By and large reviewers have tried, and mostly failed, to be kind to the 2011 Chevrolet Aveo. After analyzing a series of published reviews, US News placed the Aveo at 31st place out of 33 affordable small cars in its index. The best thing anyone can say about the Aveo is that it’s cheap, with the average price paid falling between $12,500 and $15,780. About the only car in this class that’s cheaper is the Nissan Versa at $9,990.
What do you get for your money? Well, the Aveo runs. It will get you from place to place, but Car and Driver said it’s about as much fun to drive as televised ice fishing is to watch. The base model is frankly abysmal unless you’re happy with a stick shift, no AC, nix on the power windows and locks, and, disturbingly, no side-curtain airbags, or traction or stability control. In fact, ABS is only available on the LT models.
Except for a couple of new paint colors and standard cabin air filtration, this is still the 2010 Aveo. The 2011 hasn’t been tested by either the government or the insurance industry, but the 2010 scored five stars on front-driver crashes, four on front-passenger, three on side-rear, and four on rollovers. (It faired less well with the insurance industry, which awarded only “acceptable” and “marginal” ratings.
Frankly, there are better choices. (Some reviewers even say there are better choices in used cars.) The 2011 Ford Fiesta handles like a dream and has a better build quality for about $1,300 above the Aveo base. The Honda Fit (which only comes as a hatchback) is $2,800 more, but has almost twice the cargo space (57.3 cubic feet) and much better standard safety features (side-curtain airbags and anti-lock brakes for starters.) Even the uber-cheap Nissan Versa offers optional ABS on the base. The Aveo doesn’t.
So who did General Motors target with this odd little beast? People who are in a financial bind — and there have been plenty of those in recession-plagued America. Are their good points to the Aveo? Sure. The 1.6-liter four-cylinder may not be zippy at 108 hp, but it is reliable. Expect 27/35 for mileage with the manual and 25/34 with the automatic.
In terms of appearance, the sedan (there’s an Aveo5 hatchback, too) has a surprisingly aggressive stance for a small car and even looks a bit like the Malibu up front. Inside there’s lots of hard plastic, but GM relieved it with well-placed texturing and some brushed chrome accenting. Cloth seats are standard, but the optional leatherette is much more pleasing than any material with the suffix “ette” has a right to be. Basically, inside, the Aveo gives a good imitation of a more expensive car.
Now, in terms of room, if you’re over six feet tall anywhere in this baby, you are not going to be comfortable. The leg room is not good and the driver’s seat has a tall positioning that returns cramped headroom. This is definitely an around town-car, but not a vehicle you want to take on a longer driver and certainly not on vacation. Here’s hoping the coming redesign will add better standard options and performance. Seriously, the Aveo could be saved, but it’s just not there yet.