MILFORD, Mich. -- For 2007 the Chevrolet Division of General Motors rolls out new and improved iterations of itsy-bitsy Aveo, that Korea-cast economy car conforming as a family-friendly four-door notchback sedan or cargo-hauling five-door hatchback.
Consider the pair -- Aveo as the sedan and Aveo5 the hatch -- essentially a cheap set of wheels which can cover 35 miles or so on a gallon of unleaded gas.
How cheap? Out of the box and with few frills aboard, the hatchback Aveo5 Special Value edition has a MSRP tag of only $9,995. Or the bottom price of a sedan -- Aveo in LS trim -- tallies to $12,010.
With the average transaction price for a new vehicle in the United States this year approaching $30,000, the ticket figure for Aveo seems almost inconsequential.
Still, Aveo and Aveo5 bring some nice assets, including a passenger compartment with seats for five riders and more personal space than the pint-size scale indicates. We encounter new editions of Aveo and Aveo5 on an asphalt lot at the Milford Proving Ground, sprawling automotive test facility for GM in a suburb of Detroit.
As the smallest vehicles in Chevy's line, the subcompact Aveo sedan and Aveo5 hatch present a longer and broader package set on a rigid front-wheel-drive (RWD) platform with sleek skin featuring sophisticated lines, flared fenders and a bold new face.
Sedan and hatch vary primarily at the rear, where the sedan shows an arched roof concluding at a defined but brief trunk ledge while the hatch has the line of the roof extending to the lip of a back door which slopes sharply down to the body-colored wrap of a smooth bumper.
Both flash new accents in back like the clusters of taillamps which look like so much car jewelry. We get some driver-seat experience in each version on the undulating public roads surrounding Milford and discover that even the Aveo5 price leader can be fun to run through a set of curves due to the tightly tweaked suspension settings, while Aveo the sedan contains a load of cabin upgrades compared against the previous version and more comfortable seats.
Aveo's cabin is fitted with nicer materials now with a choice of three upholstery grades that extend to a perforated leatherette. Choices of accent trimwork for the instrument cluster and door panels include faux metallic strips, satin chrome or woodgrain.
We also note cabin improvements for quietness in terms of reducing noise, vibration and harshness (NVH). More external NVH seems locked outside, the result of wrapping the compartment with more sound-deadening materials.
Both sedan and hatch come with a similar cabin layout -- two bucket seats up front and a back bench to squeeze up to three aboard -- plus a flexible rear cargo area. The rear seatback splits and folds down separately, or the entire seat flips forward to a vertical position after folding down the seatback sections.
That action in the hatchback creates a flat-floored cargo bay accessible from either the two rear side doors or the tail-side liftgate. It also expands the cargo capacity to 42 cubic feet.
The sedan's conventional trunk now nets 12.4 cubic feet of stow space, although folding down the split seatback also expands trunk room into the backseat area of the cabin.
Aveo in any trim edition stocks firm and comfy seats. Front buckets are bolstered to fit the body and adjust in six ways, with manual lumbar adjustment added to the driver seat and the front passenger seat fully reclining.
Between the front seats, a floor console houses the transmission's gated shift lever and a stow box. Forward of the console in the center of the dashboard is a cluster of controls for audio and climate systems. Dials are large and round and easy to turn.
Gauges in the instrument panel ahead of the driver are also round and large and include a speedometer and tachometer with easy-to-read white-on-black graphics.
Only one four-cylinder engine is available to motivate the Aveo or Aveo5, but it's a larger and more sophisticated plant than previously stocked and delivers improved fuel economy scores.
The engine displaces 1.6 liters off an iron block with aluminum cylinder heads and twin cams on top. Its strength numbers run to 103 hp at 5800 rpm with 107 lb-ft of torque at 3400 rpm. Standard is a nice-to-shift five-speed manual transmission but Aveo also offers a four-speed automatic by Aisin as a stand-alone option.
Fuel economy figures for Aveo5 tally to 27 mpg city and 37 mpg highway with a manual transmission, or 26/34 mpg city/highway with the automatic. For Aveo the sedan, the scores are the same with an automatic and run to 27/35 mpg city/highway for the manual.
The suspension consists of MacPherson struts up front tied to coil springs and a stabilizer bar with independent torsion beam rear axle coupled with gas-charged shocks. Steering, using a rack and pinion arrangement, produces quick responses for turning with good feedback to the driver. And a wheelbase barely eight feet long helps Aveo and Aveo5 achieve a turning circle of 33 feet so both cars maneuver easily in tight spots like a crowded parking lot.
Brakes in dual diagonal circuit bring ventilated discs in front and self-adjusting rear drums. A four-sensor anti-lock brake system (ABS) is optional.
Aveo5 Special Value edition brings daytime running lamps, a tilting steering column, intermittent wipers, rear window defogger and the flip-and-fold rear seats, plus a stereo AM-FM audio kit and 14-inch steel wheels.
Aveo5 LS gets more gear, such as air conditioning with a cabin filtration system, while the list of options extends to the automatic transmission and ABS, 15-inch aluminum wheels, a spoiler for the tail, foglamps and power controls.
Aveo the sedan in top LT trim packs standards like the automatic shifter and ABS, heated exterior mirrors, power windows and door locks, a stereo with AM/FM/CD/MP3 player and a remote keyless entry package.