Chevrolet Aveo LT 1.4 - The Verdict

 

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Chevrolet Aveo LT 1.4 Automatic

Price: £9,895

Engine: 1.4 litre petrol

Top speed: 106mph

Acceleration: 0-60mph in 12.3 seconds

Average fuel consumption: 44.1 mpg

CO2 emissions 152 g/km

Also worth considering? Fiat Punto, Kia Picanto, Skoda Fabia

Styled "to reflect the bold new face of Chevrolet"; that's how the company's press material describes the frontal treatment of its new baby runabout, the Aveo. The only problem, as two of our reader-testers spotted when they saw the car – is that with its deep radiator grille, which extends below the front bumper and number plate, Chevrolet's bold new face looks a lot like the bold new face Audi adopted a few years ago in order to give its models the quality of instant recognition that BMWs and Mercedes have always enjoyed. Mind you, Chevrolet isn't alone in adopting this look; Rover borrowed it for the fancier versions of its 75, and even Audi's sister company, Volkswagen, uses it for the current Passat.

So, is anyone really going to mistake a small, Korean-built Chevrolet for an Audi? Unlikely, but as we've noted here before, the gap between Korean cars and the established European brands in terms of quality and style is narrowing – and the Aveo is a fairly good example of this without matching the best Korean models, such as Kia's cee'd. The materials used in the cabin are similar to those used in Japanese cars, and they come in the darker, muted shades preferred by Europeans.

Our test car probably didn't show the Aveo from its best side. It was the most expensive LT version, and most of our readers' testing took place on rural roads where its four-speed automatic transmission showed its limitations; for drivers who spend most of their time in town, by contrast, it would undoubtedly be a boon; in fact, for anyone who has to have an automatic, the Aveo is an interesting option because it is one of the cheapest on the market. Safe and competent, rather than sparkling, are the best descriptions of the rest of the Aveo's on-road behaviour.

I suspect that the cheaper models represent the best value in the Aveo range. Three-door manual cars start at just over £7,000 and they do without some of the fancier equipment fitted to our test car – but they still have that imposing Audi-style grille.

David Barnsdall, 63, pumping systems designer, North Somerset

Usual car: Audi A3 Sportback, Austin Healey 100-6

The outside appearance is appealing, with a radiator grille that looks similar to a well-known German make. The interior finish is light and airy with comfortable seats, the front passenger seat has a folding tray on the back, which would be useful for young children. Driver visibility is good, the dashboard has a useful iPod connection and the controls are close at hand. The automatic gearbox is good in town and on motorways, and it changes up and down quite smoothly. The engine is quiet but lacks power going up long country hills. One regret is that there's nowhere comfortable to rest your left foot. Braking was light but firm; manoeuvrability around town was very good. Overall, it's a good car at a reasonable price and the only real disappointment is its lack of power.

Laurence Spittle, 36, works in sales for BT, Cardiff

Usual Car: Honda Accord CTDi, VW Golf TDI

An hour or so in the Aveo through country lanes, dual carriageways, motorways and Cardiff city centre gives you all you need to know about this 1.4 automatic. I'm a critical so-and-so but can find little to moan about. At a push, I could be unkind on the rear legroom, but for ladies of a certain age – at whom I'm guessing this car is aimed – it's fine for the weekly shop and visiting friends. The interior is practical and inoffensive: handles, stalks and knobs all do their bit and sit well with the car's interior looks, which are closer to that of our European tastes than previous small cars from the Far East. Pricing, warranty and servicing costs will have to be competitive to attract takers in a very crowded market. It would be fine for a family of two with not much in their lives – but not for a family of three or more.

Simon Taylor, 38, TV producer, Leonard Stanley, Gloucestershire

Usual car: Ford Focus, Ford Fiesta

At first glance, the Aveo's exterior seemed to be rather unassuming, but the Audi-like radiator grille and stylish headlights made me think again. The interior is well finished, but uninspiring. The driving position felt comfortable with a clearly laid-out dashboard. Indicator/lights stalks looked and felt like they would snap off in my hand at any moment. The four-speed automatic transmission performed smoothly in traffic, but on the open road with a few hills thrown in, the engine became noisy and the performance occasionally sluggish. The steering felt a tad woolly. The jack for your MP3 player and rear electric windows are welcome touches, but there's no "wow" factor here. That's not to say I think it's a bad car – it's not – but it feels functional rather than fun. Your grandparents will love it.

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