Chevrolet Aveo 1.3 VCDi LT: First drive review
Two new impressive engines and an attractive price tag make the car a good option on paper, but what's it like to drive? I went to the UK launch to find out.
Sharp lines and some unique styling highlights give the Aveo a distinct road presence.
The protruding headlight lamps surrounded by black plastic look good and break up the front end of the car. The bonnet is sculpted with two swooping lines which flow up the A-pillars and give an aggressive and sporty look. It definitely looks impactful from the front.
Move to the side and a body line flows from the front wheel arch right through to the top of the rear door handles, which are neatly integrated into the window plastic, making for a much cleaner design. The tall roof of the Aveo is masked well as a result.
The rear of the car continues the theme with a curvy rear windscreen and wraparound spoiler, though the black plastic on the lights looks unfinished compared to the front and would be far prettier in body colour.
Inside, the Chevy has a modern centre console with well laid-out switchgear and some handy interior cubby holes. The cheap feel is uninspiring though, with grainy plastic on the upper and lower dash. The glovebox hinge feels fragile and the gaps between the door cards and dash are cavernous.
The seats are large but lack support. After less than 50 miles, my lower back was starting to ache. The most annoying gripe inside is the position of the handbrake, which has not been moved for RHD models and feels very unnatural to operate, especially with the optional driver's arm rest down.
The instrument binnacle is a blot on the cockpit, feeling far too much like an afterthought in design. However, a large digital speedo display and rev counter are welcome. The display also automatically dims for night-time driving – one of my favourite features of the car.
Two diesel variants are offered in 1.3-litre capacity. The turbocharged 74bhp VCDi is mated to a five-speed manual box and pumps out an impressive 99g/km in CO2 emissions. Even with more power, the 94bhp VCDi Eco manages to improve on this, with just 95g/km of carbon emissions. Stop-start is standard on the Eco model as is cruise control and a speed limiter.
Both engines are rattly at idle and can be disruptively loud when accelerating. Power delivery is generally smooth on the 1.3 and low-down torque means both diesel lumps have no trouble pulling away in second gear. At cruising speeds, the diesel quietens down and is rather more sedate. Gear changes are notchy and precise, and a smooth ride is easily achievable.
Most surprising is the drop in 0-60mph times between engines. The more powerful 94bhp lump is a full 2.5 seconds quicker to 60mph on paper and has a top speed of 108mph, but on the road there is no discernible difference in performance. The extra oomph in bhp is only noticeable higher in the rev range and the two engines side by side are very difficult to tell apart.
While cruising between 60-70mph, the Aveo could really use a six-speed box and it is a surprise to see that only the range-topping LTZ diesel (nearly £1,000 more) benefits from the extra gear.
The Aveo can hold the road admirably, and makes very little fuss when it's thrown into a corner. Body roll is minimal and the steering is responsive enough to keep you out of trouble, it just lacks that sporting agility that the front end promises.
The 74bhp diesel managed a 51mpg average with mixed driving, but most impressive was the consistent high 60's the 94bhp Eco model achieved. This dropped to the high 50's with some hard driving up and downhill, but hit an all-time high of over 76mpg when cruising.
Impressed by the ride of the petrol versions last year, we were concerned that the ride on UK roads would be compromised. Interestingly, a set of tyres made all the difference. The 94bhp Eco was equipped with Goodyear rubber and absorbed bumps from cat's eyes much better. Tyre noise was also noticeably muffled.
So, what engine is best in the Aveo range? Well, the diesel cars represent the most value for money and at £12,795, the flagship 1.3 VCDi Eco 94bhp is just £420 more on the road than its 74bhp sister. When you factor in better performance, lower CO2 emissions and much higher mpg, that price looks almost too good to be true.
It's a shame then that poor quality interior feel overshadows the capable engine. For similar money, rival models such as the diesel Kia Rio offer more complete packages without compromises.