touring route.
Finely honed ride and handling forms the bedrock of the sense of maturity that the Aveo engenders. Taut damping accompanies authoritative shock absorption and a quiet, supple primary ride. There’s a modest quantity of body roll, but not enough to corrupt the car’s accurate and consistent steering. And while engine refinement and wind- and road noise suppression are no better than average, they’re good enough to make the Aveo a relaxing, capable and thoroughly complete affordable small car.
Should I buy one?
That will depend on your feelings about the car’s slightly weird styling, which does make it look like a cross between a low-budget science fiction extra and a cruise-regular’s homemade aftermarket special. This tester would certainly prefer the car without its ‘Alien-vs-Predator’ head- and taillights and its pugnacious grille. But it’s not a deal-breaker.
Budget, super-frugal hatchbacks are seldom as uncompromised, or as pleasing to use everyday, as the Aveo Eco. While the Kia Rio and Skoda Fabia are equally multi-talented, each in slightly different ways, the Aveo is now anything but an also-ran.
Chevrolet Aveo 1.3 VCDi Eco LT
Price: £12,795; Top speed: 108mph; 0-62mph: 11.7sec; Economy: 78.4mpg; Co2: 95g/km; Kerbweight: 1165kg; Engine type, cc: 4 cyls, 1248cc, turbodiesel; Power: 94bhp at 4000rpm; Torque: 140lb ft at 1750-2500rpm; Gearbox: 5-spd manual