The 2011 Chevrolet Aveo is a decent and inexpensive subcompact, but that's not enough in the face of better performing, more functional rivals that are more enjoyable to drive and own.
On paper, the 2011 Chevrolet Aveo looks as if it could be a front runner in the subcompact economy car segment. Cheap price? Check. High fuel economy? Got that. Respectable handling. Yep. The problem (for the Aveo) is that even in this bargain-basement class of vehicles, there are still better choices.
The Aveo does have its share of attractive qualities that include OnStar (with six months of free access to the Directions and Connections plan) and available upscale features such as Bluetooth connectivity and a sunroof. Chevy also gives you a few ways to spiff up this little car with vibrant color choices and available faux carbon-fiber interior accents.
But those perks aren't enough to offset the Aveo's bland styling and middling performance. Granted, folks don't expect blazing acceleration in this class, but rivals such as the 2011 Ford Fiesta and 2011 Kia Soul offer more pep. Part of the reason is that they have better-performing manual gearboxes as the Aveo's is geared rather tall, blunting performance in highway merging and passing maneuvers.
Going tire-to-tire against its competitors, the 2011 Chevrolet Aveo comes up short in nearly every category. The 2011 Honda Fit, 2011 Nissan Versa and 2011 Suzuki SX4 are more enjoyable to drive, have nicer interiors and, in some cases, provide considerably more cargo capacity. Before going with an Aveo, we highly suggest cross-shopping it with the others or even lightly used versions if a low purchase price is of the utmost importance. You might also want to wait a little, as Chevy will be redesigning the 2012 Aveo to be a much more enticing choice.
The 2011 Chevrolet Aveo is available as either a sedan or a four-door hatchback, dubbed the Aveo5. Both body styles can seat five passengers and are offered in three trim levels: base LS, midgrade 1LT and top-of-the-line 2LT.
In base LS trim, the Aveo is sparingly equipped with 14-inch steel wheels, cloth upholstery, a tilt-only steering wheel, OnStar (with 6 months of complimentary Directions and Connections plan) and a four-speaker AM\/FM stereo with an auxiliary input jack. Stepping up to the 1LT trim level adds air-conditioning and an upgraded six-speaker audio system with a CD\/MP3 player. Options for the 1LT include remote keyless entry, power windows and door locks, cruise control and satellite radio.
The 2LT includes the 1LT's optional equipment along with 15-inch wheels, foglamps, a trip computer, upgraded cloth upholstery, heated power sideview mirrors and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls. The Aveo5 hatchback in 2LT form also comes with a rear spoiler. Available options for the 2LT models include a sunroof, perforated leatherette (vinyl) seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and Bluetooth (which is also optional on 1LT Aveos).
In the economy car segment, most buyers don't expect a lot of excitement, but the 2011 Chevrolet Aveo does manage to deliver decent handling dynamics thanks to its direct steering and well-tuned suspension. The 1.6-liter engine is adequate for day-to-day use, though it notably lags behind most rivals in outright performance. Contrary to our customary recommendation to choose a manual transmission in this segment, the Aveo's automatic seems to be the better choice. The manual's gear ratios are too widely spaced and the taller high gears further dull acceleration, especially on highway grades.
Every Aveo is powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 108 horsepower and 104 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on all models, while a four-speed automatic is available as an option -- but only on 1LT and 2LT variants.
The official EPA mileage estimates for the Aveo are respectable for this class, with a manual-equipped example achieving 27 mpg city\/35 mpg highway and 30 mpg combined. An Aveo with the automatic transmission drops to 25\/34\/28 mpg.
Front-seat side airbags are standard on all trim levels, but side curtain airbags (a feature that is increasingly common on subcompacts) aren't available. Antilock brakes are optional on the LT models, but only on those with the automatic transmission. Stability control isn't offered.
In government crash tests, the 2011 Chevy Aveo sedan earned a top five-star rating for the driver and four stars for the passenger in frontal impacts. Four stars were awarded for the front and three stars for rear passengers in side impacts. The hatchback did slightly better, earning five stars for the front passenger in the frontal-impact test. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests, the Aveo received a second-best score of \Average\ for its performance in frontal-offset collisions, though it should be noted that most rivals score the higher \Good\ rating. IIHS side-impact testing resulted in the second-lowest \Marginal\ score.
Despite the Aveo's small proportions, it still affords plenty of headroom and outward visibility thanks to its tall profile and generous greenhouse. The cabin's layout is simple and logical but certainly not a standout among economy cars. Both the sedan and Aveo5 hatchback feature a 60\/40 split-folding rear seat that allows for the transport of longer items. The hatchback offers 37 cubic feet of maximum cargo space (more than a Fiesta's 26 cubes but considerably less than the Fit's 57 or the Soul's 53) with the rear seats stowed. With the seats up that figure drops to about 15 cubes.
Low price; high fuel economy; ample headroom.
Weak engine; sluggish highway manners; middling crash test scores.