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An "Airbag" for $39.95 a day

Consumer Reports News: June 02, 2008 02:09 PM

There’s a little badge on the lower right side of the dash in our Chevrolet Aveo, near where many cars have one, letting people know what they’re riding in. Only this one doesn’t say "Aveo." It says "Airbag."

While the fact that there's an air bag in there is good information to have, I'm guessing the badge is going to cause confusion among drivers who get introduced to Chevrolet's smallest car by renting one. After all, I can't find the word "Aveo" anywhere in the cabin, except on paperwork in the glove box. I can imagine a vacationing couple reporting: "We had the most wonderful trip to Aunt Edna's, except we rented an Airbag. It was awful."

Could it be that this car is so bad, even the company wants to distance itself from it?

Frankly, I don't get the Aveo. It’s a miserable little car, and I can’t figure out where it fits in Chevrolet’s lineup. The sticker price on our test car was close to the Chevrolet Cobalt we tested along with it, and we actually paid less for the Cobalt with discounts. The Cobalt gets about the same gas mileage in our real-world fuel economy tests, and it is quieter, more refined, and more comfortable. It also handles better and is better equipped.

The Aveo, on the other hand, is not only among the lowest scoring small cars we’ve tested, even owners think it stinks. They’ve told us as much in our Annual Car Owner Satisfaction Survey, where buyers of both hatchback and sedan models have ranked Aveos at the very bottom of their respective categories.

As reported by Consumer Reports and mentioned in previous blogs, GM is cranking out some very good, if not class-leading vehicles these days. Chevrolet’s own Malibu makes the list, as do the new Cadillac CTS and Outlook/Acadia/Enclave, and soon to be Chevy Traverse SUVs. That said, the Cobalt was outscored in our testing by some competing models, but it still far outshines its sibling. 

If you're looking for a small car and don't have loyalties to the Bowtie brand, there are many better choices than the Aveo, for the same money or less. The Honda Fit and Hyundai Elantra come to mind, and the Fit trumps the Aveo with better versatility to boot.

If, on the other hand, you're committed to supporting the home team, do yourself a favor and go with the Cobalt. It's a better car. And just to help seal the deal for domestic fans, the Cobalt is built in Ohio. The Aveo is imported from South Korea.

Chevy, you can do better than the Aveo. You already have.

Jim Travers

See the road tests and videos for the July-issue gas-saving sedans, including the Aveo.

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