First Drive: Chevrolet Aveo
* Aveo goes on sale in May * Greater fuel economy, lower emissions * Likely cost from £7750-£10,000...
Chevrolet has big plans over the next few years, spearheaded by an expanded all-new product range that will include a plug-in hybrid car (the Volt) that's smarter than anything similar around today.
The trouble is, the new stuff is at least 12 months away. For now, all Chevy can do is tinker with the former Daewoo models it inherited in an effort to keep them fresh.
That brings us to the Aveo, an update of the current Kalos with new front body panels, new rear lights and a heavily revised interior. There are even performance increases for the 1.2- and 1.4-litre engines, accompanied by big cuts in fuel consumption and emissions.
Does the job
None of this alters the fact that the Aveo offers reasonable space and versatility for comparatively little money, serves up a comfortable ride and supplies an acceptable level of equipment.
With its new split-grille nose it looks fairly modern and smart, too. So far, so good.
If all you're after is bother-free, uncomplicated transport, the Aveo will do fine. From the evidence of the 1.4 we drove, the engines and the chassis are competent rather than anything to set your heart racing, but that's all they need to be.
On the road
The 1.2 has gained 12bhp and the 1.4 7bhp: unfortunately, the 1.4 is strangled by long gearing which means you have to rev it, and on motorway inclines even drop down a gear, to preserve momentum.
That, in turn, introduces refinement issues and threatens to damage the economy gains the gearing is meant to support.
The gearshift is imprecise and notchy - a throwback to General Motors gearboxes of yesteryear. The front suspension also clatters and bangs, too, and you sit on the seats rather than in them.
There's also no steering column reach adjustment, so the driving position is less than perfect, and our car's fascia creaked and groaned. Those all-new cars can't come soon enough.
Chevy has yet to announce pricing and specifications, but they aren't expected to vary much from those of the Kalos, so expect something in the region of £7800-£10,000 for the range.
Five-door Aveos arrive in May; £500-cheaper three-door versions follow in September.