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By Jil McIntosh
With a flourish, Chevrolet has thrown its hat back into the subcompact ring.
GM bowed out of this segment at the turn of the millennium, when it retired the Chevy Metro and its clones. It’s back for 2004 with the Aveo, aimed squarely at the Toyota Echo.
Pronounced Ah-VAY-oh, it’s a product of GM-DAT – General Motors-Daewoo Auto and Technology, formed when GM bought controlling interest in the bankrupt Korean automaker Daewoo in 2002. Suzuki’s smaller stake in the company means that the Korean-built Aveo also emerges as the Suzuki Swift+. Unlike the hatch-only Swift+, Aveo is available as either a four-door sedan or five-door hatchback. ABS, a $565 option on Aveo, is unavailable on Suzuki.
Aveo 4-door prices are $13,480 for the base and $14,050 for the LS; as the 5-door it’s $13,820 and $14,385. Base models include dual air bags, fixed-delay wipers, rear defogger, floor mats, AM/FM, and on the 5-door, rear wiper and foglights.
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The LS package includes power locks with keyless entry (and a horrific lock chirp that sounds like someone stepped on a Yorkshire terrier), heated mirrors with passenger-side power remote, power windows and CD player (upgradeable to include MP3). My LS sedan came to $16,515 with optional ABS, $1,150 air and $750 automatic transmission.
Power for all models is from a 1.6 DOHC 4-cylinder that peaks its 103 horsepower at 5,800 rpm, with 107 lb-ft of torque at 3,600 rpm. That’s a bit more torque at lower rpms than Toyota Echo, but it’s also thirstier: 7.7 l/100 km average to Echo’s 6.3 l/100 km. (In real-world driving, my tester returned 8.8 l/100 km, although it had only 500 km and should improve somewhat with breaking-in.)
Aveo is well-mannered and fun to drive, with responsive rack-and-pinion steering. It’s tight and confident – basic transportation that feels more than basic. At 1,075 kg, it naturally feels the effects of gusty highways and big trucks, but then, it’s really aimed at the city, where its size makes so much sense. Headroom is impressive, and there’s seating for five.
Visibility is better in the hatchback; the sedan’s high trunk, combined with tapering mirrors, makes backing up a little tougher than it should be. But the trunk is massive for a car its size – 83 cm long, opening up to 162 cm with the rear seats folded, and with a low lift-over and narrow bumper for easy loading.
Instruments, including a tach, are grouped in front of the driver. Heater and stereo controls are nice and simple, with a CD storage bin between them.
There are a few design flaws. Cupholders slide out of the dash directly below the heater; park a pair of double-doubles and you can’t access the controls. The wiper mist function is far too touchy, requiring that you push the stalk up long enough for it to catch; miss it, and the wipers stop halfway up.
And parents, take note. The owner’s manual warns that if you pull the rear inside door handles while the child security lock is engaged, it “could damage your vehicle”. I’m no child expert, but logic tells me that the sole reason security locks exist is because small children like to pull on inside door handles. What were the engineers thinking?
As an urban dweller’s city-mobile, a family’s second car or a “first vehicle” for young drivers, Aveo is up against some firmly-established rivals, including Echo, Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio, as well as sibling rivalry from Swift+. I think it’s definitely a worthwhile contender. A few shortcomings aside, it should do very well for itself.
The Aveo is built in Bupyong, South Korea.
Technical Data: 2004 Chevrolet Aveo LS sedan
|Options||$2,465 (automatic transmission $750, air conditioning $1150, ABS $565)|
|Price as tested||$17,830|
|Type||4-door, 5 passenger subcompact sedan|
|Layout||transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive|
|Engine||1.6 litre 4 cylinder, DOHC, 16 valves|
|Horsepower||103 @ 5800 rpm|
|Torque||107 @ 3600 rpm|
|Transmission||4 speed automatic|
|Curb weight||1080 kg (2381 lb.)|
|Wheelbase||2480 mm (97.6 in.)|
|Length||4235 mm (166.7 in.)|
|Width||1670 mm (65.7 in.)|
|Height||1495 mm (58.9 in.)|
|Trunk capacity||330 litres (11.7 cu. ft.)|
|Fuel consumption||City: 9.0 l/100 km (31 mpg)|
|Hwy: 6.4 l/100 km (44 mpg)|
|Fuel type||Regular unleaded|
|Warranty||3 yrs/60,000 km|