With more than 25 superminis on sale in the UK, grabbing the attention of potential customers isn’t easy. Especially if, like Chevrolet, you are selling Korean-made cars wearing an American badge and are still in the early stages of building a brand in such a competitive class.
The new hatch needs to stand out, so it’s easy to see why Chevrolet has taken a bold approach with its styling. Particularly as it hopes to attract younger buyers, who typically prefer more personality.
The exposed twin headlamps and massive Chevy badge are certainly different, and could achieve the desired aim of pulling in youthful customers. But for every person attracted to the distinctive looks, we think several more could be put off by detailing that has a slightly aftermarket appearance.
This is a shame, because the Aveo’s basic shape is well proportioned and touches like the hidden rear door handles are quite smart. The LT model tested comes with body-coloured door handles and mirrors, plus a chrome-effect grille and 15-inch alloy wheels, all of which prevent this bargain-priced hatch from looking too basic.
It’s a similar story inside, where the simply laid-out and modern cabin largely manages to avoid feeling low-rent. For starters, the gearlever and steering wheel materials are more pleasing to touch than the Hyundai’s. It’s also easy to find a comfortable driving position, as there’s plenty of steering wheel and seat adjustment. The centre console’s blue backlighting looks smart and everything is solidly screwed together.
There are some hard plastics, but nothing you wouldn’t expect from a car in this price range. Equipment is decent as well, with a multifunction steering wheel, cruise control and Bluetooth connectivity all standard.
Under the skin, the mechanicals aren’t bad, either – the stop-start system operates smoothly, while the five-speed gearbox has a light but accurate shift action.
The 94bhp VCDI engine is a little disappointing, though. While it’s reasonably smooth in the mid-range, power is limited to a relatively narrow sweet spot between 1,800rpm and 2,500rpm. Beyond 3,000rpm, the engine becomes strained and refinement disappears, so there isn’t much point in working it that hard. Peak torque arrives at 1,750rpm and, despite a 30Nm deficit to the 220Nm Hyundai, the Aveo has very similar in-gear responses – except in fifth between 50mph and 70mph, where it lacks the flexibility of the six-speed i20.
At the test track, the Chevy was two tenths of a second faster from 0-60mph, posting a time of 11.4 seconds. But on the road, there’s little to split this pair on performance.
The Aveo shares its underpinnings with the Vauxhall Corsa, and Chevrolet claims the two main aims of its set-up are involving handling and suspension to suit European tastes. When you drive the Chevy back-to-back with the Hyundai, you notice that it grips more and rolls less than its rival. Unfortunately, the suspension doesn’t deal with poor surfaces well. It allows bumps and potholes to thump up into the cabin, which highlights expansion joints on the motorway.
More worryingly, if you brake heavily as you hit a pothole, the vibrating suspension triggers the ABS early, which is unnerving and lengthens braking distances. But despite rear drum brakes, the Aveo recorded shorter stopping distances than the Hyundai.
Practicality hasn’t been ignored and there’s enough room for a pair of six-footers to sit in reasonable comfort in the back. Boot space is nearly a match for the i20, and running costs are another strong point.
cars are evenly matched when it comes to resale value and both are exempt from road tax thanks to sub-100g/km CO2 emissions. We recorded a disappointing 35mpg in the Aveo and it only comes with 12 months of roadside assistance – you get five years in the i20 – but the Chevrolet is £550 cheaper to buy in the first place.
While the new Aveo isn’t perfect, there is a smidgen of the youthful hot hatch appeal that Chevrolet was clearly after.
Chart position: 2WHY: The latest offering from General Motors’ value division promises to be the best small car to wear a Chevrolet badge.