The smallest car in GM’s lineup, the Chevrolet Aveo was introduced in 2004 and so enters 2005 with only a few changes, the most significant being the introduction of its Pontiac Wave clone.

Changes to the 2005 Aveo include a redesigned spoiler, new available alloy wheels on the LT model, bolt-on wheel covers with new design for LS model, blacked-out door pillar trim and two new colours, Sport Red Metallic (on four-doors only) and Aqua. A new base model, the SVM (Special Value Model) is U.S.-only and not available in Canada.

Along with the Chevrolet Optra and Epica, the Aveo is one of three cars introduced in 2004 and built by GM-DAT (General Motors-Daewoo Auto and Technology, formed when GM bought controlling interest in bankrupt Korean automaker Daewoo in 2002). Through GM’s interest in Suzuki, the Aveo also appears, in hatchback form only, as the Suzuki Swift+.

The Aveo comes in two trim lines, LS and LT, both of which are available as four-door sedans or five-door hatchbacks. All are powered by a 1.6-litre in-line four cylinder and come with a very-nice-for-the-price, smooth-shifting five-speed manual that can be switched for an optional four-speed automatic.

Save for body-specific features such as a rear wiper or trunk release, standard and optional items are the same on the four- and five-door models.

The lower-line LS comes with such items as 14-inch wheels, fixed-delay intermittent wipers, manual remote mirrors, rear defogger, floor mats, tilt column, reclining front cloth bucket seats, 60/40 folding rear seat, and AM/FM stereo. Air conditioning, which is optional on all Aveo models, is oddly unavailable on the LS when an automatic transmission is ordered.

The upper-line LT adds manual left remote/power right remote heated mirrors, power door locks with keyless entry, power windows, and CD player.

Although it’s definitely an entry-level vehicle, Aveo feels like good value for its price tag: its 103 hp feels peppy when hauling around such a little package, and the rack-and-pinion steering is more responsive than expected. Packed with extra sound-deadening material, it’s surprisingly quiet for an econo-box, and front seat room is very good for such a tiny envelope. In U.S. government testing, the 2005 Aveo received the highest five-star rating for both driver and front passenger for frontal crash performance, although the NHTSA noted a safety concern in side-impact testing for a driver’s door that protruded into the cabin and caused pelvic impact to the crash-test dummy.

On the minus side, it’s thirstier than its size would warrant. The cupholders slide out of the dash and completely obstruct the heater controls when in use. With its high trunk line and tapering mirrors, the sedan is tougher to back up than the hatchback.

There are a few contenders in this entry-level subcompact market. The Toyota Echo undercuts the Aveo in three-door hatchback form ($12,995), a configuration not available on the Aveo, but the Echo’s rock-bottom price doesn’t include power steering. The Aveo seats five to the Echo hatchback’s four, but it’s a pretty uncomfortable fifth seating position. Kia Rio’s base $12,795 sedan does come with power steering and five seats, as does the five-passenger Hyundai Accent GS ($12,995).

The Aveo and Pontiac Wave share identical price tags in each body style and trim level; the hatchback-only Suzuki Swift+ is $340 less than the Aveo in base trim, but standard features on the upscale model, including air conditioning and upgraded stereo, lift its price to $810 more.

The Chevrolet Aveo is made in Bupyong, South Korea.

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