Chevrolet Aveo5 Review
General Motors is at it again. After failing to flog captive imports from Opel, Isuzu and Suzuki, The General’s drafted in Daewoo to give Chevy’s “American Revolution” something to sell. Considering GM’s lack of success with captive imports in the past, and Daewoo’s Titanic troubles in the US market, you have to wonder about RenCen’s reasoning vis-à-vis the rebadged machine known on this side of the Pacific as the Chevrolet Aveo. Has GM made yet another logistical mistake, or will they have the last laugh as vendors of the only domestic nameplate selling a high-mileage subcompact car in the US?
As part of the overseas adoption process, Chevy subjected the Aveo to a bit of automotive bow-tox, grafting the family Chevy logo across the Korean’s grill-less grill opening. From there backwards, it’s pure Daewoo. Although the four-door’s been restyled for ’07, the five-door hatchback soldiers on with slab sides, broken by character lines lifted from a 30-year old Datsun B-210. Depending on your age and gender, the overall reaction varies from “like, totally cute!” to “WTF is that thing?”
The interior is lousy with cheap. The instruments and warning lights occupy two humps on a dashboard that fell off a minivan assembly line. The center AC vents perch on the leading edge of the dashboard like an overnight tree fungus. Hollow-sounding doors, fake carbon fiber trim, carpeting with pile shorter than the hair on a Chihuahua’s ears and a headliner made of the same felt found on $100 pool tables complete the ambiance. No matter which of the senses you engage, you know you’re in the bargain basement’s basement.
With the seat up, Aveo’s stubby tail provides enough cargo space for a couple of adolescent contortionists. Fold the seat down and you can add a family of midgets. More worryingly, the top of the rear seat is only about 15 inches from the rear hatch. To put it into perspective, roughly 24 inches separate your rear seat passengers’ heads from the H2’s brush bar at your rear bumper. The sturdily upholstered front seats are wide enough to accommodate your gluteus even if it’s a bit more than maximus. Unfortunately they also provide the lateral support of a barstool. Factor in the short bottom cushions and lack of lumbar support, and you have the automotive equivalent of Chuck E. Cheese–- you’ll go there if you have to, but you’re not going to stay any longer than necessary.
The driving dynamics aren’t. Throttle response is eventual, acceleration is leisurely and steering feel is implied. Applying the brakes is like stepping on a day old jelly-filled Krispy Kreme. The 103hp “little engine that couldn’t” runs out of steam in a hurry, especially when pulling long hills, at which point all it’s good for is converting petrochemicals (with or without ethanol) into noise. Compounding the problem is a four-speed automatic transmission that hunts for gears like a madwoman looking for the bargains at a shoe sale.
The underpowered drivetrain provides a single benefit: knowing you’ll never overpower the suspension. The Aveo will safely negotiate gentle corners at moderate speeds, but its puny tires and lack of acceleration mean the fun ends before you start the engine. Between the squealing 14-inch rubber and Poseidon Adventure body roll, you’ll lose your nerve long before the car loses control.
The only shiny spot in the Aveo’s bland existence is also its raison d'être: fuel economy. Let’s face it: even without the “sudden” demand for fuel efficient cars, GM needed an mpg superstar to offset the CAFE problems caused by its full line of efficiency-challenged SUV’s and pickups. And so the Korean penalty box travels 27 miles for every gallon of petrochemical rotgut its more “careful” owners are likely to buy. On the highway, they’ll score 37 EPA miles per gallon. Owners can bask in the knowledge that they’re enduring GM’s highest mileage US product, ignoring the fact that every Aveo sold helps GM crank-out even more gas-sucking trucks.
Unfortunately the General’s best ain’t good enough. The rental-friendly Aveo faces off against some highly evolved competition including the Fit and Yaris, both of which break the 40mpg barrier on the highway. In reality, I can’t find a good reason to choose the Aveo over either of those or even over a Kia Rio. Honda and Toyota offer reliability of mythic proportions, while Kia provides a warranty even better than Chevy’s “best in America” five year/100,000 mile powertrain coverage.
When Chrysler enters the fray with a rebadged Chery and Ford finally realizes they actually need a marketable small car to survive, the competition will heat up even more. GM needs to move quickly to improve the Aveo and bring it up to world-class standards. Otherwise they’ll have to send yet another captive import back home in shame.
More by Frank Williams
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