2009 Chevrolet Aveo Expert Review:Autoblog
Until the new Chevy Spark here in 2011, the entry point for getting into the General Motors product line-up remains the Chevy Aveo. The Korean-built Aveo is available in two forms, a four-door sedan and five-door hatch. The hatchback is dubbed the Aveo 5, an example of which spent some time in the AutoblogGreen Garage during the week following the Detroit Auto Show. This is the first opportunity we've had to sample the Aveo and it turned out to be something of a mixed bag.
The Aveo 5 is the smallest model in the current North American GM lineup and fits into the sub-compact B-Segment. Dimensionally the Aveo slots in between the Toyota Yaris and Honda Fit and almost matches the Scion xD. Until the Ford Fiesta arrives late this year, the Fit is generally considered the overachiever in this class. Find out how the Aveo 5 stacks up against the Fit after the jump.
Photos Copyright ©2009 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.
The 2009 Honda Fit exceeds the Aveo every dimension, most notably overall length where it stretches 7.3 inches longer bumper to bumper. All other exterior dimensions are different between the two by less than an inch. The most significant differences on the inside are shoulder room, where the Aveo has an advantage of about an inch, and rear head room, where the Fit has 1.4 inches of extra clearance.
The Aveo has been with us for several years and received a visual update for 2009, ostensibly to make it look more like other contemporary Chevrolets with its dual-port grille design. Unfortunately, GM designers have taken what appears to be the largest iteration of this grille design and grafted it onto their smallest body. The result is best described by the old cliché that it fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down.
When approached from the rear, the effect is not quite so visually jarring, although that angle falls more toward the bland side of the equation. The test car we had was equipped with several options in addition to the top 2LT trim level. $350 for 15-inch alloy wheels is definitely a worthwhile expenditure, but $375 for "leatherette" seats would be better spent elsewhere.
Many automakers are now offering synthetic seat coverings that do a remarkably accurate job of mimicking genuine animal hides, including the leatherette used by Volkswagen in the Jetta. The material in the Aveo is more akin to what you might find in a mid-1970s Pinto when the stuff was still called vinyl. It didn't help that temperatures in southeast Michigan dropped from the mid-20s to near zero on the day we received the Aveo, and these seats took quite a while to warm up. Even worse, the seats are just not comfortable. The contour of the seat backs provide little back support and the lower cushions are too short.
Things are more on par with the competition elsewhere inside. The dashboard is all hard plastic, but the textures are appealing. There are no visible rough edges, everything seams tightly fastened together and the shapes are clean and functional. The center stack contains the standard GM radio found in most other mainstream non-navigation-equipped models with the standard three knob HVAC controls below.
Redundant audio control buttons can be found on the left side of the steering wheel hub with cruise control switches on the right, while strips of aluminum-looking trim span the dashboard and door panels. It's not a luxury car, but it's not a horrible place to spend time, aside from the seats of course.
Volume is reasonable in the back, although the taller Fit definitely has an advantage for adult size passengers. As usual, there are three seat-belts, but unless your friends are very slim, two is the practical limit. In spite of the Aveo's shorter overall length, it's clear that engineers have dedicated a comparable amount of interior space to passengers. Where the Aveo really loses out is cargo volume. The Fit has an enormous 20.6 cubic feet behind the rear seat-backs. That shrinks to a mere 7.1 cu.ft. in the Aveo 5, which is enough for a few bags of groceries, but that's about it.
Under the hood, the Aveo has a 1.6L four cylinder with 117 hp and 106 lb-ft of torque. That's 10 hp less than the Honda and equal peak torque, but the Aveo's torque peaks 1,000 rpm lower than the Honda engine at 3,800 rpm. In a small engine that has limited torque to begin with, fattening the lower end of the curve definitely helps drivability.
For now the Aveo's automatic transmission only has four forward gears, one less than the Honda unit. It doesn't seem to impact performance much and the shifts are smooth. Unlike the Fit Sport, the Aveo doesn't offer paddle shifters, but it doesn't really need them.
The biggest subjective difference between the Aveo and Fit powertrains is the refinement of the engines. The Aveo engine is louder than the Fit across the rev range. The differences are particularly apparent at idle where the Aveo engine vibrates noticeably. The Fit, meanwhile, is so smooth at idle that you can barely detect it's running.
The Aveo 5 also lacks refinement in general driving. On the highway, wind noise around the mirrors and A-pillars is more intrusive and more road noise permeates the body structure. The structure does seem solid enough and there are no noticeable rattles, even when driving over some particularly nasty surfaces. The steering feel is somewhat dead on center but tightens as cornering forces build. But the Fit is particularly impressive in this respect and the Aveo really can't compete.
With temperatures dipping as low as -16F and plenty of snowfall during our week with the Aveo 5, there was no real opportunity to test its handling dynamics, so we'll leave that aspect aside for now. The anti-lock brakes did get a workout, but the absence of available traction control was disappointing.
Certainly not disappointing was the Aveo's fuel economy. Given the frigid temperatures during our test, we expected somewhat disappointing fuel consumption numbers. When we topped off the tank, the mileage worked out to 36 mpg. That tops the 33 mpg we achieved in the new Fit last fall, as well as the official EPA numbers. The Fed's rate the automatic transmission Aveo 5 at 25 mpg city and 34 mpg highway.
Aside from the dubious styling of the Aveo 5, its biggest flaw may well be the price tag. The manual transmission 2LT Aveo stickers at $15,365. With the installed options and delivery charges, the bottom line on our tester came to an astounding $17,610. That's a bit steep for a subcompact, especially compared to the similarly priced Fit Sport. On the other hand, you can probably get some decent deals on an Aveo right now. Just make sure to approach it from behind.
Photos Copyright ©2009 Sam Abuelsamid / Weblogs, Inc.
New Car Test Drive
Inexpensive subcompact features a nice cabin.
The Chevrolet Aveo is GM's smallest, least expensive car. Aside from its price, what's most attractive about the Chevy Aveo is its surprisingly handsome interior, at least on the up-level 2LT. Its 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine is rated at 106 horsepower, which we found adequate. Transmission choices are either a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. Aveo is available as a four-door sedan or a versatile five-door hatchback called the Aveo5.
The 2009 Aveo gets a new, more efficient engine. The Aveo5 hatchback gets extensive revisions for 2009, with new exterior styling and a revised interior. The Aveo sedan received these updates for 2007. Their basic architecture and mechanical underpinnings date to 2004.
Aveo is a subcompact that competes with the Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, Nissan Versa, and Hyundai Accent. Aveo was designed to offer sensible, day-to-day transportation. Its ride is tuned more for comfort than sporty driving. Comfort is important when commuting through heavy, stop-and-go traffic and the Aveo won't spill your coffee on the way to work.
The Aveo gets the third generation of GM's 1.6-liter Ecotec engine for 2009. The addition of variable valve timing increases horsepower by 3 to 106 and helps improve fuel economy. Aveo is EPA-estimated to deliver 27/34 mpg City/Highway. That compares well with the Hyundai Accent (26/35 mpg) and Nissan Versa (27/33). The Honda Fit (28/35) and Toyota Yaris (29/36) are more efficient, but the Aveo costs less and it's unlikely you can make up the price difference in fuel economy.
We found the Aveo an enjoyable car to spend time with, particularly the Aveo 2LT with its nice upholstery, cloth or leatherette. The climate and audio controls are easy to use, the driver's seat adjusts for height, and the car drives well. Some of the other cars in this class offer more power, sharper handling, and a quieter ride, but we never felt like we were missing out on something when we were in this car. We prefer the Aveo5 five-door hatchback for its ability to haul stuff.
For 2009, in addition to the changes to the engine and exterior and interior of the Aveo5, the Aveo gets a revised lineup mix, and several new and revised features. OnStar assistance and an auxiliary input jack are now standard, XM satellite radio is available, and the radio controls are changed. The driver information center adds an outside temperature display and a fuel economy/driving range function. New Charcoal leatherette seating is offered and it is available with a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.
The 2009 Chevrolet Aveo is available as a four-door Aveo sedan or as the Aveo5 five-door hatchback. All are powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine rated 106 horsepower. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, a four-speed automatic is optional. All prices are manufacturer's suggested retail prices (MSRP).
Aveo LS and Aveo5 LS ($11,965) come with cloth seats; power steering; tilt steering wheel; four-speaker AM/FM stereo with an auxiliary input jack; a height-adjustable driver's seat with adjustable lumbar support; 60/40 split folding rear seat; one year of OnStar's Safe & Sound plan, and 185/60R14 tires on steel wheels with wheel covers. The Aveo5 also gets a rear cargo cover and a rear wiper. Air conditioning is not included, although it can be installed by the dealer. Automatic transmission is not available, nor are power windows, locks, or mirrors. In fact the only factory option at this level is a prep package for air conditioning ($50).
Aveo 1LT and Aveo5 1LT ($14,100) add air conditioning, an interior air filter, a CD/MP3 player and floormats. The Aveo 2LT and Aveo5 2LT add upgraded cloth upholstery, cruise control, heated power mirrors, power windows, power door locks, remote keyless entry, XM satellite radio, steering wheel audio controls, a driver information center, fog lights, an alarm, and 185/55R15 tires.
Options include an automatic transmission ($925); a six-speaker stereo with CD/MP3 player ($325); steering-wheel audio controls ($75): cruise control ($250); fog lights ($110); a package consisting of cruise control, power door locks with remote keyless entry, and a security system ($425); a rear spoiler ($225); 15-inch aluminum wheels ($475); a power tilt-and-slide sunroof ($725); XM satellite radio, vinyl upholstery ($375); and alloy wheels ($450).
Safety features include dual-stage front air bags, seat-mounted front side air bags, front-seat seat-belt pretensioners, and a tire-pressure monitor. Anti-lock brakes ($440) are optional for LT models; we strongly recommend getting them because they can help the driver maintain control in an emergency braking situation.
The Chevy Aveo sedan and hatchback are about the same length as the Toyota Yaris sedan and hatchback, though almost a foot shorter than the Honda Fit, which is only offered as a hatchback. The re-styling (introduced on 2009 Aveo5 and 2007 Aveo) resulted in a more aerodynamic shape. This reduces wind noise at highway speeds and improves fuel economy.
Up front, a thick, bright horizontal grille bar emblazoned with a gold bowtie leaves no doubt that Aveo sedan is a Chevy. The lower fascia is nicely detailed, and the fog lights well integrated. Moving around to the side, a crisp bevel just below the window line and a parallel bulge down between the wheel arches combine to camouflage the Aveo's tall, stubby profile, sort of like a person wearing appropriately directed stripes. The sedan's blacked-out window frames look heavy handed, however, especially with bright colors, and the rear of the roof line appears bulbous. Around back, a bright band between fashionably complex tail lamps echoes the theme of the grille.
Like many cars, the Aveo sedan has a look that tries to find wide acceptability by not offending anybody. But in its attempt to be neither too boring nor too radical, it lacks personality.
The Aveo5, on the other hand, has personality all right, and the 2009 changes make it look better. The Aveo5 shares surprisingly little sheet metal with the sedan. At just 154.3 inches in overall length, the Aveo5 is a significant 15 inches shorter than the sedan. The Aveo5 grille is much bolder than the sedan's grille and it dips down all the way to the bottom of the lower fascia. It is flanked by a pair of air intakes that also house the fog lights.
While the Aveo sedan has a smaller grille with a lower air intake below it, the Aveo5 hatchback's larger grille eliminates the need for an additional air intake. The hatchback's front fender bulges around the wheels are less crisply defined, and the character line that runs from wheel to wheel on the sedan, bisects the front doors and dips down on the hatchback's rear doors. The hatchback has another character line and wheel bulge that picks up midway along the rear doors and extends to the taillights. The Aveo5 seems to end rather abruptly, just behind the rear wheels. This impression is heightened by a rear-end profile that's more station-wagon vertical than hatchback sleek, and by the almost comically abbreviated quarter windows just behind the rear doors. While the rear end may look a bit odd, the front end is much more attractive than the old hatchback and the current sedan.
Interestingly, while the Aveo5 looks as tall as a bus, it is only 0.1 taller than the sedan. It is also 1.2 inches narrower, with 0.8 inches less rear track (the distance between the rear tires.).
The big surprise in the interior of our Chevrolet Aveo 2LT sedan test car was the handsomeness of the Charcoal Deluxe seat fabric, which shames the manufacturers of some more expensive vehicles. The Aveo5 2LT we drove also had an attractive interior with faux wood trim on the dashboard and leatherette trim on the seats. The attractive looks combine with a tidy and sensible layout to minimize Aveo's economy-car status.
Basic controls, such as the climate system and stereo, are easy to use and within close reach. The layout is simple, so drivers won't be distracted looking for buttons. All radios come with an auxiliary jack for iPods and other MP3 players. The dash is all hard plastic, but that's to be expected in this class. The instrument panel features black-faced gauges with white numbers and watch-like dials. A driver information center is located between the gauges. For 2009, it adds more features, including an outside temperature display and average fuel economy and miles to empty readouts. A digital clock sits on top of the dash at the base of the windshield.
The driver's seat is height adjustable, even in the base model, a nice feature for drivers short and tall. The front seat bottom cushion is a bit short for drivers with long legs, cutting some occupants a little short on thigh support. Visibility all around is unrestricted. Small items storage can be found in trays in front and behind the shifter, a pop-out bin the size of an ashtray in the dash, and in door pockets. A dual cupholder also pops out of the center stack.
The Aveo has an advantage in rear legroom over the Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris. We found it's possible to carry four tall adults (six-footers) for a short distance without anybody being traumatized, as long as there's cooperation from the people in the front seats, that is. Despite its slimmer dimensions, the Aveo5 hatchback has about the same rear seat space as the sedan. In fact, it has 0.2 inch more headroom.
The trunk is rated at 12.4 cubic feet for the Aveo sedan. That's competitive in a segment like this, and the back seat folds down if the priority becomes carrying stuff instead of people.
Cargo space in the Aveo5 hatchback is 15.0 cubic feet behind the rear seats. It comes standard with a rear cargo cover to hide packages from prying eyes. The rear seat folds flat to open up 37.4 cubic feet of cargo room. The rear cargo floor is not flat, though, as there is a step from the rear floor to the folded seats. If you'll be using the cargo compartment more than the back seat, the Aveo5 makes a lot of sense.
We found the 106-horsepower Aveo delivered adequate acceleration. The four-speed automatic we tested was fairly quick to respond and the acceleration was adequate. The Honda Fit has more power and weighs less, however, and the Aveo requires more space to complete a pass on a two-lane road. But there shouldn't be any problems merging onto a busy freeway, even with a passenger.
We've always been more impressed with the Chevrolet Aveo's ride than its handling. The Aveo irons out most bumps with ease. Sharper bumps rarely affect passenger comfort. Like many front-wheel-drive cars, the Aveo feels nose heavy when driven hard, and it doesn't offer the responsive handling found in the Honda Fit. Try and go fast through a moderately tight turn and the Aveo's body leans quite a bit. That's part of the price to pay for a comfortable ride, particularly on a broken surface. It is also the Aveo's way of reminding the driver that it wasn't designed to be a sporty car.
The steering has a light feel and it's a bit numb, but not annoyingly so. It's about par for the course for an economy car, though much less direct than in the Fit. We found that the brakes felt natural, but the use of rear drums is old technology. ABS is optional and we highly recommend it.
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 noisy, especially at the higher engine speeds. Road noise is also rather intrusive, as sharp bumps create audible banging noises. You can also really hear the rain plunk on the roof in a storm, evidence that Chevrolet hasn't used much sound deadening material.
The Chevrolet Aveo works well around town and for commuting. It offers an attractive price, a pleasant interior, a comfortable ride, and fuel efficiency. We found the Aveo5 hatchback particularly useful for its cargo utility and it's styling has more personality. Bottom line, the Aveo is good, basic transportation.
Christopher Jensen contributed to this report to NewCarTestDrive.com from New England; John F. Katz reported from Pennsylvania; Kirk Bell reported from Chicago.
Chevrolet Aveo LS ($11,965); Aveo5 LS ($11,965); Aveo LT ($14,100); Aveo5 LT ($14,100); Aveo 2LT ($15,365); Aveo5 2LT ($15,365).
Bupyong, South Korea.
Options As Tested
four-speed automatic transmission ($925); antilock brakes with engine immobilizer ($440); leatherette upholstery with leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob ($375); alloy wheels ($350).
Chevrolet Aveo5 2LT sedan ($15,365).
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