First drive: Chevrolet Aveo

The Aveo is Chevrolet's all-new B-Segment contender, designed to take on the Hyundai i20 and Suzuki Swift.

It's a significant car as the B-Segment accounts for between 20 and 30 percent of total Chevrolet sales and will be launched in time for the 100 year anniversary of the American brand on November 3 this year.
So with prices expected to start at under £10,000, should you go for the distinctive new Aveo over the more established opposition? We headed to Zurich to find out.

Chevrolet describe the Aveo's exterior styling as sporty and assertive. I'm less sure about it being sporty, as I think assertive and distinctive sum it up better.

Longer, wider and now only available as a five-door hatch, the Aveo almost looks like a scaled-up version of the smaller Spark. Design highlights from the side include the rising window line and hidden rear handles. There's also an upswept lower cutaway to emphasise the rakish shape.

The Aveo is probably most distinctive from the front, with the twin front headlights and another version of the Chevrolet family grille. The back of the Aveo is less of a success, the rear light clusters are made up of black-backed separate units that look unfinished against most of the exterior colours.

In my view, the Aveo looks best in range-topping LTZ trim with the 17-inch alloy wheels and finished in flame red metallic.

Inside, the Aveo's dashboard design is similar to the smaller Spark, with the separate bike-like instrument pod. The instruments are definitely one of the more interesting parts of the design compared to the rest, which was made up of shiney, scratchy plastics - even if they're difficult to read at a glance.

Another interior highlight is the chunky switchgear borrowed from the Vauxhall Astra and Insignia. Standard equipment is also impressive with six airbags, remote locking, iPod connectivity, rear spoiler and air-conditioning fitted to all Aveo models.

The Aveo's driving position is generally good, though the seats lack support. Headroom in the front and back is fine, but some might find the upswept windows in the rear claustraphobic. Bootspace is decent too at 290 litres, which is about the class average.

So what's the Aveo like to drive? I had the chance to drive what is expected to be the top-seller, the 1.2 petrol manual and an automatic version of the 1.4 petrol. Out of the two, the 1.2 is my favourite as the smaller engine seemed sweeter, if vocal and the gearchange slick, if not hurried.

The 1.4 petrol engine is more capable, but seemed harsher and is not well mated to the clunky autobox.

The Aveo's biggest driving highlights are the well-resolved ride and handling. It's not going to worry the class-leaders, but it's surprisingly refined. My only worry is how this will translate to UK roads after Zurich's super-soft tarmac.

So should you buy an Aveo? Well, you won't buy this car for driving thrills, but if you're in the market for a distinctive, high-value supermini with a five-year warranty, the Aveo will be well worth a look.

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