"The Aveo has sporty looks, and improved interior quality and practicality over the previous generation, but weak petrol engines let it down"
With its targets trained firmly on class leader the Suzuki Swift, the second-generation Chevrolet Aveo supermini has much improved levels of standard equipment across the range and sports a motorbike-inspired interior design. An LED speedometer and a funky rev counter lend a sporty feel to the inside of the Aveo, while the coupe-like, Volkswagen Scirocco-resembling exterior styling – which includes in-vogue hidden rear door handles and more aggressively styled headlights – only increases its appeal. Along with this, the Aveo is also more practical than its predecessor, even beating the Swift and Ford Ka for space and practicality. The diesel model is also one of the most economical cars in the class. And with prices that undercut many of its class-leading rivals, Chevrolet has made the Aveo a very tempting package for buyers on a budget looking for a car that's simple and easy to drive.
The Aveo strikes a pretty good balance between reasonable handling ability and decent ride comfort. Two petrol models are available – an 83bhp 1.2-litre and a 99bhp 1.4-litre – while the frugal 1.3-litre diesel is offered at either 74bhp or 94bhp. The whole engine range performs well, with suitably brisk performance, but the Aveo can be quite noisy (especially when you start it up) and somewhat strains on the motorway, which is partly because of the five-speed manual gearbox. That gearbox is fairly accurate, however, and when paired with the Aveo's very light steering, it does make it easy to drive around town, although you do have to work it hard to keep up with traffic on faster roads. Its exterior dimensions make parking and tight spaces easy to negotiate. A six-speed automatic gearbox is available on the 1.4-litre petrol car, but is much less efficient and is often noisier than the manual.
Longer and wider than before, the second-gen Aveo has plenty of head and legroom for four adults in its more spacious interior. You can even have a go at getting three people in the back, but only for short trips. The suspension is well-judged and soft enough to iron out most bumps in the road. Wind and road noise can become a bit intrusive at higher speeds, however, and there isn’t the same sense of cruising calm that you get in rivals such as the Volkswagen Polo. The gear ratios are also quite spaced out so you have to work the gearbox pretty hard to get the most out of the engine just to keep up with faster traffic - which, of course, also makes it even noisier. You do get plenty of adjustment in the driver's seat and steering to help find a good driving position relatively easily, while front armrests are available in higher-spec models. The seats are generally supportive if hardly super comfortable.
No serious problems have been reported with the Aveo as yet, and it shares all of its majors parts and mechanicals with other tried-and-tested Vauxhall and GM models, so it should prove pretty reliable. It certainly feels robust and well constructed inside, with only some of the plastics feeling a bit flimsy. Meanwhile, the manufacturer's warranty runs for five years or 100,000 miles, and includes one year of free roadside assistance. And it's safe, achieving the full five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, scoring 95 per cent for adult occupant protection. All Aveos come with electronic stability control, traction control, six airbags, a specially engineered bonnet and bumper - to minimise injury to pedestrians in event of a collision – and an anti-roll braking system as standard.
Inside, the Aveo has a well-thought-out interior that has a surprising amount of storage and cubbyholes for such a small car. You also get a two-level glove compartment, with a top level big enough to store CDs, phones and MP3 players. Plus, there are storage trays under the front seats. The 290-litre boot is bigger than those in the Suzuki Swift or Ford Ka, while folding the rear seats down increases the luggage capacity to 653 litres, which makes the Aveo roomier than most other superminis. The boot opening is a bit narrow for loading bulky items, however. Overall passenger space is good, with plenty of head and legroom for four adults – five at a squeeze, if the three in the back don’t mind a tight fit - while access is much improved thanks to the rear doors.
Value for money
Equipment levels in the Aveo are decent, with the mid-range LS model coming with air-conditioning, electric windows and a CD player fitted as standard. Only top-of-the-range LT models get alloy wheels, however, and some interior plastics do feel a bit cheap. Most key rivals like the Vauxhall Corsa and Citroen C3 are undercut on list price by £500 or more, too, and, because it's not a common sight on UK roads, the excellent warranty should help keep its resale value high when you come to make a deal in the used car market. It's an ideal buy for younger drivers and those with a limited budget to spend.
While the Aveo certainly won’t break the bank when you need to fill it up, sadly it's CO2 emissions leave a lot to be desired and falls behind its rivals in environmental friendliness. In terms of fuel economy, the 1.2-litre petrol returns 51.3mpg, while the more powerful 1.4-litre also manages to return 46.3mpg. If you opt for the automatic gearbox, these numbers do get worse, however. They also pump out 130g/km and 158g/km in CO2 emissions, respectively, which is high for such a small car. So, if you’re truly looking to cut costs, you should go for the diesel Eco model, which is equipped with start-stop and low-rolling resistance tyres, and returns a much better 78.5mpg, while emitting 95g/km, taking it into the tax-free Band A.