Chevrolet Aveo Review

P.J. McCombs
by P.J. McCombs
chevrolet aveo review

Chevrolet’s Aveo has the makings of comic gold. It’s the cheapest car sold in America. It’s from GM, ever the stooge to straight men Honda and Toyota. And get this: despite being the first vehicle to feature in Chevy’s ubiquitous “An American Revolution” campaign, the Aveo is built in… wait for it… Bupyong, South Korea. Ba-dum ching!

From where else would the Aveo hail? Daewoo is responsible for its design, manufacture, and export (under such varied monikers as the Suzuki Swift+ and Holden Barina). Chevy’s sole Aveo contribution: the bow-tie badge. But let’s give The General some credit. While Ford and DCX have ignored the fast-growing subcompact segment, ol’ Number Two has been building Aveos since 2004. Well, sort of.

For 2007, Daew—er, Chevy has updated its punch line on wheels. That’s the good news. The bad news: this mid-cycle love applies only to the Aveo sedan; the Aveo5 hatchback stands pat until 2008. The bad news for GM: the half-revitalized Aveo line faces no fewer than five all-new rivals from Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Nissan and Toyota.

Yes, it’s survival of the Fittest in the increasingly cutthroat subcompact class, and the Chevrolet Aveo isn’t looking so good. Literally. Most of the ’07 refresh consists of styling tweaks, and none of them addresses the Aveo’s awkward-puppy proportions or tall-‘n’-tippy stance. The Chevywoo’s oversized, vaguely bovine new “face” is in keeping with current small-car fashion. The vintage-2002 “Altezza” taillights aren’t.

The Aveo’s redecorated interior is more impressive. Compared with the coal-bin cabins of previous Aveos (and the current hatch), the ’07 offers big-car digs. Perforated leatherette upholstery, chrome-ringed vents and switchgear, and not-horrendously-faux wood trim grace the range-topping ($13,450) LT. Plastics are of the low-gloss variety, done up in a soothing black-and-tan blend. The driver’s seat adjusts for height; an iPod jack adorns the radio.

While the veneer of quality is initially convincing, it’s only skin-deep. Carelessly-placed knees and elbows excite flexy crackles in the Aveo’s trim. The sun visors meet the headliner with a tinny “clang.” Moreover, the Aveo’s sit-up, legs-tucked driving position and fishbowl view out ensure that Aveo drivers feel as dorky as they look.

Which brings us to the act of driving the Aveo. Normally, I’m of the mindset that econocars deserve a break (not to say a free ride) in this department. Their raison d’etre is conservation, not titillation. But the Aveo’s gas mileage is, frankly, terrible for such a wee little beastie. On the ever-optimistic EPA scale, automatic Aveos score 26/34 mpg. That’s the same as the decidedly un-funny Mazda 3i and Honda Accord EX.

But hey, if the Aveo is the thirstiest of all subcompacts, at least it’s the slowest! No, there’s none of the threatening “zing” of a Honda or Toyota’s four banger here; just a labored groan as the Aveo’s 1.6-liter, 103-hp mill drudges its way up the tach. An oversensitive throttle does its best to mask this paucity of punch, and adds a certain kamikaze flair to stop-and-go freeway driving.

If you’re thinking that the Aveo’s standard five-speed manual transmission might help boost its pep and economy, you’d be kinda sorta correct. That version’s EPA estimates are 27/37 mpg, the same as a mildly funny Ford Focus’. Unfortunately, it’s also The Worst Manual Transmission Extant. The Aveo’s spindly shift lever moves with long, doughy, rubbery throws, hanging up easily in a wide H-pattern. Clutch feel is limp. Truck ‘boxes provide better feedback

There’s less to say about the Aveo’s handling, which is soft and secure in standard operating mode. Steering feel, however, remains a notable weakness. Daewoo responded to criticism of the original Aveo’s numb, vague, and darty helm by making the classic beancounter’s boo-boo of mistaking more effort for better feel. So, for ’07, we get steering that’s numb, vague, darty AND arthritically stiff in the turns.

Need another reason not to buy an Aveo? The mushy brake pedal may be an adept coffee slosher, but it’s less-skilled at the meaningful business of retardation.

Given the Aveo’s lowly station in life, this review may seem like a cheap shot at cheap wheels. It ain’t. This reviewer holds a firm respect for– and bizarre fascination with– basic, sensible, well-conceived, inexpensive transportation pods for John Q. Public. And subcompacts are no longer the domain of the desperate. Petrochemical paranoia is driving consumers who can afford big to think small. The threshold of acceptability is soaring.

It’s such a strong trend that Aveos sales are up despite the fact that the model doesn’t offer one competitive advantage over its rivals— not mileage, sportiness nor versatility. With better buzzboxes priced within a shifter’s throw of this Korean expatriate, there’s only one reason for anyone to buy a Chevrolet Aveo: to make other small car dealers and owners shake their heads in disbelief.

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3 of 113 comments
  • Grabbo Grabbo on Feb 26, 2016

    I drove the Aveo as a rental in the Middle East this past week. It was a nightmare to drive, rather like being in a motorized shopping cart on a freeway. The handling and everything about this car was such garbage. I was worried, " was the car that bad or was it me somehow?" "Could it have been that poor handling?" I was delighted to learn that I am not alone, that the car REALLY was as big a mess as it seemed to me. I can't understand why Chevy will not care if such a lousy vehicle is associated with their brand.

  • Jadofind Jadofind on May 31, 2017

    I have owned a 2005 Aveo LS hatchback for over a year now. There is truth embedded in the article and comments, buried in the deluge of responses that didn't add anything of value. One recurring question was "why did Chevrolet put their name on this Daewoo?" Well, for one thing, they own the company. Many other comments were directed to Daewoo's crappy engine design. I an not saying that it is a good design, but it was done originally by another GM company, Opel. I would think that a few engineers questioned the engine selection too, but the accountants probably had the last word. If the author's point was that you could get a better new car value than the Aveo, I agree. Time has proven that sentiment. The car has been redesigned and has a completely different name. Time has also thinned the herd of Aveos on American roads, so the worst of them have already been recycled. The survivors are, arguably, the best of the worst. Another recurring comment was from people that could not understand why the Aveo got such poor fuel economy, as if to suggest they did understand why the cars that deliver good fuel economy do? So, in 2016 I purchased a 2005 Aveo with 98,000 miles for $1500. Since then, I have driven it over 15,000 miles and averaged over 37 mpg, as documented on Fuelly. It is still running fine. Before looking for a deal on a used one, remember, this is a puny economy car. If you really want a performance car, don't buy an Aveo and expect to be satisfied.

    • Meat Meat on May 31, 2017

      I bought an '07 off of a friend in 2013. I've had it from 88k to 136k miles now and it's been pretty dull but cheap to run. Tires are cheap, parts are cheap, it's very serviceable, and I've avoided major repairs. That said, my a/c started acting up this week. I hate the tail lights, I hate the seating position, I hate how shitty the sound is when using the AUX input on the stereo (makes it impossible to enjoy the Smoking Tire podcast on the highway) and I must drive it too hard because I've only averaged ~31mpg lifetime in this thing according to Fuelly. That's with the pretty typical 60% highway use too. I can't wait to pay off these student loans and ditch this thing.

  • SCE to AUX Let it die with dignity - no electrification. That would kill the spirit of the original.Mazda needs to think about survival and market share, not tinker with a niche car with waning sales, or dying on Wankel Hill.Maybe their body and paint engineers could help Tesla once Mazda folds.
  • Lou_BC H-E-L-L-C-A-T
  • EBFlex "EBFlex speaks more truth."It's sometimes a burden being right all the time.
  • MRF 95 T-Bird Add a couple of more body styles. A coupe with a vestigial rear seat like the BRZ along with a shooting brake version would appeal to a number of drivers who want something sporty but not a hatchback or crossover.
  • Theflyersfan It's the mother of all "ifs" - if Mazda gets the small rotary/hybrid combo going, I can see them using that in the next MX-5. Can they keep it under 2500 lbs and somewhat affordable? Not sure...this is why I don't run a car company! But if they want to replace it around 2025, and it's 2023 now, they need to get started very soon with some rumors and leaks to keep us going. But with the rest of their lineup going greener in next generations, and Mazda selling under 10,000 MX-5s per year, how does it really impact any average emissions and fuel economy ratings? If they can keep tweaking the Skyactiv-G engine for better fuel economy and fewer emissions, they should be able to get the NE generation using gasoline before being forced to go EV or hybrid with the NF. The mission of the MX-5 is light, affordable, open air fun and it's their halo car. And while I agree that EVs are going to be a much larger part of the future, the "all things by 2035 or 2040 or so on" edicts have "kick the can down the road" written in massive font size 1,000 written all over them. We'll be on gas for a while longer - just continue to eke more mpg out of what we have.All that being said, if they were to put the turbo Skyactiv-G engine in the MX-5 for 2024 and make it a Mazdaspeed model, I'd put a deposit on it right now. I love mine, but if it gets bumped up from 181hp to 250-275hp, it would be a flat out riot to drive.