Chevrolet Aveo 2012: First Drive

Can Chevrolet's junior hatch cut it in the budget supermini sector? DrivingTalk finds out...

By Tim Kendall | 27th January 2012

What is it?

Emphatically not a Daewoo hand-me-down this time, unlike the 2008 original. The all-new 2012 Chevrolet Aveo is GM’s budget B-segment contender, based on the latest ‘Gamma II’ platform that’ll underpin the next generation Corsa.

As a five-door supermini priced between £9,995 and £13,615, its wheels are planted firmly in the budget sector. That’ll see it do battle with the five-door Hyundai i20, Suzuki Swift and Kia Rio – although the latter’s pricing is a bit more Waitrose than Aldi these days.

New Chevrolet Aveo 2012

Chevrolet’s purposeful budget supermini starts at £9,995

What’s it like in five words?

Game, agile, good value. Surprising.

The 2012 Aveo in more detail

Outside: To look at, the Aveo is a pleasingly sculpted small hatchback. It’s a touch rakish, and as Chevrolet is keen to stress, purposeful. The crease stretching along the flanks to meet the hidden rear door handles, along with an aggressive, twin-headlamped nose, make the 2012 Aveo look like it’s up for it. ‘It’ being a good thrash.

There’s a but. Contrivance in some of the exterior detailing jars – for example, the exposed headlights, which feature chrome-effect bezels inspired by motorcycle headlights, look unfinished. It’s the same story at the back, where naked tail lights have that slightly Halfords, aftermarket look going on.

Then there’s the squiffy front badge which appears to have slipped off the grille onto the bumper crossbar. But, credit where it’s due– the Aveo is still a coherent, well resolved piece of design.

2012 Chevrolet Aveo

Exposed tail lights look a bit aftermarket

Inside: Sporadic wackiness continues into the cabin, which features a motorcyle-inspired instrument pod and digital speedo ensemble, the effect being part Knightrider, part despatch rider. Elsewhere, switchgear is borrowed from the Astra and Insignia – no bad thing – whilst different shades of textured materials on the dash and door cards break up the large expanses of plastic.

The Aveo’s trim quality isn’t going to win any awards for tactility, but it feels tightly screwed together and remained rattle-free over some very scarred Cotswolds tarmac. At this price point it’s good enough, but Polo-like perceived quality and soft-touch plastics don’t figure in the Aveo’s budget remit.

If the Aveo scores a pass for quality, it deserves a distinction for its roomy cabin. There’s ample headroom on offer in the front for taller drivers – lanky supermini buyers need look no further. Oddment stowage opportunities also abound, with twin glove boxes, various dashboard cubbys and under-seat trays providing plenty of space for mobiles, Marlboros and the like.

In the back, it’s not quite as spacious, but there’s enough legroom for carrying averagely-proportioned adults on shorter journeys without risking cattle-class syndrome. The rising window-line and hefty C-pillar do make it feel a touch claustrophobic though. Boot capacity is pretty much bang on for the class, at 290 litres with the seats up.

2012 Chevrolet Aveo interior

Roomy interior, but motorcycle-themed instrument pod is contrived

Chevy Aveo – Price, Equipment & Safety

Three trim levels, four engines and two transmissions are on the menu for Aveo buyers. It’s well-equipped across the board, with even the base 1.2 LS petrol getting air-con, CD stereo, electric front windows, and unusually at this level, cruise control as standard. The lengthy standard kit list is one of its strongest suits – similarly equipped Fiestas and Corsas are substantially less wallet-friendly.

With a price tag of just under the magic £10k mark, the entry-level Aveo 1.2 LS undercuts Hyundai’s equivalent i20 by £400, whilst a comparable Fiesta would be £1600 dearer, at list price. Moving up to the LT gets you Bluetooth, USB music port, steering wheel audio controls and 15-inch alloys – for another grand. But the pinnacle of Aveo-flavoured luxury is the LTZ, which adds rear parking sensors, auto headlights and front fog lamps to the spec sheet. Forget the top spec model though, the Aveo is amply-specced lower down the range.

2012 Chevrolet Aveo engine

1.2 petrol is a better bet than the thrashier 1.4 unit

Which is the one to have?

Plump for the priciest 94bhp LTZ 1.3 diesel and it’ll set you back £13,615, but the sweet spots in the range are the LT-spec 1.2 petrol, and 94bhp 1.3 diesel Eco models, which come in at £10,995 and £12,795 respectively. Shave those price tags a touch using an internet broker and the case for an Aveo gets stronger.

Safety-wise, all get six airbags, the mandatory ESP and an energy absorbing front bumper for enhanced pedestrian protection.

New Chevrolet Aveo: how does it drive?

Not badly at all, actually. On a mix of sweeping A-roads and tight B-roads around the Cotswolds launch route, the Aveo is pretty game when pushed. It’s not the last word in dynamic finesse, but the ride and damping are well enough resolved to satisfy spirited drivers. Through tighter corners, the steering is accurate enough to place the car with confidence, but it’s devoid of feel, whilst a slightly artificial centring effect around the straight-ahead position betrays the electric system fitted to 1.2 and 1.3 variants.

Chevrolet claims the handling has been tuned for European tastes, and aside from pronounced body-roll when you’re really ‘on one’, the Aveo feels sure-footed and keen. Its engineers worked overtime to tweak the refinement and sound deadening too, which means wind and road noise are relatively well suppressed at lower speeds over a variety of surfaces. Nudge the national limit and it’s appreciably less refined than the best though.

2012 Chevrolet Aveo road test

The junior Chevy rolls a bit when pushed, but handles tidily

If you’re going to have a petrol – the 85bhp 1.2-litre unit is a better bet than the 1.4, thanks to a sweeter, slightly less raucous nature than the bigger engine. Okay, the performance won’t set your pants on fire at this level, but winding up the 1.2 feels easier, and it’s happier to be thrashed whilst feeling less harsh than the 1.4. The drop off in performance feels negligible out on the road and a claimed 60.9mpg on the combined cycle betters the larger Ecotec motor. But ultimately, there’s not much in the locker power-wise – so overtaking needs to be planned with military precision.

For higher mileage users and die-hard diesel fans, the 94bhp 1.3 VCDi Eco model is where the smart money should go. With CO2 emissions of 95g/km, it dips under the road tax radar, whilst BoJo can’t mug you for driving into the capital. Standard stop-start helps it nudge 78mpg on the combined cycle, and as you’d expect from an oil-fired supermini it’s a gutsier (if noisier) companion for attacking steep inclines, once the lion’s share of torque arrives above 1750rpm.

The plannet-hugging Eco is also nearly a second quicker to 62mph than the identically powered non-Eco diesel model, thanks to a five-speed ‘box which enables it to pass the benchmark figure in second. As for the ‘box itself – it’s a reasonably smooth cog-swapper, but rush it and you risk grabbing the wrong gear – it’s not quite accurate enough to be rifled around the gate by your average hire car nutter.

Pick of the range: 1.2 LT Petrol @ £10,995

2012 Aveo – Performance & Economy

1.2 85bhp: 0-62 13.6, CO2 111g/km, 60.9mpg

1.4 100bhp: 0-62 12.2, CO2 125g/km, 53.3mpg

1.3D 74bhp: 0-62 14.0, CO2 99g/km, 74.3mpg

1.3D 94bhp: 0-62 12.6, CO2 108g/km, 68.9mpg

1.3D Eco 94bhp: 0-62 11.7, CO2 95g/km, 78.4mpg

New Chevrolet Aveo picture gallery

2012 Chevrolet Aveo road test

Chevrolet Aveo 2012: First Drive

  • Performance: 6/10
  • Ride & Handling: 7/10
  • Economy: 7/10
  • Equipment: 7/10
  • Want one factor: 5/10

The Verdict

Dismissing the Aveo as airport hire car fodder does it a bit of a disservice. Not that the thought of torturing one on a winding road in Southern Spain doesn’t appeal – thanks to the Aveo’s stiff chassis and Eurocentric handling bias, it’s capable enough on the right road. But the hand it plays best is the unpretentious budget supermini – and at the price point it’s a fairly good contender. Spend some time in the Aveo and a broader skill-set emerges – it’s well-equipped, roomy, good value and with a five-year warranty, carries obvious appeal as an ownership proposition. Whether its talents shine brightly enough to shake off the re-badged Daewoo image and tempt Fiesta/Corsa buyers into Chevrolet showrooms is moot, but it deserves more than a passing glance.

Summary

  • High equipment count, sweet handling, good value
  • Some detailing looks cheap, rivals are more refined

By Tim Kendall
27th January 2012

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