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2007 Chevrolet Aveo

Dirt Cheap Looks Better The Second Time Around

    We last drove an Aveo in 2005 when we called it the rolling definition of dirt cheap. Sure it sounds critical, but after plenty of jabs below the beltline we admitted that for people on the strictest budget the Aveo offered basic transportation with a factory warranty and only asked for $12,690 in return.
     We were clear about one thing, however: The first-generation Aveo was u-g-l-y. We suppose buyers shopping in the $12,000 range can’t be too picky, but thankfully this new 2007 model sedan (the 5-door continues unchanged) is downright decent looking inside and out. The flared fenders, clear lens headlights and body-colored mirrors all do their part in making this Korean-built subcompact look more American and contemporary than it has any right to. Expensive looking Euro-style taillights are the kind of unexpected detail that make this car seem so much more than the last model. Of course, standard 14” steel wheels don’t offer much street cred, but the optional 5-spoke aluminum rims on our car are probably worth the $375 upgrade. So in the style department at least, the new Aveo sedan is a delightful surprise.

     After witnessing the degree of styling improvement between this Aveo and our last, we were hoping to find a similar upgrade under the hood. We didn’t. The same wheezy 1.6-liter DOHC 4-cylinder still makes the same lethargic 103 hp and 107 lb-ft of torque. As you can guess, the Aveo puts the slow in “really slow”.
     At least we were able to create the illusion of haste by ringing out the engine in each of the manual’s five gears. Doing this results in unpleasant mechanical noises and more often then not, heckling from passengers. If you have an enthusiast’s bone in your body you may also find yourself laughing out loud at the transmission’s long throws and vague—make that non-existent—feel, and the clutch could be depressed with your little toe. The upside to this setup is consistently smooth shifts. A beginner could chauffer you through rush hour traffic while you sipped a coffee.
     We highly recommend passing on the optional automatic because it adds cost and cuts three miles per gallon off the EPA highway number, which is a respectable 27/37 with the do-it-yourself transmission.

     The car rides all right, but road noise is higher than in many of the Aveo’s competitors. Handling is as good as you can expect from a car with skinny 14” tires and a rear torsion beam suspension. But even with a front anti-roll bar the car still leans heavily in corners, although for 95% of everyday driving it’s fine.
     We didn’t get a chance to strap our test gear to the littlest Chevy, but our calibrated backside reported the brakes are nothing to get excited about. Between the low grip of the tiny tires and the front disc, rear drum setup we were thankful the Aveo only weighed 2,531 pounds. ABS is an option, and probably worth the extra coin.

     Considering the penalty box the interior of our last Aveo resembled we were glad to see some style and improved materials inside. Bright work dresses up the charcoal interior and the whole thing looks far better then before. Our tester had an upgraded CD/MP3 player that goes for $325, and six speakers Chevy would have you believe offer “premium sound”. We’re not sure they are worth another $125. Air conditioning and a rear defogger are standard, as are nicely shaped and comfortable cloth seats. A few details could still use some improvement, the first being the retina-searing high-beam indicator light that shines out from the dash like the Las Vegas Strip. Seriously, no one noticed this during development?
    If the Aveo offered a refined four-cylinder and an improved transmission we’d be more likely to send you to the Chevy dealer for your small car needs, even if it boosted the bottom line another thousand dollars. But the competition in this segment is pretty stiff and there are better subcompacts out there, although not many can beat the Aveo’s as-tested price of $13,140. Once again, if price is the main factor in your decision, the Aveo offers a warranty and that new car smell starting at $11,750.

The Good:
Finally looks good inside and out, 37 mpg on the highway, starts under $12k.
The Bad:
Slow, can get pushed around in the wind, horrible manual transmission.
The Verdict:
A better drivetrain would make this a serious contender in the revived subcompact class.
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