Chevrolet Aveo – Photo by GM Europe
I normally blog about politics. But today I’m talking about something completely different.
A few days ago I bought a new car. My trusty old Volvo was nine years old, and I’d been thinking for several months about replacing it. I saw some very good deals on pre-registered new cars, and decided to buy one.
It’s a Chevrolet Aveo.
A what? Chevrolet is, of course, the famous mainstream car division of America’s General Motors.
In this country, though, GM’s mainstream brand is Vauxhall, and Chevrolet is their bargain-basement brand. The cars are made in Korea, by the former Daewoo Motor.
The roots of that company go back as far as 1937 in Korea. They have had links with General Motors since 1972, and did rather well here in the UK. But elsewhere they did not, and they crashed in 1999. GM bought most of the company and turned it into a supplier of lower end products for markets worldwide.
One of the old Daewoo cars was the Daewoo Kalos, introduced in 2002 but designed before the GM takeover. Rather surprisingly, some of the development was even done in the UK.
GM later facelifted that model, and turned it into the current Chevrolet Aveo.
So is it any good?
Of course, I’ve only had the car a few days. Time will tell whether it will prove reliable.
Here’s what What Car have to say about it:
For: A compact yet spacious supermini with a choice of two decent, frugal engines and reasonable kit levels in LS trim.
Against: Not an enjoyable drive, due to the numb steering, limited grip, weak engines and poor driving position. The cabin is drab, too, and the dash covered in hard plastics.
They give it just two stars out of five.
I have to say I think that’s unfair.
The first thing to say is that they forgot to mention the price under “For”. Which is quite an omission. The list price for the Aveo is from £8,995 (£1,000 less than a Ford Fiesta) but right now you can easily get one for £6,500.
There are other cars available at that price. But they are mostly tiny, budget cars in which every single feature reeks of cost-cutting and only a midget could fit in the back seat. The Aveo isn’t like that. It’s a proper car.
The car is roughly the same size as a Ford Fiesta. My wife has a company car which is a current model Ford Fiesta, so I’m pretty well placed to compare.
The Chevrolet is comfortable and well-equipped. Mine is the base model, and even that has remote control central door locking, a very decent radio/CD player (probably better than the one in the Fiesta) and electric front windows (which work better than the ones on the Fiesta). The Chevrolet does not have air conditioning (that’s an option), but the Fiesta’s aircon is not exactly stunningly effective.
The doors on the Fiesta go “clang” when you close them. My old Volvo’s, of course, made a satisfying clunk. I expected a “clang” from the Chevrolet, but actually got a “clunk” that was closer to the Volvo’s than the Fiesta’s.
The controls are chunky and well-made, in fact better than the Fiesta’s rather fussy and fiddly control layout.
The Chevrolet is proving quite economical (around 50 mpg), even though it is not run in yet. The engine is quiet and smooth (it was used in the previous generation Vauxhall Corsa) and the gearbox is not as good as the Fiesta’s, but still easy and smooth and no problem at all.
The Chevrolet certainly has more wind noise and road noise than the Fiesta, but it is not intrusive or hard to bear, even at motorway speeds. The handling is not quite as good as the Fiesta’s (as expected, since Ford have concentrated hard in recent years on improving the handling of their cars). But the Chevrolet doesn’t roll excessively or show any signs of slipping or twitchiness at the speeds I’ve driven at. The handling feels solid and predictable.
“Numb steering”, say What Car. I certainly don’t agree. The steering is rather heavier than the Fiesta’s, which makes it harder work in the city but is much better on an open road. It is certainly not “numb” to my mind – it goes where you tell it without any fuss.
“Limited grip”? Well, I guess if you’re a professional car tester and push it to the limit, maybe that’s true. I haven’t found any problems in that area so far.
“Weak engines”? Give me a break. That old Vauxhall engine is just as good in the Chevrolet as it was in the Corsa. It’s only a 1.2 litre, but it is quite adequate unless you’re a boy racer. 0-60 in 12.8 seconds and 106 mph top speed is not too shabby.
And “poor driving position”? Of course that is subjective. I am rather short (5 foot 7 inches) and I actually find the Chevrolet better than the Fiesta. The seats are also a bit higher, which make it easier to slip in and out of than the Fiesta.
“The cabin is drab”, say What Car. Not to my mind – the ambience is certainly at least as good as that in the Fiesta, to my mind. And the “dash is covered in hard plastics”. Well, that’s certainly true … except that they look almost identical to the Fiesta’s soft plastics. It’s only when you touch them that you realise they are not soft.
Overall, I would say that the feel when sitting in the car is perfectly fine. The car is easy to drive, comfortable, smooth, and reasonably economical.
The Chevrolet has even managed a few nice surprises, like a warning chime when the doors are left open with the engine running. And the knob to adjust the seat back is on the inside of the seat, instead of on the outside next to the door. Oh joy – why on earth do so many manufacturers opt for the outside edge of the seat, where you hit your knuckles on the door frame every time you adjust the seat?
You’d expect the Chevrolet to be beaten hands down by the Fiesta. The Fiesta is one of Britain’s most popular cars. It is roomy and well built. It handles well, and is well equipped and economical. The Fiesta gets five stars from What Car.
The surprise for me has been that the Chevrolet not only matches the Fiesta in a number of areas, but even manages to beat it in a few. And the dealer was in a different league than the Ford dealers I’ve dealt with in the past.
Is the Chevrolet as good as a Fiesta? No, overall, it’s not. It is made to a cheaper budget, and you can tell. But the difference between the two is smaller than you would expect given the difference in price.
The Aveo will have to go some for me to like it as much as the Volvo. I bought the Volvo second hand, but new it would have cost literally three times what I paid for the Chevrolet. But so far the Aveo is better than I expected, certainly better than What Car said it would be, and I’m very happy.
In a couple of years I’ll let you know how reliable it’s proving. Remind me. Or pray I forget to witter on about the car again.