Aveo worth trying
ANYONE doubting Chevrolet's ability to build a class-competitive supermini needs to try this one, the second generation Aveo. Smartly styled and, in diesel form, smart to run, it's a budget brand small car you actually might feel rather good about owning.
If you're a typical Aveo buyer, then you probably won't care very much what goes on under the bonnet or how adept your car will be at tackling your favourite twisty B road.
In fact, you probably won't have a favourite twisty B road. So you won't care that there are no really performance-minded engines in the range, that the steering is a little light and that bodyroll is a little more pronounced than you'll find in something more Fiesta-like.
You'll be more interested instead in stuff that's of greater importance every day — namely levels of ride and refinement that are as good as anything in the class, including small cars that are a great deal more expensive.
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Partly that's because under the skin, this car has a very solid, taut chassis indeed, underpinnings originally developed for the fourth generation Vauxhall Corsa but which this Chevrolet managed to get hold of first.
In terms of refinement, though, the only caveat I have to add concerns the 86PS petrol 1.2 that the majority of buyers of this model tend to choose. Though its performance figures — rest to 60 in 13.6s on the way to 107mph — look all right, just 115Nm of torque, of pulling power, demands that you work the engine pretty hard to achieve reasonably rapid progress.
And that'll prove a stern test of the considerable efforts that the designers have put in to keep noise levels down in this model, efforts that include everything from special damping mats to thicker windscreen glass and a felt blanket lining the underside of the bonnet.
The benefits of all this are much more noticeable in the other petrol engine on offer, a 100PS 1.4, especially if you mate it to the necessarily relaxed progress that's conditional if you order this car with a sprint-sapping six-speed Hydra-Matic auto gearbox. Even with the slightly notchy five-speed manual gearbox that most Aveos must have, a 1.4-litre model doesn't offer you much more in terms of speed than the 1.2, and it loses out considerably in terms of everyday driving punch to even the less powerful of the two diesel engines finally put on offer to Aveo customers in this second generation guise.
Both VCDi units are 1.3 litres in size, with a choice of either 75 or 95PS outputs. The pokier of the two manages 60 in 12.6s, a second and a half quicker than its stablemate, a figure you can reduce further to 11.7s by opting for a more frugally-focused 'Eco' version.
A budget-brand supermini was once a last resort when you couldn't stretch to the safe conformity of a Fiesta, a Corsa or a Polo. Now look at it. Cutting-edge styling, the option of super-frugal diesel power and a hi-tech up-to-the-minute platform that in this case more expensive Vauxhalls can only copy.
There is, in short, no doubt that with this second generation Aveo, Chevrolet has clearly upped its game.
Whether that'll be enough to catapult this car into contention with the established supermini class leaders is debateable, but it's certainly good enough to stand it in good stead against Chevrolet's targeted rivals in this segment, Skoda's Fabia, Kia's Rio and Hyundai's i30, even if you don't like all of the 'characterful' touches that do so much to set this model apart from its rather dull predecessor.
True, you can buy greater quality, sharper handling or even extra gadgetry from other rivals in this sector, but in every case it'll cost you more. Usually a lot more. In contrast, this Aveo manages at an affordable price to offer more of what you really need in a car of this kind with greater panache than any small Chevrolet before. And for many potential buyers, that'll be all they need to know.