Italian-styled entry-level Chevy Aveo scores 2004 Chevrolet Aveo LS Sedan We never thought we'd drive an entry-level Chevrolet that we'd enthuse about, let alone recommend it until we spent some time in the new 2004 Aveo. Designed in Italy and built in South Korea by General Motors Corp. affiliate Daewoo, the five-passenger Aveo starts at around $10,000 and has little competition at the low end of the new-car market. Indeed, the alternative for many buyers is a used car. We tested a nicely equipped Aveo LS sedan, priced at $12,585. SHE: The big fear among a lot of younger entry-level buyers is seeing their grandmother in the car they just bought. It.s a phenomenon that happened with the Toyota Echo, which is the smallest and cheapest car that Toyota sells in North America. I think the Aveo is going to be too hip for most grandmas. In other words, Chevy hit the mark. HE: We.re way beyond the target market for the Aveo, in terms of age, but I can sure appreciate the wisdom of tapping Daewoo for a well-built and beautifully styled compact car. The Aveo hatchback is cute as a bug, while the sedan that we drove looks only slightly more grown up. The cabin is really fresh and contemporary, and doesn.t look like it came out of the company.s castoffs bin. SHE: The Aveo is on the verge of becoming an emotional hit along the lines of the Volkswagen Beetle, Mini Cooper and Chrysler PT Cruiser. The big difference is that the Aveo, unlike those others, appears to strike a responsive chord with younger buyers, and it.s priced within their reach. HE: The Aveo is based on the Daewoo Kalos, which isn.t sold under the Daewoo name in North America. It competes here with such entry-level Korean cars as the Hyundai Accent and the Kio Rio, as well as the Echo and the Mexican-built Nissan Sentra. The only domestic model in its price class is the Saturn Ion, which is slightly bigger, but not as nice a car as the Aveo. SHE: The Aveo.s interior is much nicer. The materials are richer looking, and there are some delightful touches you wouldn.t expect in a cheap small car. Our Aveo LS, for instance, had little fabric crescents in the door panels, a hinged sunglasses holder above the driver.s door and a standard CD/MP3 player in the dash. That.s on top of such standard features as air conditioning, power windows, remote keyless entry and a flexible interior with a 60/40 split folding rear seat. Yes, there are a few shortcuts. Like a manual driver.s-side mirror and flimsy cardboard visors with cheap, uncovered vanity mirrors. HE: My biggest gripe is with the 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine, which delivers a modest 105 horsepower, which is pretty much on par with its Korean competitors. The Aveo.s engine feels peppy enough when you.re starting out, but quickly runs out of steam as the revs build and lacks sufficient power for passing or overtaking. It.s als o noisy at highway speeds. The five-speed manual shifter feels a little rubbery and vague, too, but that.s a minor complaint. SHE: In most respects, I think the Aveo is a good choice for new buyers. My one concern is safety. Our test car, even though it was the top-of-the-line LS model, did not come with antilock brakes, which are a $400 option. And you can.t get side air bags on the Aveo, even though competitors like Hyundai offer them, even on their least expensive models. HE: Still, the Aveo does a lot of things well. I was impressed with the front seats, which provided a surprising amount of thigh and lumbar support. Ride comfort is also noteworthy for a vehicle this size. There are limitations, of course. Your rear-seat passengers, if they are more than five feet tall, are likely to complain about the lack of leg room. But even the rear compartment is nicely trimmed and attractive, not designed as an afterthought. SHE: Besides the styling and all he features, what I really like about the Aveo is that there is nothing too complicated. It.s extremely easy to operate. The fuel economy is better than average, at 27 miles per gallon in city driving and 35 on the highway. When Chevrolet decides to offer side air bags on the Aveo, I.ll have no problem boosting my rating from four stars to five.
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