The Chevrolet Aveo might sound like a new model, and even looks like it at first glance. But the Aveo is really a facelifted Kalos, and the name is taken from the booted saloon version that was sold elsewhere. Now it applies to the whole family of small Chevrolets, the five-door version of which arrives in Britain in April, with a new three-door following a month later.
Is there still any Daewoo in this?
Well, the Kalos was launched back in 2002 as a Daewoo, and took on the Chevy name when GM took full control and rebranded the whole range. Mechanically and structurally, this car is the same but decorated with a new, faintly Audi-esque front end and new tail lamps. The interior has been refreshed too, with a new facia and door trims though Audi will be the last name on your mind in here. Of greater importance is that this car is the first Chevrolet to be built in Europe, with a new plant coming on stream in Poland.
Isn't the Aveo getting on a bit already?
When the Kalos was launched, it was basically sound but not state of the art. The Aveo really doesn't move the game on. There's a slight air of Ford Fiesta about it: it looks a bit dated now, the interior trim is hardwearing rather than stylish and it feels small inside. But the Fiesta is about to be replaced by an all-new model, and even the outgoing version is a real hoot to drive. Sadly the Aveo is not.
Tell us more…
There's nothing fundamentally wrong with the way the Aveo goes about its business, it's just that being adequate isn't good enough. The 1.2-litre engine is actually quite punchy, whether you're punting around town or thrashing along a motorway – and thrashing is the operative word, because it's not particularly quiet or sweet.
You'll get round bends without too much drama but there's nothing here to really entertain you. Even the gearshift is obstructive and the ride is firm.
On the plus side, it feels solidly built and rattle-free, and the dashboard layout is ergonomically sound. Shame there isn't reach adjustment for the steering wheel so the driving position could be good enough to match.
Chevy is going through a boom at the moment. Last year was its biggest yet in the UK, with Kalos sales up 33 percent over 2006 to 4926, out of 18,356 altogether. So it's growing, but it's still a niche player. In Eastern Europe it's another story, with brand growth of 63.4 percent in 2007 - Chevrolet is the biggest-selling non-domestic brand in Russia.
Cars such as the Aveo will ensure Chevrolet remains a niche player in Britain because, with a starting price expected to be around £7500, there's an awful lot of more compelling competition elsewhere - you can buy the more talented and charming Fiat Panda 1.2 for similar money. The Aveo isn't a bad car, it's just not a great one, but it isn't worth that kind of outlay.