Chevy Aveo LT Review

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TireKicker Phrase I Never Expected To Write #1:

"The Chevy Aveo is a good car. It's worth a look, a test drive and possibly a place in your driveway or garage."

If they gave a "Most Improved Player" award to cars, the new Aveo would win it, hands-down.

I'll get to how good the '09 Aveo is in a second, but here's what it had to overcome: Raised on the somewhat snarky automotive writings of David E. Davis, Jr., Jean (Lindamood) Jennings, John Phillips, P.J. O'Rourke and others, I've got a smart-aleck streak in me (okay, it was there before I ever picked up a car magazine).

After testing the first Aveo five years ago, someone asked me what I thought. I broke into song, using my best Harry Belafonte impression (to the tune of The Banana Boat Song [Day-O]):



A-Veo come and me wanna walk home



A-Veo come and me wanna walk home

Is piece of crap Korean car

A-Veo come and me wanna walk home

Is piece of crap Korean car

A-Veo come and me wanna walk home.

There may have been more. I really don't remember. But it was that bad. A bottom-line Daewoo freshly acquired by GM with no time to do anything but slap a couple of Chevy badges on it and ship it to the USA.

Well, time and development are wonderful things. Yes, the Aveo is still small, inexpensive and Korean-built, but now it's Korean as in "keeping up with Hyundai's growth curve".

You either like or don't like the shape of a subcompact hatchback. There's not much room to work with, so most look like the Aveo from the windshield back. Chevy's taken the step of adding what's becoming the family nose (the bold, split grille from the Malibu) to the Aveo...giving it a longer hood and making the entire car look quite a bit more substantial.

Inside, well...somebody's been inside a Volkswagen recently. Better-than decent plastics, the top half of the dash grained like VW, in a tasteful two-tone (the tester was the mid-range 1LT trim level). Every surface attractive to the eye and to the touch.

The $13,595 base price brings with it a year in OnStar's Safe & Sound plan, air conditioning, a rear window defogger, a tilt steering column, front and rear floor mats, and armrest, height and lumbar adjustments for the driver's seat, and a 180-watt premium audio system with six speakers, AM/FM/CD and iPod jack. GM's vehicle fleet folks loaded it from there...$425 for power windows, door locks and remote keyless entry, $925 for a 4-speed automatic transmission, $440 for anti-lock brakes and $250 for cruise control. Total tab: $16,295, including delivery.

That puts it in the reach of some tempting larger alternatives like Honda Civic. But the payoff is at the gas pump: The EPA says 25 city and 34 highway...both believeable figures based on how little the fuel tank needle moved during my week with the car.

Oh, and the safety statistics are impressive too: Five stars for driver and passenger in the frontal crash test, four stars for both in the side crash and rollover tests.

Like everything but the price? The base LS model starts at $12,625. If you can live with rolling up your own windows, locking your own doors, not having a remote and living with four instead of six speakers (and less wattage) for the audio system, you're set...especially if you live someplace where air conditioning isn't a must. If you need air, then it's a dealer-installed option, the price is likely to be at the dealer's discretion, and you're probably dead even or better off stepping up $900 to the 1LT and getting it standard from the factory.

Even without the grim first-gen Aveo to compare it to, the new Aveo is a solid pick for subcompact buyers.

UPDATE: Some mid-year changes have been made and they're not good. First, base price is up for the 1LT...it's now $14,100.

But more troubling is the smell in our second Aveo tester this year. There is a strict no-smoking rule in press vehicles...and like all strict rules...especially aimed at journalists...it occasionally gets ignored. Doesn't happen as much as it used to, really.

But the Aveo smelled like someone smoked a carton of the worst cigarettes on earth and then tried to cover it up with a can of air freshener.

And nothing got rid of it...not even Ozium.

I parked it after a day and a half. Couldn't stand to be in it.

The GM reps took the car in and had someone try to find the problem....was it in the HVAC ducts? In the compressor?


It was in the seats. More accurately...the glue for the seats. When it gets hot...as it does in Phoenix in the summer...it smells like this.

Now, it's never exactly cold in Phoenix...a locked car in sunlight in January can get over 90 degrees inside...and the first car didn't smell like this, so I don't know what's up. Maybe some have it and some don't.

But if you go shopping for an Aveo...spend some time in it before you let the salesman turn on the air, okay?