- Good front headroom
- Solid build quality
- Peppy performance with manual transmission
- Supple ride for a subcompact
- Practical hatchback with Aveo5
- Ride at interstate speeds
- Radio doesn't have tuning knob
- Sedan's iffy crash-test results
If most of your driving is around town with little interstate travel, the 2009 Chevrolet Aveo and Aveo5 are worth a look, especially if you want a bow tie out front.
The 2009 Chevrolet Aveo is one of the least expensive vehicles you can buy in the United States. It's a front-wheel-drive subcompact that's available in two body styles; the Aveo sedan and the new-for-2009 Aveo5 hatchback. With the specter of high gas prices looming over American drivers, the efficient and generally competent 2009 Chevy Aveo should be among the small cars on anyone's shopping list.
Available in base, LS, and LT versions, the Aveo5 arrives wearing new sheetmetal with a more sophisticated look than the previous version (the Aveo four-door sedan was renewed in 2008). Built in South Korea by GM Daewoo, the Aveos carry Chevrolet’s new signature front-end styling, with a gold Chevy bow framed by a larger grille. Larger taillamps and an available rear spoiler dress up the basic econobox. Our editors took umbrage at the side vent in the Aveo5's front fender, thinking it a silly gewgaw. Curiously, the vent is absent on the sedan.
Inside, the cabin has five seat belts, and after putting some miles on several Aveo models, one could plan on using four of those belts without too much complaining from the second row. Seating three in the back would be tight, however. The rear bench has theater-style seating (for better exterior visibility) and a 60/40 split for cargo flexibility. Better interior materials arrive for 2009, including optional woodgrain, metallic, and carbon-fiber-look trim on the options list. Storage and convenience bins are found all over the interior, and higher-end features such as cruise control, XM, and a large sunroof are also optional. Cars from General Motors often have one of the best XM radio setups, but the Aveo's radio controls are missing a tuning knob found on most other GM vehicles, resulting in a loss of convenience.
The 2009 Chevrolet Aveo and Aveo5 use identical engines, transmissions, and chassis components. EPA mileage for the pair is 27/34 mpg for models with a five-speed manual transmission and 25/34 mpg for those with a four-speed automatic. The engine is a 1.6-liter four-cylinder with 106 horsepower and 106 pound-feet of torque. Expect about 400 miles per tank. In terms of running gear, the Aveo is a strictly by-the-numbers Asian economy car: MacPherson struts, a torsion-beam rear, and a short 97.7-inch wheelbase. Fourteen-inch wheels are standard, while 15-inchers (and anti-lock brakes) are optional. Around town, the ride is good enough, but over 70 mph, the car feels nervous—certainly not dangerous, but not pleasant.
Regarding safety, the 2009 Aveo includes front and side airbags, but ABS remains optional. We like the height-adjustable front shoulder belts because of the extra comfort they provide. Scores for the Aveo5 in federal crash tests are dual five-star ratings for frontal impacts and dual four-star tallies for side impacts. The Aveo sedan fares less well, losing one star each for the passengers in front and side impacts. In IIHS tests, the insurance institute rates the Aveo's offset frontal-impact performance as Acceptable and side impact as Marginal. On the plus side, GM's OnStar is also standard, offering an extra measure of safety not found in other competitors.
Most low-priced cars today come with "the basics" and then some. For instance, on the base Aveo LS (and Aveo5 LS), a tilt steering wheel, a rear-window defroster, an AM/FM audio system with an auxiliary input jack for an iPod or other device, intermittent windshield wipers, and OnStar is standard. The 1LT packages add air conditioning and a CD player to the audio system. The 2LT package packs on more, including cruise control, power heated outside rearview mirrors, XM Satellite Radio, and remote keyless entry. Larger wheels (15 inches, up from 14 inches) are standard on the 2LT-equipped cars. Chevrolet also backs the 2009 Aveo with a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty, plus a five-year/100,000-mile warranty on the powertrain.