Thursday, November 01, 2007

2008 Chevrolet Aveo Review

Introduction
Chevrolet doesn't exactly have a glorious history in the subcompact car category. The mere mention of a Chevette is good for an easy laugh. Yet the Chevy lineup must have a low-priced little guy that does its job reliably day-in and day-out without much flash. The 2008 Chevrolet Aveo satisfies this need, but does so with a quality that distances it from the gold bowtie's sketchy subcompact past. The Aveo sedan in particular, which was significantly refreshed last year, gives budget buyers a fuel-efficient car with attractive styling, a nice interior, a useful features list and of course, a low price.


The Aveo is built in South Korea by General Motors' subsidiary Daewoo, the former independent company that disappeared from the United States in 2002 after a rather inauspicious run. As Kia and Hyundai have proven, though, Korean cars improve rapidly with every generation, and the 2008 Chevy Aveo is much better than Daewoo's previous econoboxes.
Of particular note is the sedan model's improved interior and more substantial-looking styling. The 2007-year update is made all the more evident by the fact that the Aveo5 hatchback model remains relatively unchanged from its 2004 debut form. Therefore, unless the hatchback's utility or rock-bottom base price (it's the lowest in America, in fact) are of paramount importance, we'd skip it in favor of the Aveo sedan or a superior subcompact hatchback from another manufacturer.


Obviously, fuel economy is of prime concern for buyers in this segment. The 2008 Chevrolet Aveo sips fuel at a sufficiently frugal rate, but not quite at the level of the Honda Fit or Toyota Yaris. These models also sport more refined, lively engines. Because of that, and in matters of price, the Aveo is more comparable with the Kia Rio and Hyundai Accent. Needless to say, customers interested in this class have a lot of research and test-drives to do to find the subcompact that best meets their needs. But unlike Chevy's past subcompacts, the 2008 Aveo is a vehicle worthy of consideration rather than jokes.


Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Chevrolet Aveo subcompact is available in sedan and four-door hatchback body styles. The latter is known as the Aveo5, which unlike the sedan, was not updated last year. Both Aveo body styles come with two trim levels: Special Value and LS on the Aveo5 hatchback, and LS and LT on the Aveo sedan.


Special Value equates to not paying a lot but not getting a lot, either. Standard equipment includes 14-inch steel wheels, manual mirrors and windows, manual locks and a simple AM/FM radio with four speakers. The Aveo5 LS adds the availability of major options such as 15-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, cruise control, a sunroof, power windows, carpeted floor mats, keyless entry and a CD/MP3 player. The Aveo LS sedan is similarly equipped, but offers an upgraded interior with better materials and an auxiliary MP3 jack. The top-line LT sedan comes standard with almost all of the LS model's optional features, while offering upgraded seat cloth and the availability of options like leatherette upholstery and upgraded audio with an in-dash CD changer and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls.

Powertrains and Performance
The Chevy Aveo has a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 103 horsepower and 107 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, and there's also an optional four-speed automatic with an electronic "hold" feature for 2nd-gear starts when driving on slippery surfaces. For 2008, fuel mileage estimates are 23 mpg in the city and 33 on the highway with the manual gearbox and 23/31 with the automatic -- close to the Hyundai Accent's numbers but less efficient than either the Honda Fit or Toyota Yaris.

Safety
Antilock brakes are optional on LS and LT models. Front-seat side airbags are standard on all trim levels, but side curtain airbags, a safety feature that is increasingly common on subcompacts, aren't available. In National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration crash tests, the 2008 Chevrolet Aveo earned a five-star rating (the best possible) for its protection of front occupants in frontal impacts and four stars for occupants in side impacts. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety frontal offset crash tests, the Aveo received a score of "Average," or one spot from the top.

Interior Design and Special Features
The Aveo sedan and Aveo5 hatchback feature different interior designs, with the sedan benefiting from an overhaul last year. It sports better-quality materials, wood-grain or metallic trim, a driver's armrest, additional storage and other advantages over the older Aveo5, which has a very bargain-bin feel to it. On the upside, the hatchback does have a folding 60/40-split rear seat that allows it to carry up to 42 cubic feet of stuff. The sedan's trunk swallows a respectable 12.4 cubic feet of cargo, with a fold-down rear seat that allows for the transport of longer items.

Driving Impressions
While the 2008 Chevrolet Aveo is certainly no thrill ride, it provides respectable vehicle dynamics. The steering is direct and the suspension is well-tuned for day-to-day commuting. The 1.6-liter engine is adequate, but it's loud and buzzy when revved and not particularly powerful. We normally recommend that buyers in this class opt for a manual transmission, but in the Aveo's case, the automatic is the better bet: The manual tranny's gear ratios are too wide, leaving the car underpowered on highway grades and ultimately compromising fuel economy.

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