For years, General Motors has struggled to build a competitive small car to sell in the United States. This is an area in which the company has traditionally been very weak. Ironically, one of the companies responsible for putting the world on wheels seems to have more trouble building a desirable basic car than any other company.
To alleviate this situation, when it came to designing and building the Aveo, the project was outsourced to GM’s Korean affiliate Daewoo. The result was a world car in the truest sense of the phrase. Called the Daewoo Kalos in its home market, the car was offered in 120 countries around the world under five different brand names—including here in the United States, as the Chevrolet Aveo.
The Aveo/Kalos was the first car Daewoo introduced after General Motors took control following that company’s bankruptcy in November of 2000. First shown in concept form at the Paris Motor Show in 2000, the Aveo was penned by Giorgetto Giugiaro’s firm ItalDesign in Moncalieri, Italy. The first production prototype was shown at the Geneva Auto Show in 2002. The car debuted here in the States in 2004.
While there have been two generations of the Aveo offered to date, the second-generation Chevy Aveo is now known as the Chevrolet Sonic—which we will cover in a future retrospective.
The Chevrolet Aveo came to the United States with a lot of promise. It was the closest GM had ever come to offering a reasonably competitive car in the segment. Unfortunately, it was still outclassed by practically every other car it was up against.
The chief complaint lodged against the Aveo was its mediocre driving experience. It was slow compared to the other cars in its category. Further, its interior was uninspiring, and the Aveo was found to be lacking cargo capacity compared to many of the cars it was being shopped against.
However, on the credit side of the ledger, the Chevrolet Aveo was very affordable, delivered great fuel economy, and handled decently. Problem was, so was everything else people were considering at the Aveo’s price point. All of this is not to say the Aveo was a bad car, in fact it was quite decent. The problem was so many other cars in its category were more than decent at the same tasks.
Powered by a 103-hp, 1.6L double overhead cam inline four-cylinder engine producing 107 foot-pounds of torque, the front-wheel drive Aveo was offered in both sedan and hatchback formats. Two transmissions were offered at launch; a five-speed manual was standard, a four-speed automatic was optional for the upper trim levels.
The 2004 Chevrolet Aveo was offered in three states of trim; “Special Value”, “Base”, and “LS”. The designation held true whether in sedan or hatchback form. The primary difference between the two being the hatchback was offered in a broader array of colors.
Standard equipment for the 2004 Chevrolet Aveo Special Value trim included; 14 inch steel wheels with all-season tires and full wheel covers, variable intermittent windshield wipers, a rear window defogger, and a rear window wiper for the hatchback.
The interior was upholstered in cloth, the driver’s seat was height adjustable, and the rear seat back was capable of split folding. There were front and rear cup holders, front door pockets, front seat back storage, a remote trunk release, a 12V power outlet, and the tilt adjustable steering wheel was connected to a power steering system.
The Special Value 2004 Chevrolet Aveo also featured dual vanity mirrors, a clock, and a tachometer. Its audio system used four speakers and an AM/FM stereo radio.
The safety and security suite was comprised of a set of child seat anchors, rear door child safety locks, a three-point rear center seatbelt, front seatbelt pre-tensioners, daytime running lights, and a set of ventilated front disc brakes—drums were used at the rear.
Moving up to the Base model added an air-conditioning system with interior air filtration.
The 2004 Chevrolet Aveo LS came fitted with all of the above, plus; remote power door locks, power windows, and heated exterior mirrors. Front, rear and cargo floor mats were included in its base price. The audio system was an AM/FM single-disc CD player with CD MP3 playback capability in stereo.
The base trim designation was dropped in favor of an LS designation and the former LS was renamed LT. So the 2005 Aveo LS is equipped like the 2004 Base model and the 2005 LT is equipped like the 2004 LS. A front center console with storage was added to all trims.
For 2006, Chevrolet product planners introduced a number of changes in an effort to make the Aveo more competitive. All three trim levels—Special Value, LS, and LT— returned for 2006.
The 2006 Aveo Special Value offered power steering, an AM/FM stereo, a tilt steering wheel, a split-folding rear seatback, 14-inch steel wheels with full wheel covers, tinted glass, body-color exterior rearview mirrors and door handles, and a rear wiper on hatchbacks.
Chevrolet Aveo LS models for 2006 added air conditioning and carpeted floor mats. Aveo LS options included ABS, a CD/MP3 player, alloy wheels, and an automatic transmission.
The LT got all of the above, plus power windows and door locks, remote keyless entry, cruise control, 15-inch alloy wheels, and upgraded seat fabric.
For 2007 the Aveo sedan was reworked rather significantly—on the surface—but all the mechanical bits remained the same. The interior trim was improved and more standard features were added. Its styling was considerably more crisp and upscale looking as well.
The hatchback was renamed Aveo5 and its LT trim-set was killed—however everything else about it remained the same.
Standard equipment on the Aveo5 Special Value model included 14-inch steel wheels, manually operated exterior mirrors, crank ‘em yourself windows, manual door locks, and an AM/FM radio with four speakers.
The 2007 Chevrolet Aveo5 LS added air-conditioning and carpeted floor mats to that list. Cruise control, a sunroof, power windows, keyless entry, a CD/MP3 player and 15-inch alloy wheels were optional for the Aveo5 LS. The 2007 Aveo LS sedan was set up basically the same way.
The LT trim is where you started getting all the good stuff in one pre-assembled package. Pretty much everything that was optional for the LS came standard on the LT. There were still options though; leatherette upholstery, an upgraded audio system hosting an in-dash CD changer, and steering wheel-mounted audio controls.
Aveo went into 2008 largely unchanged.
The Aveo5 got the styling update the Aveo sedan got two years before, bringing it more up to date. It also got the interior improvements previously lavished upon the sedan. Reworking the engine bumped power output in both models to 107 hp and 106 foot-pounds of torque. But more importantly, fuel economy improved as well.
The “Special Value” trim line of the Aveo5 was laid to rest, meaning both the sedan and the hatchback were offered in LS and LT trims. However, within the LT there were two designations; “1LT” and “2LT”.
The standard equipment offerings for the 2009 Chevrolet Aveo5 LS were comprised of 14-inch steel wheels with full wheel covers, variable intermittent windshield wipers, a rear window defogger, and a rear window wiper. The height adjustable driver’s seat was upholstered in cloth and the rear seat back was capable of split folding.
There was a front console with storage, front and rear cup holders, front door pockets, storage in the back of the front seats, a 12V power outlet, a set of dual vanity mirrors, and the tilt adjustable steering wheel was attached to a power steering rack. The instrument panel contained a clock, a tachometer, and a low fuel level warning indicator.
An AM/FM stereo head unit fed the four-speaker audio system and it also incorporated an auxiliary input for portable audio devices. OnStar service was included as well, with a one-year free subscription included in the base price of the Aveo.
The 2009 Aveo5’s safety and security package was comprised of a set of dual front side mounted airbags, a passenger airbag occupant sensing deactivation system, child seat anchors, rear door child safety locks, a rear center three-point safety belt, and front seatbelt pre-tensioners. Daytime running lights, a post collision safety system, and tire pressure monitoring rounded out the package.
The Aveo LS sedan was equipped similarly, with the exception of the rear window wiper. The sedan was also fitted with a tail spoiler on the trunklid.
Aveo5 and Aveo sedan 1LT added air-conditioning and an upgraded six-speaker audio system with a CD player. Optional features for the 1LT trim package included remote keyless entry, power windows and door locks, cruise control, and satellite radio.
The Aveo’s 2LT trim package made all of the above standard equipment; and added 15-inch steel wheels with wheel covers, fog lights, a trip computer, upgraded cloth upholstery, a pair of heated power adjustable exterior mirrors and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls.
Bluetooth hands free data streaming was added as an option for 1LT and 2LT Aveo models. The top line 2LT trims also got a sunroof, leatherette upholstery and a leather wrapped steering wheel as optional equipment. A rear spoiler was finally added to the Aveo5, but only for the 2LT trimmed ones.
Aveo went into its last year of production largely unchanged, save the addition of a cabin air filter and six months of OnStar Directions and Connections included in the base price.
A good car, caught in a sea of great ones, the Aveo was never really a standout in the marketplace.
However, toward the end of its run, it did have some pretty nice features; among them, Bluetooth, OnStar, and a sunroof. The car’s relative lack of popularity is good news for bargain hunters, as it makes the Aveo a pretty good bargain on the secondary market.
If you’re looking for good, cheap transportation in a fairly late model car, the Aveo is worth a look. Recalls have been minimal for the diminutive Chevy. Still, it doesn’t hurt to research them to be sure the ones that are out there have been corrected on the model of your choice. Similarly, a vehicle history report against the VIN of your car of interest will help you find any skeletons in the closet of each individual Aveo.
And, of course, a thorough pre-purchase inspection by a trusted professional independent Chevrolet mechanic will go a long way toward ensuring the Aveo you buy will provide you with good service, rather than needing you to service it good.