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2004 Chevrolet Aveo

by Ann Job
Move over, Kia Rio...there's a new, lowest-priced small car on the market, and it's a Chevrolet.

Much like the Kia Rio, which has ranked as the lowest-priced new car in America for the last few years, the 2004 Chevrolet Aveo (pronounced Ah-VAY-oh) five-door hatchback and sedan are built in South Korea.

Chevy, which also sells the affordably priced and United States built Cavalier, got the new Aveo because parent company General Motors bought some of the assets of Daewoo, a failed car company in South Korea.

2004 Chevrolet Aveo

At introduction, the Aveo's starting manufacturer's suggested retail price, including destination charge, for either hatchback or sedan was $9,995. This compared with the $10,280 starting price for the 2004 Kia Rio sedan. However, there's more to talk about than just the Aveo's price.

The hatchback model ranks as the second smallest new car on the market, longer than a pint-sized Mini Cooper by 10 inches.

A four-cylinder engine that launches the Aveo from a standstill with some zip powers both the unassuming hatchback, as well as the sedan. Seats have a nice appearance and sit up from the floor to provide easy entry.

More women buyers than men

Women are expected to be the majority of Aveo buyers. Chevrolet officials also expect buyers to be young, with a median age around 35 and an annual household income between $25,000 and $50,000. Seventy-five percent won't have college degrees, and 70 to 75 percent will be buying their first new car.

Indeed, it's likely that many buyers will be deciding whether to get a low-priced new car like the Aveo or a used car. Note the Aveo comes with Chevrolet's new-car warranty good for three years or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Small and utilitarian

From bumper to bumper, the Aveo five-door hatchback is just 12.7 feet long, which isn't even two-thirds the length of a Dodge Ram Quad Cab pickup truck. The Aveo sedan is a tad bit longer than the hatchback at 13.9 feet.

Aveo's sedan and hatchback rank among the narrower cars on the market, with a width of 65.8 inches. Even the diminutive Mini Cooper is wider at 66.5 inches, and larger cars and sport utility vehicles are in the 70-inch range.

2004 Chevrolet Aveo

Both body styles of Aveo have a plain and utilitarian look to them. Rather than standing out in a parking lot, lest one gets a bright yellow one, they tend to blend in with the other cars. Still, where the Mini is an instantly recognizable, retro-styled, five-door hatchback, the Aveo looks like a pretty much nondescript and inexpensive city car.

The 103-horsepower, 1.6-liter, double overhead cam four cylinder that's in all Aveos starts the car off from a stop with zip. I felt some real spunk as I moved through the gears in this lightweight, 2,300-pound car. Aveo does lose steam on mountain climbs and during highway passing maneuvers. Under these circumstances, the engine has a less-than-impressive, buzzy sound.

Maximum torque is 107 lb.-ft. at 3,600 rpm, which is far less than the 152 lb.-ft. at 3,000 rpm provided by the 155-horsepower, 2.3-liter four cylinder in the Suzuki Aerio SX five-door hatchback. But it is in line with some other low-priced small cars such as the Scion xA's 108-horsepower, 1.5-liter four cylinder that produces 105 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,200 rpm.

A five-speed manual transmission is standard in the Aveo and comes with a noticeably tall gearshift stalk. A four-speed automatic is also an option.

Fuel economy isn't as high as expected. The five-door Aveo with manual transmission is rated at 27 miles a gallon in city driving and 35 mpg on the highway. In contrast, the xA is rated at 32 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway.

Less than refined ride

Passengers can hear the Aveo engine, along with road noise.

Noteworthy is the Aveo's nimble handling. I didn't have to back all the way out of diagonal parking spots. I'd get out halfway, turn the steering wheel, and I often could clear the car next to me and move into the driving lane without any further fuss.

The turning circle of the Aveo is 30.2 feet, which makes U-turns easy to maneuver whereas the xA has a 34.8-foot turning circle.

The Aveo's steering is power rack-and-pinion, with a light, almost unnervingly quick response.

Inside, passengers feel a lot of road bumps as they travel in the Aveo, and speed bumps taken at low speed can be jolting. The front suspension uses MacPherson struts and coil springs, while a torsion beam axle works at the rear.

Upright seating

2004 Chevrolet Aveo

Gauges and controls are functional and well laid out. I liked that the four round air vents on the dashboard could be adjusted to move air in almost any direction. But the round door handles inside didn't provide a great grip, and I jammed my fingernails using them.

I also noticed each time I opened the Aveo's doors just how light they felt. This little car can be tossed around by gusty winds, or even a passing semi-truck.

The Aveo sedan and hatchback aren't low-slung cars. As a result of their taller-than-expected stance, seats position passengers in a rather upright posture. Legs angle downward, not straight out across the floor. This allows front-seat legroom of 41.3 inches, which is among the best in the class, tying the 41.3 inches found in the xA and Toyota Corolla. It's also just 0.1 inch less than the 41.4 inches of the Aerio SX.

Rear-seat legroom of 35.4 inches in the Aveo is less than the 37.6 inches of the xA but is more than the 35.2 inches in the Aerio SX. With the driver seat up for someone my size, 5 feet 4, to drive, there was enough rear legroom for the person behind to extend his or her legs.

But there are only two head restraints in the back seat, and it's a tight fit for three adults back there. Two adults do better.

I had to coordinate my hips and my head as I got inside the back seat of the Aveo hatchback. The combination of the slightly sloping roofline and the high position of the seat cushion caused me to bump my head a couple times. Once inside, though, I found a decent 37.7 inches of rear headroom, which is about the same as in the Mini. Note the Aveo's rear seatback is reclined somewhat, but there are no additional recline positions.

Good fit and finish

The Aveo test cars also had commendable fit and finish, inside and out. The Aveo's ceiling material is more upscale than expected. And the seams and gaps on various body pieces were all properly lined up on the test cars. Still, because the Aveo is new, there are no U.S. reliability reports available.

Passengers can readily find places in the car where the Aveo's cost cutting is apparent. For example, the backs of the fold-down rear seats of the hatchback are bare black metal and can easily be scratched when cargo is slid onto them. Cargo space in the hatchback is a maximum 42 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down. This compares with 32.8 cubic feet in the xA. When the Aveo's rear seats aren't folded, there's 7.2 cubic feet of cargo space behind them.

The console area between the Aveo's two front seats has storage for small items There's no cover to hide the items.

On the test Aveo hatchback, the 14-inch tires were on wheels with basic plastic wheel covers.

In addition, the lowest-priced Aveo doesn't include air conditioning, and even the top-of-the-line LS hatchback tester had a manual outside mirror on the driver's door. There was a power adjuster for the passenger-door mirror.

Safety notes

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives the Aveo hatchback five out of five stars for driver and front-passenger protection in frontal crash testing. Other NHTSA test results had not been reported.

The Aveo isn't offered with side-mounted airbags or curtain airbags and antilock brakes are optional.

Click here for more information on the Chevrolet Aveo.
For the Chevrolet 2004 Model Guide : Click Here