I’m glad I changed the title of the Junkyard Classic series a few months ago as it now doesn’t lock me in to any specific type of vehicle or age of vehicle, after all, we don’t just cover old cars and all cars are interesting at some level. I can also admit that I’ve never really had a positive thought regarding an Aveo, which runs counter to my stated belief that every car has at least some redeeming value, and who am I to just write one off without so much as having ever sat in one, let alone driven it. I hasten to add that the status quo hasn’t changed in that regard, I obviously didn’t drive this one, and as a rule I’m usually extremely loathe to get into any vehicle in a junkyard. But I can observe and report my findings back for those of you that perhaps have the same experience gap regarding this car.
The Chevrolet Aveo was introduced to the US market back in 2002, it’s been sold pretty much all over the world since then and was manufactured by Daewoo in Korea. 2002 is also the year that Daewoo became part of the GM empire and has since provided the engineering for the Cruze, Sonic (which is the successor to the Aveo) and actually even builds the current Spark for Chevy. Since it was recently announced that the Sonic would be going the way of the Dodo bird this is especially timely, as it means that another lineage has been snuffed and the consumer has fewer choices yet again, albeit in a market that has been shrinking; as someone pointed out in another post recently, far more people seem to complain about these types of vehicles going away than seem to actually purchase them.
This particular example is a 2004, and is about as base model as is possible post-millennium. It would have had hubcaps (now gone, although these seem to be the winter steelies as there are winter tires on the wheels), but as opposed to perhaps a decade earlier base no longer meant unpainted bumpers or mirrors – so it’s possible to choose a color other than black without giving the game away. That 185/60-14 is also the exact same size that was stock on the VW GTI (8V) from 1983-1992 so that’s far more sporting than I would have figured.
I’m not sure what made me choose this one to feature, there was another one in silver and a year newer a couple of cars away and these are hardly uncommon, but eventually they will be. I guess the red paint on this one is still shiny so it sucked me in.
The engine (although missing its cosmetic cover) is a 1.6 liter 4-cylinder (not a three!) that produced 103hp and 107lb-ft of torque – both figures that are higher than I would have assumed. For reference that’s one more horsepower than the 1.8liter 8V VW GTI had starting in 1986 (’83-84 had 90, ’85 had 100) and three less torques. And which was also available in red.
Note that the 1992 GTI, last year of the MKII, also weighed almost exactly what this Aveo weighs, having gained weight in the late ’80’s. (which I did as well due to college…) Everything seems well laid out in the engine bay and fairly accessible. Daewoo engines were perhaps a bit of mixed bag but the larger 2liter as installed in the Leganza can run up some fairly large mileages and I’d guess a 1.6 in something this light wouldn’t have too hard a life either in general.
While this one is missing its radiator as well as the downpipe and the heatshield is detached, that oil filter looks supremely accessible from both above or below the car. Oil changes at least seem like they’d be very simple here.
Even though it’s a base model, it still has a rear wiper (pretty important in Colorado), and a rear window defroster, something GM usually charged extra for on their own designs. The license plate space is large as this car was sold all over the world as I mentioned earlier, the less that kind of thing needs to change, the better for the maker.
There’s even a trailer hitch and 4-pin wiring harness here, and those snow tires look fairly aggressive. Seems like it had an owner that wasn’t afraid to drive it in all conditions and for all purposes. It turns out that this Aveo came with a 1,000lb tow rating!
Opening the hatch reveals a deep luggage area, the felty carpet and board for atop the spare wheel were bunched up so I removed it for your unimpeded viewing. The back seats fold in a 60/40 manner in order to haul stuff as well as passengers. That beats the old Chevette.
The back seat looks roomy enough, and the occupants can even share the cup holder. The doors have a fabric insert and the cloth looks decently plush. This doesn’t seem nearly as hair-shirt as I had figured originally. While perhaps far from the most inspired thing on wheels, so far it isn’t horrible at all.
Here’s a better view of a door panel, the passenger front in this case. There’s actual design work going on here with the half circle of cloth, the little door latch, as well as the round circle to delineate the window winder. The cloth is fraying a bit and the plastic is starting to fade (like an old Malibu!) but nothing has fallen off.
Legroom looks fine, there’s a front airbag for the passenger, and a glovebox with another handle that had someone draw a shape to create it. The air vents are happy circles and there’s even a center console. And manual mirror adjusters!
No, the fuse box cover didn’t fall off, it was on the floor, likely someone needed a fuse. The seats seem to have plenty of adjustment options, and this one is even a stick shift, likely due to the automatic costing more.
You know it’s a really basic car when a basic car such as this still has several button blanks. This one doesn’t even have air conditioning, which may make this the first post-2000 model vehicle I have seen without it. The gear shift knob even looks decent, and with the dimpling on the back sort of reminds of an early VW Golf shifter (with the Golf ball motif on it). The lift collar for reverse reminds me of Opel and Saab although surely there were plenty of others with the same idea. I wonder what the two blanks next to the hazard light button would have been for on a more optioned-up car.
The gauges don’t suck either, everything one really needs is there. Too bad the odometer is electronic and there wasn’t an oil change sticker either, so we have no idea of the mileage. Still, with it being 16 years old, having a hitch and winter tires, it was likely used regularly, and seems taken care of.
It’s hard to get any kind of artistic angle on a Junkyard Aveo without getting on the ground and that wasn’t happening so this is the best I could do. The bow tie is proud and I’m not surprised the owner didn’t spend the $185 option price to make it a black one.
If you squint a bit, there IS some style here, in the way the rear fender has kind of a scallopy-pontoony thing going on. Or maybe that’s an homage attempt at the holy grail of 1980’s Euro design, the box flare a la Audi Quattro, BMW E30 M3 and the Golf Rallye! Don’t look at that horrible rear side window though, that’s just odd. I was floored when I learned that this design was in fact also from Giugiaro at Italdesign after reading through GM’s Heritage Center documentation regarding this car. It also talks a lot about the “panache” that this car has but is missing from so many others in this class.
My guess is that driving one is a fairly uninspiring activity (but on paper it starts to stack up to an old GTI so with some fettling who knows…), but as long as it got someone where they were going, that’s all most people care about. Out the driveway, down the block, onto the highway to the offramp and then to wherever; this driver was able to drive a manual transmission and likely spent not very much money on this car. And clearly they used it to its fullest capability, so good on them and good for this car. We’ll never know what befell this one to make it arrive here but hopefully the owner got something else just as useful to replace it.
Here’s a great video in case you thought this was just another tiny little car for short people.