"The Aveo has sporty looks, and improved interior quality and practicality over the previous generation, but weak petrol engines let it down"
The second-generation Chevrolet Aveo is clearly aimed at taking on supermini class leader, the Suzuki Swift, and other rivals such as the Vauxhall Corsa and Hyundai i20. It has much better levels of standard equipment installed across the range and now has a motorbike-themed interior design. A funky rev counter and an LED speedometer add to the sporty feel inside the Aveo, while the outside has a Volkswagen Scirocco-style coupe look that includes in-vogue hidden rear door handles and some more aggressively styled headlights. All of this boost its appeal, which is needed because the car itself is generally below average. Having said that, the Aveo is also more practical than the car it replaces, even giving the Swift and the Ford Ka a run for their money in terms of space and practicality. The diesel model is also one of the most economical cars in the class. And with prices that do manage to undercut many of its class-leading rivals, Chevrolet has made the Aveo a more tempting package than it should be for buyers on a budget looking for something that's simple and easy to drive.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
The most efficient Aveo is the 1.3-litre LT VCDi Ecodiesel, equipped with stop-start technology and low-rolling resistance tyres, which returns 78.4mpg and emits 95g/km of CO2, making it free from road tax. Even the least efficient model, the 1.4-litre automatic, returns 44.8mpg and emits 147g/km of CO2. The 1.2-litre petrol model returns 51mpg. So if you’re looking to cut costs, go for an Eco model and give the automatic gearbox a big steer. Every Aveo gets a five-year/100,000-mile warranty that include a full year's free roadside assistance, which will also help to keep costs lower.
Interior & comfort
The second-generation of Aveo is wider and longer than the previous model, which means there's more head and legroom for four adults to sit comfortably in its more spacious interior. If you’ve got some willing passengers, you can even have a stab at getting three people in the back seat, but we’d only suggest doing so for short trips. Most bumps and lumps are absorbed by the well-judged suspension, which is soft enough for most of the UK's roughest roads. Road and wind noise is somewhat intrusive when driving on the motorway, which means you don’t get the calm sense of cruising that you do with rivals such as the Volkswagen Polo. Also, you have to work the gearbox quite aggressively to get the most of the engine – and then just to keep up to speed with faster traffic. Which, of course, makes it even noisier. There is plenty of adjustment in the driver's seat and steering to help you find the best driving position for you with relative ease, while front armrests are also available in the higher-spec models. The seats are generally supportive if not the most comfortable you’ll ever sit in.
Practicality & boot space
There are a surprising amount of storage spaces and cubby holes inside the Aveo for a car of such compact dimensions thanks to its well-thought-out interior. There's a two-level glove compartment, with an upper level large enough to hold CDs, phones and MP3 players. There are also storage trays stored under the front seats. The boot offers 290 litres of space with the rear seats in place, which is bigger than you’ll find in the Ford Ka and Suzuki Swift. Fold down the standard-fit split/fold rear seats and that expands to 653 litres, which makes the Aveo roomier that most of its supermini rivals. The boot opening is a little too narrow for easy loading of bulky items, though. Overall, there's plenty of space for passengers, with good head and legroom for four adults – five at a push, if the three in the back don’t mind getting to know each other a bit better - while access is thankfully improved by the rear doors.
Reliability & safety
Chevrolet has a bit of a chequered reliability record. In the Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, it came last in 2011 before dropping out of the survey entirely in 2012. So it's something of a triumph that Chevrolet managed to rank 20th in the 2013 manufacturers list, with it performing solidly across all categories. Unfortunately, no individual models feature in the top 150 cars, but no serious problems have been reported with the Aveo as yet. Chevrolets aren’t common enough to break into the survey yet. The Aveo shares all of its majors with other tried-and-tested models across the Vauxhall and GM range, so it should prove pretty reliable, with only one recall in its lifetime. Inside, it feels robust and well constructed, with only some plastics feeling a bit flimsy (a common problem with Chevrolets). Meanwhile, the manufacturer's warranty covers you for five years or 100,000 miles, and includes one full year of free roadside assistance. It's also very safe, securing the maximum five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, scoring 95 per cent for adult occupant protection in particular. All models come fitted with electronic stability control, traction control, six airbags, a specially engineered bonnet and bumper designed to reduce injury to pedestrians in event of a collision and an anti-roll braking system all fitted as standard equipment.
Engines, drive & performance
The Aveo strikes a fairly good balance of decent handling and reasonable ride comfort – not that it will worry any of its rivals at the top of its class. There are two petrol models available, an 83bhp 1.2-litre and a 99bhp 1.4-litre model, with a more frugal 1.3-litre diesel offered at either 74bhp or 94bhp. All the engines in the range perform reasonably well, if without distinction, but the Aveo can be pretty noisy (especially when starting up) and it does strain when driven on the motorway, with the five-speed manual gearbox partly to blame. It is fairly accurate, though, and combined with the Aveo's particularly light steering, it does make it a very easy car to drive around town, even though you do have to work hard to keep up with the traffic on faster roads. Its compact external dimensions make parking in tight spaces and negotiating busy urban traffic fairly straightforward. The 1.4-litre petrol model is available with a six-speed automatic gearbox, but it is much less efficient and often gets even noisier than the manual version.
Price, value for money & options
You get a decent level of equipment and accessories in the Aveo, with the mid-range LS coming fitted with air-conditioning, electric windows and a CD player as standard. Only the top-of-the-range LT models come with alloy wheels, however, and some of the interior plastics still feel a bit cheap for the money. Most of the Aveo's main rivals, such as the Vauxhall Corsa and Citroen C3, are all undercut on purhcase price by £500 or more, too. Plus, because it's not very common on UK roads, the really excellent warranty should help keep its resale value strong on the used car market when you come to make a deal to sell it second-hand. It's also a good buy for younger drivers and anyone with only a limited budget to spend.