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Built for the young

The Chevrolet Aveo might have been a great driver's car had the engineers been allowed to have their way

Published on July 4, 2007

Timing is everything. It's a common enough saying, but it never really appealed to me as one of life's governing principles. However, it can be usefully applied to certain situations, and one of them is my timing in writing this test-drive report.

The Aveo was launched last August, and it has taken nearly a year for this much-talked-about vehicle and me to be in the same place at the same time. An annoyingly busy schedule and a few foreign trips have kept us apart. But we finally got it together and, with my greatest apologies, here is my belated report.

The Aveo was basically Chevrolet's weapon with which to conquer the subcompact market - a playground dominated by the Toyota Soluna Vios and the Honda City. Since then, the arrival of the new Vios has made things tough, and the City's brilliant user friendliness has meant quite a battle for the Aveo.

Design is not necessarily the car's best aspect. Although touted as "built for the young", the Aveo is really a bit on the bland side. The rather bulbous headlights and simple-looking rear end aren't exactly what you'd call spectacular, but spectacle is something that's lacking in the whole subcompact segment. Looks are a subjective issue, and with a few additional fittings, such as an aero kit and rear spoiler, the Aveo has the potential to look great. A few modified examples running around the streets of Bangkok prove my point.

However, the car's interior is impressive - like that of the Optra. There are no flashy chrome touches, but there is a feeling of quality. Everything feels firm, and there aren't any creaking sounds from the plastics. The audio system, for instance, seems simple enough for a two-year-old to figure out. But oversimplification does not necessarily fit with the "built for the young" image.

Besides the good quality, the Aveo has some effective ergonomics. The air-conditioning vents, for example, make setting the air direction an easy task. The horn on the side of the steering spoke makes it easy to use with both hands on the wheel. Centre cup-holders that fold away are an added boon.

Frustrating aspects, though, are a lack of night-lights for rear passengers and no automatic power windows, even for the driver's side.

The driver's seat is comfortable, with the addition of an armrest, and the driver's view is clear; the A-pillars don't intrude too much. The rear seats are comfortable and roomy for a car of this size. They can be folded down to accommodate big pieces of luggage, a feature seemingly shared by all cars in the segment.

Now let's put all this aside and get down to how this "built for the young" car moves.

The fact is, the Aveo will have you pretty confused. Its lack of acceleration aside, the Aveo is pretty acceptable in a straight line, and the suspension feels noticeably stiff. It's when you enter a corner that the car tends to loose its charm. The amount of body roll is totally unexpected from a car with such an image. The steering is not the most comfortable for city use, and being vague seems to be its main priority.

What really disappoints is that the Aveo has a lot of potential to be a good driver's car. The stiff suspension is possibly a hint of how the engineers wanted the car really to turn out. Another point worth noting is that even at speeds above 120kph, the Aveo does not appear unsettled. It's almost a pity the marketing team got their way with a car that had so much potential.

However, the brakes seem to do their job well, and you won't be complaining about them.

So where does the Aveo fit in with the competition? With a price range between Bt510,000 and Bt635,000, its price is not too far from its competition, so the decision to buy becomes an easy one only if you're a fan of the Chevy brand.

Engine: 1.4-litre DOHC 4-cylinder

Displacement: 1,399cc

Bore and stroke: 77.9mm x 73.4mm

Compression ratio: 9.5:1

Max power: 94hp at 6,200rpm

Max torque: 130Nm at 3,400rpm

Transmission: 4-speed automatic

Steering: Powered rack and pinion

Brakes (f/r): vented discs/drums

Dimensions (mm):

Length: 4,310

Width: 1,710

Height: 1,505

Wheelbase: 2,480

Track (f/r): 1,450/1,430

Wheels: 15-inch alloys

Weight: 1,160kg

Fuel-tank capacity: 45 litres

Price: Bt 635,000

Distributor: Chevrolet Sales (Thailand)

Tel: (02) 791 3400

Vijo Varghese

The Nation

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