Brace yourself for an onslaught of innovative and beautifully crafted new vehicles from Chevrolet. This is not one of them…
Now listen here, I’ve been to the Chevrolet stand at the Johannesburg International Motor Show brimming with all manners of environment-saving technology under its iconic bowtie banner, so I’m reassured that the company is no dying dinosaur just yet and still well capable of churning out some truly inspiring metal. I’ve also previously confessed being a long-standing fan of the Detroit based manufacturer and the legendary people carriers they’ve produced over their 100 years of existence. But as for the Aveo sedan, I’m sorry Chevrolet, 1909 has just called and they’d like their ‘Car of the Year’ back, if that’s okay.
MUCH OF A MUCHNESS
This is a modern-day Chevrolet: an economical American sedan from Korea, as opposed to their more traditional big American V8 saloons. Those are now Australian. It shows how far we’ve come since ‘Chevrolet, the heartbeat of America’. The diminutive Aveo is available in both hatchback and booted shells, and that’s very likely its biggest problem. In sedan form the Aveo is guilty of looking more than a bit soft. I’m not thrilled at the prospect of owning one, but for a meagre R138 810 it represents great value. In fact it remains one of the most affordable sedans in its class. But how great is the value of a slightly larger boot area in contrast to the liability afforded by lengthy overhangs and an older-looking design? I am not sure if there has ever been a serious sedan versus hatch debate, but there damned well should be, especially when you consider the fact that the sedan’s 350 litre boot space is minuscule when compared to rivals such as the Toyota Yaris which in sedan form boasts 475 litres. Knock down the seats in an Aveo hatchback however and its respectable capacity of 198 litres escalates to a couch swallowing 1189.
LIVING WITH IT
Drab hard-touch plastic abounds in the Aveo cabin, with controls arranged in predictable Chevrolet configuration. This translates to an ergonomic if uninspired user interface. It’s on par with every other aspect of the Aveo: adequate for the task and nothing more. My biggest criticism of the dashboard would have to be the way it intrudes on front legroom, or perhaps I just need to adjust my seating position. Nope, not much adjustability to be had – a single lever adjusts your proximity to the rake-adjustable steering wheel and a dial on the side of my seat lowers my bum a centimetre or so, but life remains cramped and after fifteen minutes on the road my knees are hurting. The proudest feather in the Aveo’s cap must be its list of features fitted as standard to this, the LS version. In addition to air conditioning, you also have power-assisted steering and window operation, plus an MP3 player with iPod/stereo jack connectivity complete with four-speaker system. Safety options include ABS, and should you crash anyway, the driver is protected from impact via a steering wheel-housed airbag. The passenger benefits from an airbag too – I know this as it’s been written in the boldest, whitest version of Arial Black across the glovebox. This reinforces its function as a capable urban commuter – an area in which the Aveo admittedly excels. So while you’d never accuse it of having any sort of personality, you have to appreciate its simplicity and clutter-free useability as a point A to B transportation device.
OLD HAT, OLD TRICKS
In sedan form the Aveo escapes the cosmetic update its hatchback sibling recently received. Instead it wears the generic Chevy face sculpted onto the rest of the range, circa the last 15 years. The result is a visage that is overwhelmingly mediocre. You’ll find it completely non-offensive to look at, sort of like a refrigerator but marginally quicker thanks to its 1598cc 16 valve motor – capable of producing 77kW and 145Nm. Throttle response feels alarmingly elastic as does the wallowy suspension – independent McPherson struts upfront, semi-independent torsion beams at the rear – so I suggest trundling along the highways and avoiding the mountain passes as its dynamic abilities will leave your confidence levels fully depleted. An average fuel economy figure of 7.3ℓ/100km is attained during a combined EU cycle – also on par with its rivals. And I am sorry, but there is nothing more to say about a car that goes about the business of being a car with absolutely no enthusiasm at all. Chevrolet, the time to conceptualise is over. Bring us the Cruze, the Beat, the Orlando and the rest of your eye-candy concepts, I implore you! If it costs as much money to produce an attractive car as it does an ugly one, then why oh why are we stuck with these offerings? If your budget can extend another R10 000 and you’ve come to realise that a hatchback is a smarter option, might I suggest the new Ford Fiesta – a testament to car design via less regurgitation and more innovation. Also, a fresh piece of canvas beats a relocated bowtie any day.