Chevrolet has been on a bit of a roll lately, what with the release of the rather fine Orlando and Captiva, you can’t buy much better if car shopping on a budget. Unfortunately however the small car end of Chevy’s range hadn’t been looking as good. The Matiz, Chevy’s smallest car was a poorly disguised Daewoo with about as much charisma as a dead fly, while the small Aveo hatchback wasn’t much better. Chevrolet seemed so disappointed with it that they failed to put their badge on it, as a result the badge placed under the front grill looked like a total afterthought. Things are set to change though with a new Aveo coming in 2012 and the Matiz’s replacement the Spark already looking good and doing well.
Appearance is probably the best place to start with these two cars. The Spark, despite being compact, looks solid; its large headlights dominate the front end with the grill sweeping up under them to give the car a slight smirk. Flared wheel arches and a simple crease add flare to the otherwise slab sidedness of the Spark with everything flowing into a rounded, neat rear end.
The Aveo’s facelift has been quite astonishing, going from a totally forgettable little box into one of the most muscular looking city cars on the market. The cars new nose and headlights lead the way as the most dramatic part of its redesign and go some way to creating the aggressive face. Quad headlamps are connected by a much smaller grill, the badge still resides under, not on the grill, however looks as if it was intended to go there and was not just an afterthought. As with the aforementioned Spark creases run down the side of the car adding style to an otherwise flat side. Round the back however the Aveo is quite forgettable, with Chevrolet having only changed the rear lights from the last generation.
Interior wise both cars are far superior compared to their predecessors, they both feature simple, elegant centre consoles and a huge array of storage bins for all that random stuff you can’t live without. However, the most exciting part of the respective interiors are the instrument clusters, that can only be described as unique. They compromise of a single dial with a rectangle digital readout to the side. It might sound uninteresting but honestly it is a very simple and futuristic looking thing which sets the car’s interiors apart from their rivals.
In typical Chevrolet fashion the two cars are not exactly short on standard equipment. The Spark comes in three guises, a basic Plus model from £8,475, an LS (£9,185) and an LT costing £10,695. Featuring amongst other things, MP3/USB compatible stereo, air con, fog lamps and on the top model climate control. Meanwhile the Aveo is available as an LS, LT and LTZ. And for once it’s not wholly necessary to buy the most expensive model to get the best kit, the cheapest LS starting at £9,995 comes with cruise control, traction control, stability control, hill start assist and air con. With the LT and LTZ costing £10,995 and £12,195 respectively. Both cars make interesting choices, especially the Spark as it can be customised with graphics and body kits, far more than what its closest rivals can offer.
Finally onto performance and economy with the latter potentially being the most important part of any new city car. Starting with the Spark, don’t hold any preconceptions that it is going to be fast, the optional speed stripes add no performance whatsoever! 0-60 takes over 15 seconds in the slowest 1 litre petrol and over 12 in the 1.2. However the upshot of this is that both engines return 55mpg combined and with c02 emissions of only 119g/km a year’s tax will cost just 30 quid. For the Aveo, the figures are even better. Numerous engines are available including a 1.2 or 1.4 litre petrol, however the most sensible choice is the 1.3 VCDI diesel, in 98bhp eco spec the Aveo can do 0-60 in 11.7 seconds, returning a staggeringly good 78.4mpg while emitting just 95g/km of c02, good enough for it to cost precisely nothing to tax. It is no wonder both cars are popular company car leasing options.
In conclusion then, these two little cars are exactly what Chevy’s model line-up needed. Slowly but surely a rather decent portfolio of cars is being created, helping Chevrolet take the fight to established European and Japanese marques. These two cars as well as their bigger siblings offer great value, stupendous amounts of standard kit and in some cases outstanding economy. They might not have the badge prestige yet, but if things continue in the same fashion it won’t be long until Chevrolet are proud to stick their badge on the front of everything they make.