- The Washington Times - Friday, February 27, 2009

The Chevrolet Aveo lineup comes charging into 2009 with more pep under its hood - and the Chevy hatchback model in particular is redesigned on the inside and outside.

OK, “charging into 2009” might be overstating the Aveo, but an anemic little performer it is not. The Aveo sedan and Aveo5 hatchback deliver more useable horsepower from a more powerful engine for 2009.

General Motors has equipped the 2009 subcompact model, which competes with the Honda Fit, Nissan Versa, Hyundai Accent and Toyota Yaris, with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder Gen3 Ecotec engine. Power ratings are 106 horsepower and 105 lb.-ft. of torque.

The engine is coupled to a smooth-shifting five-speed manual transmission or an optional Aisin four-speed automatic transmission with a segment-exclusive Hold Control Mode. It’s a sophisticated system capable of reducing wheel spin and loss of traction on slippery roads. GM says the Hold Control Mode automatic gives a sportier ride to the more capable driver by allowing him or her to control the shift points, somewhat like a manual operation.

My tester, the Aveo5 2LT hatchback, was equipped with the manual transmission that has been EPA-rated for 2009 fuel economy at 27 miles per gallon city and 34 mpg highway. The automatic model gets 25/34 mpg.

Base prices for the 2009 Aveo start at $12,120 for the LS. The LT is offered at $14,255, and the 2LT is priced at $15,520, including destination charges. The LS comes with 14-inch wheels with a bolt-on cover while the LT models are shod with 15-inch tires and five-spoke aluminum wheels. All models come with dual-stage front air bags and front seat-mounted side-impact air bags. Anti-lock brakes are optional.

I prefer the hatchback style to the sedan because not only is it just as practical with its five-passenger seating capacity, but also it’s more user-friendly compared with a sedan with its easily accessible cargo area and wide liftgate for rear storage. Cargo capacity expands nicely when the second row 60/40 flip-and-fold seats are flattened. The trunk provides about 12 cubic feet of storage. The hatch has a cargo capacity of 42 cubic feet.

Another preference I have to the Aveo5 over the Aveo sedan is a visual one. The hatch is more Euro-inspired in appearance. It looks hipper and younger and sportier than its sedan stablemate. Some of the design cues from the award-winning Chevy Malibu have been incorporated into the Aveo5, such as with the grille and front end. The subtle placement of a new roof-mounted spoiler above the liftgate door presents an aerodynamic, athletic, youthful appearance to the Aveo5 hatchback exterior styling.

Standard amenities on the 2LT tester included heated power sideview mirrors; fog lamps; power windows, mirrors and locks; XM satellite radio; cruise control and steering-wheel-mounted sound system controls. The audio system includes AM/FM/CD/ MP3 with six speakers. OnStar is standard on all 2009 Aveo models.

On the inside of the Aveo5, Chevrolet focused on a “tall car” design inspiration meant to accommodate passengers six feet tall. Giving the small hatchback an even bigger feel for expansiveness was the optional tilt/sliding power sunroof ($725). The leatherette seating, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob were a nice upgrade to a more sporting characteristic on the little vehicle. This option group was priced at $375.

To those entering the 2009 new car market, the hatchback segment offers a nice choice with Chevrolet’s entry-level Aveo5.

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