The Chevrolet Aveo is a well-executed, competitively priced supermini which majors on refinement rather than driver involvement

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The Chevrolet Aveo can trace its lineage back to the GM-based reskins Daewoo produced in the mid-1990s, including the Lanos with which it is most comparable to.

After Daewoo’s collapse and GM’s takeover, the line-up included the Kalos supermini, which was followed in 2007 by a facelifted variant with the historic Chevrolet moniker and the new Aveo name applied. The latest version, the second-generation Aveo, was first shown at the Paris motor show in 2010.

We’re still trying to get accustomed to the idea that Chevrolet is making competitive cars for European consumption. Its UK line-up has grown substatially and although the Spark is quite forgettable, the promise of the Captiva and Cruze was followed very convincingly by the Orlando, which garnered itself three and a half road test stars and made some friends at this magazine.

So it’s with a high level of interest and not a little expectation that we welcome the Aveo – because it interests us as a Chevrolet, too, and not just because this Korean-built supermini will also form the basis for the next-generaton Vauxhall Corsa.

The Aveo, offered as a five-door hatch only in the UK (although a saloon can be had in some markets), is available with 1.2 and 1.4 petrol engines and a 1.3 turbodiesel that, in Eco trim, promises great frugality.



Chevrolet Aveo headlights

Does the Chevrolet Aveo look to you like it has drawn styling cues from the Corvette and Camaro, as Chevrolet claims? No, we’re not convinced it does, either, but we’ll admit the Aveo has a certain rakish aggression to it that you won’t find in too many of its rivals.

Whereas some elements of the Aveo look a little staid and similar to its predecessor, there’s no denying the aggressive sculpting of the bonnet. Partly, though, the exposed round headlights and black-backed tail-lights do lend the Aveo the look of a facelifted version of its predecessor, a feeling accentuated by the large grille, split by Chevrolet’s ‘bow tie’ badge.

If you don't want a white car, you'll have to spend £385 on a metallic colour

Surrounding the rear window is a body-coloured spoiler to clean the air off the body and reduce drag. Unusually, the high-level brake light remains in the window.

Given how utterly different under the skin and, therefore, how improved it could be, that seems a bit of a pity; the old car’s nose, flanks and square-tailed bluffness bore some resemblance to the new car (and also to the Spark).

All of which combine to make the Aveo look smaller than it really is. It follows a current supermini fad of stretching to more than four metres in length, at 4039mm (although our favourite superminis, the Volkswagen Polo and Ford Fiesta, remain a touch under that barrier).

Both of those rivals have a shorter wheelbase than the Aveo, too, whose 2525mm is closer to a Volkswagen Golf’s than a Volkswagen Polo’s. We’ll come to accommodation in a minute, but given that the Aveo also appears quite tall, there’ll be no excuse for it being poor.


Chevrolet Aveo interior

Sure enough, the wheelbase and height (it’s 36mm taller than a Ford Fiesta) of a Chevrolet Aveo do lend it an airy, spacious interior by class standards. You could fit two adults behind two adults in here, comfortably, although three youngsters abreast in the rear is as much of a squeeze as it is in any supermini, given the 1735mm width (that’s over 50mm narrower than a Ford Fiesta).

The front seats are decent enough, too – large enough to get comfortable in and firm enough to stay comfortable over distances. The driving position is fairly upright (more MPV than saloon car) but not really the worse for it. In fact, less agile occupants might well be grateful for having a raised seat base to get in and out of. Visibility is good, too.

Improve the perceived quality of the interior materials and Chevrolet will have a winner

What’s less excellent is the choice of cabin materials. Today, it isn’t just about meeting the expectations of customers who have downsized recently. The increase in the perceived quality of car interiors has filtered down through manufacturers’ ranges to the extent that even a Vauxhall Corsa feels moderately classy.

The Aveo, however, can’t quite manage the same. Some of the design touches in the cabin are neat enough, and very welcome, but all the flair in the world can’t disguise some brittle plastics that are hard to the touch and loud to the tap.

It’s far from a disaster; Chevrolet has come an awfully long way since it adopted Daewoo’s products. The motorbike-binnacle-aping instrument set, for example, shows a touch of real flair, and the quality of the fit and finish is mostly strong, too. It would only take the choice of a few different textures here and there to lift the Aveo’s cabin from average to eminently respectable.

What is utterly respectable is a boot capacity of 290 litres with the rear seats in place, and 653 litres with them folded. Both are above the class norm.


Chevrolet Aveo rear quarter

From the Aveo range, we’ve driven the 1.2 S, which uses a 1206cc petrol engine making a respectable 83bhp at 6000rpm with 84lb ft of torque appearing at 3800rpm. It's no Chevrolet small-block, but it does the job.

There’s also a 1.4-litre petrol unit which produces 99bhp at 6400rpm along with 96lb ft at 4200rpm, and a 1.3-litre diesel with 94bhp, or 74bhp in Ecodiesel form. Gearboxes are either manual five-speed, as tested, and five and six-speed autos (both available with the two larger capacity engines).

The Eco variant will hit 60mph more quickly than the non-Eco variant due to longer gearing

Like most economy-minded diesels, the Aveo 1.3 VCDi comes with a five-speed gearbox with quite leggy ratios. And like most such diesels, you don’t need to stir the ’box too much to make very decent progress.

Although 94bhp might not sound like much, the engine’s accompanying peak torque is 140lb ft and it is developed from only 1750rpm. So it gets going quickly and keeps going linearly, while the gearshift, when you do have to use it, is relatively slick.

Diesels are not noted for their brisk acceleration times, so even though the two-way average of 11.4sec to 60mph that the Aveo recorded at MIRA is credible, the in-gear response is better still. Apply full throttle in third at 30mph and you’ll hit 50mph in a relatively easy 5.1sec. Do the same from 50mph in fourth and 70mph comes up in 9.2sec. Neither is a blistering time, but they’re respectable enough when you consider how little fuel this car sips while getting along.

So making decent progress takes very little effort, as does maintaining motorway speeds. Refinement is decent as well. It’s natural that a 1250kg supermini doesn’t have the same sophistication to its sound-proofing as cars from a class or two above, but against its peers it’s certainly respectable.

What this Aveo is really about, though, is economy rather than performance. With common-rail injection and a variable-geometry turbo, the unit is the same as you’ll find in Vauxhall’s Corsa Ecoflex, and here it offers sparkling frugality. Even during our performance testing, we barely coaxed it to return less than 30mpg.

On our touring route, which accurately mimics an ordinary – not slow – motorway cruise, the Aveo returned an excellent 67.7mpg, while on average it gave us 51.1mpg. That includes our testing at MIRA, so most buyers should expect a figure comfortably into the 50s.


Chevrolet Aveo cornering

What’s almost as pleasing as the Aveo’s economy is the fact that Chevrolet has engineered a supermini that drives in a genuinely convincing manner.

One of the reasons for the Aveo’s ride quality is undoubtedly the generous sidewalls of its 195/65 R15 Goodyear Excellence economy tyres, which sit as standard around alloy wheels. The Chevrolet therefore softens and smoothens small surface imperfections with a deftness that would be the equal of many a low-profile-shod large family car.

The Aveo deftly softens and smoothens surface imperfections

But thanks to the absorbent quality of the car’s rubber, Chevrolet has managed to leave the suspension with enough tautness to combine that good ride with respectable control of the car’s body movements.

Don’t misunderstand: the Aveo is not at the sportier end of supermini existence. But when its body movements come, and they do, their rate is well contained and slowed comfortably as well.

A Ford Fiesta and Mazda 2 are tidier still, with no relative loss of comfort, so they remain the choice of the enthusiast driver in this class, but the Aveo is not as far behind as we’ve traditionally expected from Chevrolet. It might be keener still were it not for the diesel engine that sits in the front of this particular model.

The car tipped our scales at 1250kg, which is not terrible in itself but more than we’d expect and hope for from even a large supermini. It’s certainly well over the claimed 1165kg, despite carrying nothing but metallic paint as optional equipment.

Chevrolet, meanwhile, says that the 1.2-litre petrol model is a full 95kg lighter than this diesel. That leaves the diesel itself contributing almost an extra 10 percent to the all-up weight of this car, and it’s all over the nose, so don’t come to the Aveo diesel expecting lots of agility.

It’s pleasing to steer – and steers well, with middling weight and a little road feel. And for all the maturity rather than lightness of foot that the Aveo displays, it’s nonetheless a convincing dynamic set-up.


Chevrolet Aveo

Aside from its economy, on the face of it there is another fairly compelling reason to look at the Aveo: in this Eco LT form, which includes electric front windows, heated mirrors and air conditioning, Chevrolet is asking £12,795.

Our data experts haven’t yet predicted a residual value for the Aveo, but it would have to drop more – a lot more – than some of its mainstream rivals to make up the difference. You’re looking at a list price of £14,695 for an Econetic Fiesta and £15,615 for a Polo BlueMotion.

Thinking of towing? The Eco LT can take 1000kg and the non-Eco 1100kg

Whether you’ll save enough in tax and fuel to make up the difference between an eco diesel and a cheaper petrol car in the first instance is, of course, another matter entirely. Insurance is reasonable on the Aveo and all of its rivals.

The five-year warranty and healthy basic spec alone will tempt buyers, and a lack of driver involvement won’t worry the bulk of potential owners.


4 star Chevrolet Aveo

The Chevrolet Aveo is a genuinely competitive supermini with a modern platform that, unlike so many Chevrolets before it, does not have to rely on cheap pricing to win it praise.

That it is better priced than its direct rivals is a welcome bonus rather than a prerequisite.

Pleasing to drive and an excellent price, but the interior feel could be better

Drive it carefully and you’ll see 60mpg. Drive it enthusiastically and you’ll see barely less and probably quite enjoy the experience.

Is it a class leader? Not quite — at least, not on the terms by which Autocar’s enthusiast readers and testers would define it. Its ride and handling are tidy but not outstanding, and perceived quality remains several shades behind the best.

But be in no doubt: we’d recommend this car.

Chevrolet Aveo 2011-2015 First drives