Aveo Driven a Chevy Lately?

by 13 Apr 2006

It’s in the final stages of a gruelling development and validation programme. It’s been tested for thousands of kilometres across the length and breadth of the country and it’s been spotted frequently wearing a zebra suit. This poor attempt to disguise its identity is perhaps GM India’s way of unofficially announcing that the launch of the Chevrolet Aveo is imminent. Perhaps it’s a way of telling punters to hang on and wait for a serious alternative to the hot-selling Swift and the not-so-hot-selling Getz.

GM India plans to launch the Aveo hatchback by February 2006 and this all-new model, which will replace the Opel Corsa, promises to be the General’s most important model yet in India.

The Aveo will slot into the premium hatchback segment, which has recently exploded with the success of the Swift. The potential in this new class of hatchbacks is huge but success is not assured as the Getz has proved. But coming late to the party in this case has its benefits. It has given GM India time to understand what it needs to do make the Aveo fly in this fast-evolving segment.

We couldn’t wait to get a proper peak at the Aveo and since pinching one of the prototypes roaming all over the country wasn’t a feasible option, the next best thing was to dash off to a place where we could legally get our hands on one. Singapore has become a favourite hunting ground for us because it’s close to home and all the latest cars get here soon after their international debuts. The Aveo is no exception. In fact, it’s been around since 2002 when it was launched in Europe as the Daewoo Kalos. It was Daewoo’s first new model to roll out after GM took over the bankrupt Korean company. The Kalos or Aveo (name depending on the market in which it is sold) is a direct replacement for the Lanos, the model Daewoo had planned to bring to India before the Indian operations went belly up as well.

The Aveo was conceived at Daewoo’s former Worthing Technical Centre in the UK and styled by Giugiaro’s Italdesign in Italy. The styling is typically European and the MPV-esque shape puts it more in the mould of the Getz than the distinctly two-box Swift. In fact, the Aveo with its steeply-raked windscreen, greater length and longer wheelbase looks like a sleeker version of the Getz. The grille too is slimmer to make way for large wraparound lamps. The Indian version will have the turn indicator lamps integrated into the headlamps and won’t be separately set into the bumper like the car you see in these pictures.

##### Unfortunately, the Singapore car we drove is not the face-lifted Aveo and hence doesn’t have the latest nose job. Giugiaro’s hand can be seen in the Aveo’s flanks, which sport a sharply chiseled front wheel arch, a prominent crease that runs across the doors, swooping downwards towards the rear wheels. The Aveo’s rear quarter-glass makes it look less bulky in comparison to the Getz, whose thick C-pillar and more upright stance give it a more overall robust look.

The Aveo comes with conventional underpinnings: MacPherson struts at the front and a twist beam rear axle. This suspension setup is almost universal on cars in this class with the Swift and Getz using a similar layout. Brakes are discs up front and drums at the rear and it is likely that GM will offer an anti-lock option on the high-end version. Rack and pinion steering with speed variable power assistance will be standard.

The Aveo comes with several engine options in other markets but for India, GM has decided to launch it with a 1.4-litre 94bhp petrol engine which should give the car a performance edge over both the Swift and Getz. This 16-valve, twin-cam motor started life as Opel’s late 1980s Family One engine but over the years, the 1399cc unit has been thoroughly reworked, getting a stiffer block, reshaped combustion chambers and a new crankshaft. The Aveo saloon, expected a couple of months after the Aveo hatch, comes with a 1.6 motor and it is possible that, at that stage, the hatch too would be offered with the larger engine.

Step into the Aveo’s cabin and the first impression you get is how spacious and airy it is. The generous glass area and windscreen base, which falls far forward, makes you feel the car is larger than the exterior dimensions suggest. The seats are nice and high and the steering adjusts for rake, so it’s fairly easy to get comfortable. The heavy A-pillar obscures the driver’s view when cornering but otherwise visibility is superb.

The dashboard is smooth and uncluttered and has a useful recess to hold things. Like the Corsa that the Aveo will replace, there’s a multi-information display unit mounted in an independent pod above the centre console. There’s lots of useful storage space — two gloveboxes, several cupholders, large door pockets and front headrest-mounted hooks from which to hang shopping bags. Prod and poke the hard plastics and it’s obvious they don’t have the quality feel of the Swift but they are a step ahead of the Getz. The switches have nice positive clicks and most controls are logically laid out. However, the rotary air-con controls are set too low and located just below them are the cupholders, which slide out of the dashboard.

##### Boot space as well is better than the Swift and in a similar league to the Getz, but like most hatchbacks is best for a large bag and a couple of smaller soft ones. The international model comes with a versatile 60:40 split for the rear seats. However, the Indian version could have a simple fixed bench, which tilts forward.

It was impossible to judge the Aveo’s driving characteristics on the well-paved streets of Singapore, but what’s obvious is that this is a car that rides better than it handles. It soaked up whatever bumps we could find rather well and the long wheelbase gives the Aveo a sense of stability you associate only with larger cars. In any case, the damping characteristics will be completely modified for Indian roads and judging by how good a job GM India has done on the Optra, the Aveo promises to be the best-riding car in its class.

The Aveo with its bigger dimensions and long wheelbase looks the most grown up in its class and this is its main strength. In terms of specs, it is closely matched to the Getz, the Aveo’s natural rival. However, it’s the Swift that GM India is after and the company hopes to take away a substantial chunk of its phenomenal sales. The only way to achieve that is to price the Aveo head-on against the Swift and a notch below the Getz. It’s possible because Hyundai cannot drop Getz prices beyond a point as it would seriously hurt the Santro. GM India has no such worries and if it can offer a Getz-sized car for Swift prices, it’s got a sure-shot winner on its hands.

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