For 2006, the Aveo, Chevrolet’s smallest car, undergoes a number of changes. There are optional seat-mounted side impact airbags for driver and front passenger; advanced dual-stage frontal airbags with passenger sensing system; 14-inch steel wheels with new bolt-on wheel covers; a retuned suspension with improved steering response and larger-diameter front stabilizer bar; tilting front seat headrests; revised grey fabrics and a Charcoal/Titanium colour scheme; electronic throttle control; and the car now meets ULEV II emissions standards. The rear safety belt length has been increased and there are coat hooks on both rear assist grips.

New options include available cruise control and remote keyless entry, and 15-inch alloy five-spoke wheels with P185/55R15 all-season tires. In addition, the 2006 model also enjoys a price drop, with the base model now $1,800 less than in 2005.

Along with the Chevrolet Optra and Epica, the Aveo is one of three models built by GM-DAT (General Motors-Daewoo Auto and Technology) in South Korea. The Aveo is available as a four-door sedan or five-door hatchback, a configuration it shares with its clone Pontiac Wave. Through GM’s interest in Suzuki, the Aveo is also sold as the Suzuki Swift+, but only in hatchback form.

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, cruise control, power windows, and CD player.

Although it’s an entry-level vehicle, the Aveo feels like good value for its price tag, with a peppy engine and handling that’s quite responsive. It’s also surprisingly roomy for such a small envelope.

On the minus side, it uses more fuel than its size should 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. In the subcompact field, the Aveo is a popular little contender, although it will face serious competition from the all-new Toyota Yaris.

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