Chevrolet Aveo 1.3 VCDi LT Ecodiesel review
by David Finlay (16 December 2011)
Our first experience of the new Chevrolet Aveo was back in May, when we published Richard Dredge's review of the model range as a whole. Well, nearly as a whole, since only the 1.2- and 1.4-litre petrol versions were available. At the time, there was no chance to drive an Aveo fitted with the splendid little 1.3-litre turbo diesel co-developed by Fiat and General Motors.
Now, with only a few weeks to go before the Aveo's arrival in UK showrooms, we've had that chance. And the car in question might just be the most important of its type in the range. It's the Ecodiesel, which is the only Aveo in the initial line-up with a sub-100g/km CO2 rating (95g/km to be exact), and therefore also the only one exempt from Vehicle Excise Duty and the London congestion charge.
The diesel engine is actually offered in two forms, one with a maximum power output of 94bhp and the other producing up to 74bhp. Ironically, this - officially the most economical and least CO2-emitting Aveo of all - has the 94bhp engine, and that's quite a respectable figure for a supermini.
The test car, I should point out, was incredibly new. It took me a few minutes to work out the signifiance of the figure "4" on the dashboard when I climbed aboard; it was actually the car's entire mileage up to the point where I climbed aboard, and it's quite possible that a large proportion of that had been clocked up on the container ship that transported it from the factory in Korea. (Those things are very big. Several thousand cars will fit into each of them.)
I have never driven such a low-mileage car, and it's fair to assume that the engine was still pretty tight. But even then there was nothing to complain about in terms of performance. The Ecodiesel is no hot hatch, but it's not slow either.
It's also remarkably nice to drive. As is not always the case with Chevrolets, the suspension has been set up extremely well, with the result that the Aveo soaks up undulations and uneven surfaces (of which the test route in the Scottish Borders had no lack) quite brilliantly. And if you're of a mind to push on hard along a quiet and entertaining road, it handles pretty smartly too.
It does feel cheap, though, not least because it actually is cheap. Ford makes a 95g/km Fiesta in various forms, and the least expensive of them costs £1300 more than the Aveo Ecodiesel, as indeed it feels that it should. The Aveo's interior is full of ho-hum plastics, and a lot of road noise (but rather less engine noise) is allowed into the cabin.
All the same, it looks very smart, with a nice headlight arrangement. "We wanted to take the image of small cars away from being cute and cuddly," Chevrolet UK Managing Director Mark Terry has said, and that has certainly been achieved. The Aveo has an air of confidence to it, and only just stops short of appearing aggressive.
I'm not so keen on the rear, which includes a door arrangement very similar to that of the smaller Spark. Both models have a crackpot window design which makes them very difficult to see out of when, for example, you have to reverse into a supermarket parking space, as I did with considerable care and not a little tension during this test.
Nor was I impressed by the fact that the Ecodiesel has a tyre repair kit (horrible things - would ban them in a second) when there's plenty of room for a full-sized spare wheel. But I imagine that the extra weight of such a thing might nudge the CO2 rating back over 100g/km, which would be missing the point of the car.
There are three trim levels in the Aveo range, but only the middle one - called LT - is offered with the Ecodiesel. Unlike the more basic LS (available only with the 1.2 petrol engine and, at £9995, the only version with a four-figure price tag), LT specification includes 15" alloy wheels, steering wheel audio controls, air-conditioning, a four-way adjustable driver's seat, a sunglasses holder, Bluetooth connectivity, a chrome gearknob surround and what it pleases Chevrolet to call a Driver Information Centre.
Further up the range, the LTZ comes with a leather-trimmed steering wheel, front foglights, rear parking sensors (a good idea, given the lack of rear glass) and automatic headlights, but none of those is available as standard in the Ecodiesel.
The Aveo does not redefine the art of the supermini, but it's an appealing newcomer, and of all the Chevrolets built in Korea - as opposed to the all-American Volt - it's surely the best yet.