Remember Daewoo? That Korean brand that came along before we’d ever heard of Hyundai and Kia, and which purported to offer sensible cars at straightforward prices? Yup, that – actually what Daewoo originally offered was warmed over Opel reject mechanicals, before being briefly sold into the ownership of fellow Korean car maker SsangYong and eventually ending up under General Motors ownership. The Kalos was launched in the midst of this ownership turmoil, and it eventually led to it being sold as a Chevrolet in Europe. It’s a compact three- and five-door hatchback with a four-door saloon option, and is usually found being powered by a 1.2-litre petrol engine, although a 1.4 was also available.
Originally launched in 2002, the Kalos was generally the three- and five-door hatchback model and the Aveo was the four-door saloon version, although this naming convention became rather more fluid for a time, before eventually all models were sold as the Aveo.
Whichever one you go for, you’re getting a very cheap car. One look at the plastics and switches in the cockpit will tell you that the overriding word in the minds of the people who designed and engineered it was ‘budget’. Hardly a cost-saving stone has been left unturned and the result is pretty dismal and dreary to be honest. Spacious and well-made? Actually yes on both counts, as, while the materials used are nothing special, there’s generally little enough wrong with the way everything is bolted together.
Engine choices were an 83hp 1.4-litre petrol (later upgraded to 96hp) or the more common 72hp 1.2. Both engines are basically wheezy and gutless, so you may as well go for the 1.2, unless you’re planning on doing lots of long motorway miles, where the 1.4 will actually get better fuel economy.
What goes wrong? Lots. The engines can accumulate a lot of carbon deposits causing them to ‘coke up’, which leads to rough running and poor acceleration. Check the suspension tracking too because it’s easy to knock out of alignment against a kerb. And they’ve actually got pretty high emissions for a small car, more than 153g/km, so if you’re importing one you’re going to get stung.
The worst demerit in the Aveo and Kalos’ file though is its safety record. When EuroNCAP tested the Aveo saloon in 2006, it scored just two stars out of five, with the second star struck-through because NCAP reckoned it was only barely deserved. Not a car you want to have an accident in, so.
It’s not a car we feel comfortable recommending but if you really must, then just find the cheapest 1.2 you can, in any body style, and run it into the ground until it owes you nothing more.
Chevrolet Aveo 1.2 LS
Engine: 1,150cc four-cylinder petrol
Maximum speed: 157km/h
0-100km/h: 13.7 seconds
Fuel consumption: 6.6 litres/100km
Euro NCAP: **
• Decent reliability
• Wheezy engines
• Dated styling and dynamics
• Very poor safety record
It would be perhaps a bit much to expect a half-bankrupt car maker, in the process of being taken over by another, to produce a world-beating car. Even with that allowance, the Kalos and Aveo are really quite poor. Best avoided.