Chevrolet Aveo 1.4 LT

Will new name and fresh look make Chevy a contender?

In the UK, the Chevrolet Kalos is a rare sight. But believe it or not, the same model is the best-selling small car in North America, where it’s long been badged Aveo. Surprised? Well, consider Chevrolet’s strong image and huge dealer network in its native USA, and the supermini’s popularity begins to make sense.

Mirroring that success here hasn’t been easy. First badged as a Daewoo, the Kalos found few fans, so Chevy has taken this opportunity to give the model a fresh start with an updated design and the same name as in other markets.

Just don’t be fooled into thinking it’s all-new. Underneath, many parts are still shared with the old Kalos – and this is evident in the styling.

The firm has taken cues from the Captiva SUV and recently launched Epica saloon, giving the Aveo a revamped nose with a central bar splitting the grille. It’s neat, if not distinctive, but we’re not convinced about the location of the Chevrolet badge. It looks as if it’s slipped off the grille!

Viewed in profile, though, the Aveo is near-identical to the Kalos, while at the back the biggest changes are the fresh light clusters and reshaped bumper. Park new next to old, and from many angles you’d be hard pressed to tell them apart.

Thankfully, the alterations to the cabin are more far-reaching. While the oversized steering wheel remains, the rest of the interior has been revamped and quality is much improved. It’s not up to class-leading standards, but the plastics used are much better and features such as the integrated stereo and the silver finish on the doors and dash help lift the driving environment.

It’s still not as attractive as the Swift, and doesn’t provide as much stowage space, either. Yet the Chevy has more passenger room than the Suzuki, especially if you want to carry three in the back.

Aveo buyers get a choice of two engines, both of which were used in Vauxhall’s previous Corsa. The 1.4-litre Ecotec unit is only available in the flagship LT model we test, and offers decent pace, although at higher revs it can get noisy. While it’s not as responsive as the Suzuki’s VVT unit, it was more frugal in our hands, returning 37mpg exactly. As a result it also emits less CO2, at 176g/km.

At the test track, the Chevy couldn’t match the Suzuki from 0-60mph, even though the cars have near-identical power, torque and kerbweight. The Aveo recorded a 12.3-second time – one second behind its rival – while it was slower in-gear, too.

Taller gear ratios don’t help the newcomer on motorways; it doesn’t pull as strongly as the Swift at higher speeds. And engine noise isn’t as well insulated, making the Suzuki the better choice here if you have a long journey to tackle.

On the open road, the Chevy is let down by excessive body roll and numb steering. It’s neither as enjoyable nor as polished as the Swift. As with the rest of the package, the dynamics feel dated.

Still, it claws back ground in town. The Aveo is great for nipping in and out of traffic, despite the large A-pillars, and deals well with potholes and speed bumps. On top of that, it’s good value. Our LT model is £9,545 – only a few pounds more than the Swift – yet it features air-con, electric windows all-round, plus an MP3 player input. Does this compensate for flaws elsewhere?

Details

Price: £9,545Model tested: Aveo 1.4 LTChart position: 2WHY: It’s based on the Kalos, but the Aveo is the best supermini Chevy has ever made, and it comes with efficient new engines.

Economy

The Aveo’s new engines are more economical and cleaner than those in the old Kalos. In our hands, the 1.4 returned 37.0mpg – marginally more than the Suzuki. That translates into a 366-mile range.

Residuals

Our experts have yet to calculate residuals for the new Aveo. Yet Chevy will look to improve on the Kalos’s woeful figures. It retained 30.9 per cent of its cost new after three years.

Servicing

As the Aveo is still so new, costs aren’t available yet. But Chevrolet dealers will offer fixed-price deals. Three years’ maintenance is set to cost about £300 – that’s superb value.

Tax

While neither car is an obvious fleet choice, the Aveo works out as the cheaper option. It costs more to buy, but emits 10g/km less, at 140g/km. As a result, lower-band owners will pay £305 a year.

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