You and I know it as the Chevrolet Aveo.
But in South Korea, it answers to Daewoo Gentra, and in Canada they call it a Pontiac G3 Wave.
And beginning next spring, you and I will refer to it as a Pontiac G3 as well as a Chevy Aveo.
In other words, border guards, don't be confused by the name on the passport. While it carries different ID in different countries, this is essentially the same subcompact.
Designed and manufactured by General Motors' Korean cousin, GM Daewoo, this useful little sedan and hatchback is marketed under five GM brands and 11 nameplates in 120 countries. (I suspect that some entrepreneur will come up with a Monopoly variant in which you can build Gentra franchises in Seoul, South Korea, and obtain a get-out-of-the-Aveo-down-payment-free card by landing on a Philadelphia-area Chevy store.)
The Aveo joined the Daewoo merry band as a 2004 model, and it has since undergone a number of cosmetic and mechanical revisions, including the significant changes made for this model year.
The 2009 five-door hatchback model that I tested, called the Aveo5, was restyled inside and out to good effect, and was fitted with a more fuel-efficient version of its 1.6-liter four-banger.
The earlier Aveo had taken a few lumps for its fuel economy, which wasn't as good as its fellow gladiators in the Little Gas Sipper Arena. But the upgrades to its engine have made it a lot more competitive. The Aveo now has EPA mileage ratings of 27 city and 34 highway with the five-speed manual gearbox I found in the test car. The optional four-speed automatic gets 25 and 34. I managed 31.5 in mixed driving, which isn't bad at all.
The 106-horsepower engine that delivers that kind of mileage isn't going to make you exceed your G-force tolerance at a stoplight, but it will transport you in a respectable fashion and allow you to enter an expressway safely.
And you can say something similar about the Aveo's handling. It's not a Honda Civic Si in the corners, but it's safe and sufficient.
The Aveo's comfort marks are certainly higher than its performance grades and, in fact, pretty good for a car that starts at under $12,000. The test car's engine didn't get harsh and buzzy, even when you pushed it hard. The body seemed tight, and road noise was minimal. The only acoustical gripe was the wind noise at highways speeds.
The tester rode well by small-car standards, and got satisfactory grades in braking and steering. Its highest marks were received in Urban Maneuvering. At only 154 inches long, the Aveo is quite adept at navigating Philadelphia streets intended for mammal-powered transit.
Given its exterior dimensions, the hatchback tester proved relatively roomy. A nominal five-passenger car, it seated four in comfort, and provided decent rear storage: 11.7 cubic feet with the back seats up, and 42 cubic feet when they are folded flat.
Like its sporty-cute exterior, the Aveo5's interior has been restyled to good effect. The upmarket Aveo5 LT that I drove didn't feature the vast expanses of monochromatic plastic one often finds inside econocars.
Rather, it used an attractive combination of black and beige plastics accented with chrome, aluminum, and synthetic maple veneer.
The dash was a pleasing juxtaposition of smooth and stippled matte black plastic, smooth and grained beige plastic, and chrome and maple accents. The door panels employed the black and beige plastics, the patterned beige fabric used in the car's two-tone seat upholstery, as well as chrome door handles and graceful aluminum door pulls.
At $14,100, the Aveo5 LT that I drove is a bit saltier than the base LS, which opens at $11,965. But, as you might have guessed, it's a nicer ride with a longer list of standard gear.
The Aveo has five-star federal ratings for frontal crashes, and four stars for side crashes and rollover.
Chevrolet Aveo5 LT
Base price: $14,100.
As tested (inc. shipping): $15,435.
Standard equipment: includes 1.6-liter engine, five-speed manual gearbox, power disc/drum brakes, 14-inch steel wheels, daytime running lamps, tire-pressure monitor, rear window wiper/washer/defogger, air-conditioning, premium sound system, tilt steering.
Options: power windows and doors, keyless entry, cruise control.
Fuel economy (EPA city/highway): 27/34.
Engine performance: Adequate.
Warranty: Three years/36,000 miles bumper to bumper.
The Ben Key: Four Bens, Excellent; Three Bens, Good; Two Bens, Fair; One Ben, Poor.