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2006 Chevrolet Aveo review

January 12, 2006 02:08 PM EST | Chevrolet , Sedans | Email to Friend | Comments (0)

Click to View large imageRefined road manners and a spacious interior make this one of the better subcompacts on the market.

Pros
Low price, nimble handling, ample headroom, logical control layout, loads of cargo room in hatchback models, standard side airbags.

Cons
Not much power, manual transmission's gearing is too wide.

What's New for 2006
Chevy's pint-sized Aveo gets a few changes for 2006. Safety is improved thanks to standard side airbags, new dual-stage front airbags and longer-length rear seatbelts. Other updates include new options like alloy wheels and cruise control, a retuned suspension for better steering response, and tilt-adjustable front headrests. The Aveo's engine has also been tweaked to meet the ULEV-II emissions standard this year.

Introduction:
There was a time when GM's J-cars (Cavalier, Cimarron, Sunbird, Skyhawk and Firenza) and the Metro (a rebadged Suzuki Swift) carried the compact car banner for the company, but those cars never effectively competed against lower-priced imports. An all-new car called the Cobalt replaced the Cavalier last year, but it is larger and more expensive. Compare this to entries from Hyundai and Kia, which are selling small, affordable cars at around $5,000 less. Even Toyota and its Scion division undercut GM with cars like the Echo and the xA. Enter the Chevrolet Aveo. On sale since the 2004 model year, the Aveo is the result of GM's acquisition of Daewoo Motor Company and is essentially a rebadged Daewoo Kalos, a car already on sale in other markets around the world.

Both a four-door sedan and five-door hatchback are offered in three levels of trim, with the least expensive model coming in around $10,000. Powered by a 103-horsepower, 1.6-liter, DOHC four-cylinder engine, the Aveo provides decent power, at least with the automatic transmission, and handles better than most cars in this class. Although the Aveo is the lowest rung on the Chevy ladder, it still offers an impressive list of amenities. Air conditioning (with air filtration), an MP3-capable audio, full power accessories and remote keyless entry are all standard equipment on the LT models, and the entry-level Special Value models offer basic amenities like power steering, an AM/FM radio and a rear defroster.

In terms of pricing, driving dynamics and amenities, the Aveo meets the competition head-on. But you won't get as long a warranty as you would with a Hyundai or Kia, nor does the Aveo offer the refined drivetrains or reputation for bulletproof reliability of the Toyota and Scion offerings. We recommend that you review your options carefully before spending your money on an Aveo: If financing options and a new-car warranty are important to you, it's certainly a viable choice. However, you may find that a gently used, larger car like a Honda Civic or Hyundai Elantra will serve your needs even better.

Body Styles, Trim Levels and Options:
The Aveo comes in four-door sedan and five-door hatchback configurations, and both are available in one of three trim levels -- Special Value, LS and LT. Special Value models come in at around $10,000 and offer basics like power steering, an AM/FM stereo, tilt steering wheel, split-folding rear seat, 14-inch steel wheels, tinted glass, body-color mirrors and door handles and, on hatchbacks, a rear wiper. LS models add air conditioning and carpeted floor mats, as well as the availability of major options such as ABS, CD/MP3 player, alloy wheels and an automatic transmission. The LT adds power windows and locks, a CD/MP3 player, remote keyless entry, cruise control, 15-inch alloy wheels and upgraded seat fabric.

Powertrains and Performance:
The Aveo has a double-overhead cam, 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine that delivers 103 hp and 107 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, and there's also an optional four-speed automatic with an electronic "hold" feature for second-gear starts when driving on slippery surfaces. Fuel mileage estimates are 27 mpg in the city and 35 on the highway with the manual gearbox and 26/34 with the automatic -- comparable to the Hyundai Accent but less efficient than the Toyota Echo and Scion xA.

Safety:
The Aveo comes with three-point seatbelts for all five passengers with pre-tensioners in the front. ABS is optional on LS and LT models, and it includes Electronic Brakeforce Distribution for shorter stopping distances. Side airbags are standard across the board for 2006. In NHTSA crash tests, the Aveo earned a five-star rating (the best possible) for its protection of front occupants in frontal impacts.

Interior Design and Special Features:
Though bare-bones in appearance and feel, the interior has a user-friendly control layout and a few thoughtful features for a car in this price range. The back of each front headrest has a hook for holding a shopping bag, and the five-door hatchback has a flip-forward rear seat that allows for a maximum cargo capacity of 42 cubic feet. Even the sedan comes with a 60/40-split-folding rear seat and offers a decent 11.7-cubic-foot trunk capacity.

Driving Impressions:
Subcompacts have a well-deserved reputation for poor handling and wobbly rides. While the Aveo is certainly no thrill ride, it provides better overall vehicle dynamics than the Echo or Accent. The steering is direct, the suspension well tuned and the standard engine -- while loud and buzzy -- is adequate for day-to-day commuting. We normally recommend that buyers in this class opt for a manual transmission, but in the Aveo's case, the automatic is the better bet: The manual tranny's gear ratios are too wide, leaving the car underpowered on highway grades and ultimately compromising fuel economy.

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