Chevrolet Aveo 1.3 VCDi Eco LT

A supermini Chevy – but is it born to run?
  • @Jamie_Merrill

Price: £12,795
Engine capacity: 1.3 litre diesel
Power output (PS @ rpm): 95 @ 4,000
Top speed (mph): 109
0-62 mph (seconds): 11.7
Fuel economy (mpg): 78.4
CO2 emissions (g/km): 95

Chevrolet may have just turned 100 years old, but the General Motors-owned company hasn't really grabbed much attention in Britain until now, which perhaps isn't surprising when it sells competent but dull Korean-made cars with a brash American badge slapped on.

Last year, though, Chevy shifted 4.76 million vehicles worldwide and turned its attention on Europe in a move that will leave rival Ford and fellow GM-stablemate Vauxhall quaking in their production lines.

The new Aveo supermini joins the Cruze, the new Captiva SUV, and the petrol-electric hybrid Volt, in a line-up that's set to make a big impression on the UK market. Or at least so Chevy hopes...

It won't be an easy ride for the little challenger; it's up against more than 20 superminis on sale today in a squeezed section of the market where profits (parents splashing cash on their teenage offspring) are hard to come by.

Much has been made of its unusual headlight clusters, massive badge, trademark grille and space-age instrument cluster (a genuinely nice touch), but its design is unlikely to set pulses racing in all but the most boorish petrolhead circles.

What will really attract teens – or more accurately their parents – is its low price, high levels of kit, excellent fuel economy and high safety standards. Even the entry-level model (from £9,495) comes equipped with electric front windows, air-con and cruise control. However it is probably worth investing a little more for the LT model, which adds Bluetooth, steering-wheel mounted controls, alloy wheels and an iPod dock. More pleasing for worried parents is that all models come with a five-year warranty, six airbags and a 5-star NCAP rating for safety.

Aside from teenagers, the other constituency of buyers will likely be eco-aware and space-savvy city drivers. They'll appreciate its tiny turning circle, light steering and low emissions, which come in under the magic 99g/km for vehicle excise duty and congestion charge free motoring. If they do venture out of town they'll find the engine – I tested the high-powered diesel but there is a smaller diesel and several petrol engines – nippy enough for B-roads and just about able to hold its own on the motorway. You'll have to work the gears hard, though, and with more than two adults onboard, the promised fuel economy becomes a pipedream.

There are other niggles; the plastic skirt at the bottom of the front bumper on my test model made a scraping noise over tall sleeping policeman and there's an unfathomably huge void to the left of the clutch pedal, which seems to run right down into the engine. But what do you expect for a car that starts at just £10k? The Aveo isn't perfect – it's a great all-round package with lots of kit, plenty of space and adequate performance. And if I were an executive at Ford or Vauxhall, I'd be starting to worry.

The competition

Its main rivals are the Vauxhall Corsa and the Ford Fiesta, both are a little larger but have less kit. The Hyundai i20 is a good-value alternative.