By Casey Williams

Fuel costs pump up appreciation for the petite 5-door hatchbacke

Gas prices are insane.

When reviewing vehicles, I like big comfy SUVs and roarin’ muscle cars. But when my own money is involved, I opt for small fuel-efficient cars.

Hybrids get phenomenal mileage, but even the puny ones cost as much as a premium mid-size sedan. Chevrolet’s smallest member — the 2008 Chevy Aveo LT — requires so little in both purchase price and gas usage, it should have been called the "S-Ave-o."

Putting on a fresh face for 2008, the Aveo was clearly re-worked by Chevrolet’s design staff. Gone are the smooth curves, replaced by a hunkier, stronger-looking body. The whole package looks high-end and solidly built: front beams with a chrome Chevy crossbar grille, large clear lens headlamps and body color bumpers. From the side, Aveo looks like a small German sedan.

The interior looks equally high-end. Hard plastics rule the dash and doors, but they are styled like the interior of a Tahoe. GM’s trademark bowtie radio, four-spoke steering wheel, cloth-covered door panel inserts, chrome door handles, and seats with adjustable headrests check off the luxury bits.

You really have to stir the noodles to get power out of the 1.6-litre DOHC 16-valve four-cylinder engine. But once brought to a full boil and rowed through a five-speed manual transmission, it puts out 103 horsepower and 107 lb.-ft. of torque. A turbo would make this package more fun, but would probably eat into parch-worthy fuel economy ratings of 24/34-MPG city/highway.

Anybody who buys an Aveo knows they’re not getting a full-size luxury car. Strong winds and semi trucks on the highway rock it around a little. Its narrow track will never rail corners like a Corvette. But in everyday commuting, the Aveo performs well.

The Aveo looks great as a sedan, but will also jazz the roads when the cinco porte edition has its makeover for 2009.

Gas prices are finally higher than bottled water, and drivers are realizing they don’t need a 5,000-lb. V8-powered rumpus room to get them to work and back

— Casey Williams

As tested price: $15,130. Competitors include the Toyota Yaris, Nissan Versa, Honda Fit, Smart ForTwo and the upcoming Ford Fiesta.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 9, 2008.
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