2011 Chevrolet Aveo 5 door Hatchback

Buyers looking for an affordable car these days have many models to choose from. In days gone by, “cheap” meant low-grade materials, haphazard assembly and suspect reliability. Yes, these “affordable” cars were cheap to purchase and operate, but, sadly, they were also “cheap” in terms of overall execution. Thankfully, the times have changed very quickly. The Chevrolet Aveo5 is a prime example of the overall improvement int the entry level segment.

2011 Chevrolet Aveo 5 door Hatchback

One of the pitfalls of this job is the order in which one tests vehicles. After climbing out of a Mercedes-Benz CL 63 AMG or Audi R8, both of which are uber-powerful and just as expensive, it takes a while to get comfortable behind the wheel of an entry-level sub-compact car, especially one that has but a fifth of the power under its hood. In the Aveo5’s case, this means 108 horsepower and 105 pound-feet of torque. Numbers like these often make it feel as though one should get out and give the little car a push off the line to get it started. Nail the gas in the mid-range and it feels as though the engine is trying to push a 10-tonne bumper out of its way.

Thankfully, the Aveo5, while far from speedy, does feel reasonably lively when the gas pedal is prodded. Yes, it takes all of 10.8 seconds to meander its way to 100 km/h, but it gets there without impeding traffic flow. In the mid-range, dropping a couple of the five-speed manual’s cogs, a must given that fourth and fifth gears are overdrives, see it eclipse the 80-120 km/h passing test in 9.6 seconds. Again, far from fast, but more than enough for everyday driving. Where the Aveo5’s 1.6L engine comes into its own, however, is its miserly thirst for fuel – the test average of 6.1 L/100 km being roughly what the CL 63 and R8 consume at idle.
When it comes to the ride and handling, the Aveo5 is pretty decent. The front struts, rear twist beam and anti-roll bars prevent the body from leaning over too far in an enthusiastic corner, yet the tuning manages to absorb most road irregularities in stride. Understeer is a different matter – it is a constant companion, even at moderate speeds. Blame the LS’s P185/60R14 tires. The up-level LT, and its P185/55R15 tires, felt far more planted.
The Aveo5’s steering is tight and remains true to driver input – it’s nicely weighted at speed, although it is a tad heavy at low speeds. The brake pedal is, likewise, crisp to the touch and the stopping distances, at 40.2 metres from 100 km/h, are short and precise. However, if you want the added security of anti-lock you’ll have to pony up $600. This important safety feature should be a standard feature, as should electronic stability control. The latter is not offered, even as an option, which is a major oversight in today’s market.

2011 Chevrolet Aveo interior

The Aveo5’s cabin is not a bad place to while away the kilometres. The materials are pretty good and the fit and finish is commendable. The driver’s seat is comfortable, the driving position is easily established and the view to the sides and rear is clean and uncluttered – the combination makes the Aveo5 an easy car to drive in a congested urban environment. Where the Aveo5 LS seems to skimp is on its list of amenities – or lack thereof. Certainly, it gets a rear wiper/washer, but the windows, locks and mirrors are manual, the audio package’s sound quality is thin, and air conditioning is an option ($1,150), as are floor mats ($80)!
As for the rest of it, the Aveo5 does deliver surprising room given it compact dimensions – it’s just 3,939-mm long and only 1,680-mm wide. Yes, the rear seat legroom starts off as limited and shrinks as the front seat is moved rearward, but it is usable for the most part – two of my teenaged daughters managed to find the room to relax without out too much whining. Aft of that there is 15 cubic feet of cargo space with the 60/40-split/folding seats upright and 37.2 cu. ft. with them folded flat and tumbled up against the front seats.
The Aveo5 is a competent entry-level car, but it is one of a growing number of affordable rides that are beginning to age their way out of contention. While the Aveo5 LS tested does represent decent value for the money it commands ($13,950), I was left wanting more. Select a few of the niceties in life drives, and the price rises quickly – an Aveo5 LT equipped with an automatic transmission, ABS, premium sound system and power sunroof pushes the sticker over $20,000. The problem with this is that the Ford Fiesta and Mazda2, two of Aveo5’s more obvious competitors, deliver more car for less money. To counter, GM has added incentives across the country to knock as much as a few thousand off the sticker price of either model.