Trimming the flab

Japan is so obsessed with health that companies now are legally required to monitor employees’ waistlines and, if someone indulges in doughnuts instead of sushi, the person will be put on a diet and “encouraged” to exercise.

I’m all for a healthy nation, but I’m not for everyone resembling a scientist’s idea of a healthy person, not only because it smacks of social engineering, but because thin does not necessarily mean healthy.

Although the merits of Japan’s health policies can be debated robustly, there isn’t much against the trend towards smaller, more fuel-efficient cars. The fact that American car manufacturers are downsizing proves the Japanese have been right all along.

Chevrolet has made a concerted effort to make smaller cars and the latest updated Aveo perfectly illustrates how serious General Motors is about cutting the flab.

It’s not just a small car with a tiny engine, which will ferry you from A to B in moderate comfort. It’s the evolution of a struggling brand that is finally paying attention to making good little cars.

Effectively it’s a facelift, which introduces a revised five-door hatch and a somewhat updated sedan, both of which fall into the entry-level segment of the market.

The most significant new component is the 1,6-litre petrol engine, which develops 77kW of power and 145Nm of torque and ensures a pleasantly energetic ride. Fuel consumption on a combined cycle is said to be about 7,3-litres/100km for the five-speed manual and almost 8-litres/100km for the four-speed automatic.

The Aveo hatch features the new rounded Chevrolet face, which made its debut on the Captiva SUV. Since last year it has become a common sight on South African roads and, other design features, such as the huge grille, give the Aveo quite an attractive modern look.

Inside the combination of hard and soft plastics works well with sturdy upholstery and the high roofline ensures there is enough space for tall adults front and rear.

On the road the Aveo is fun to drive even though the steering felt a little too heavy at low speeds. Despite the fact that the launch drive occurred on primarily pot-holed roads, it didn’t display any rattles or squeaks.

Undoubtedly the most refreshing feature of the updated range is the specification level. The bottom-of-the-range L-model (R112 900) comes standard with power steering, air- conditioning, a driver airbag and ABS brakes, and you won’t pay more if you prefer the sedan version.

The Aveo comes with a three-year/100 000km warranty and ser-vice intervals of 15 000km.

General Motors – celebrating its centenary this year – couldn’t be in a tougher position. As with other US car manufacturers, it continues to take a knock even in markets such as North America where fuel-guzzling behemoths are no longer the order of the day.

For this reason the new Chevrolet Aveo is probably more important than the American muscle cars we all have a soft spot for simply because it needs to prove that our trigger-happy friends are up to the challenge of adapting to a changing market.

Fast facts
Model: Chevrolet Aveo
Price: R112 900 to R144 500
Engine: 1,6-litre
Tech: 77kW and 145Nm
Consumption: 7,3-litres/100km
Tank: 45 litres
Service intervals: 15 000km

Driving tunes
Do you know how many songs’ lyrics feature the words Chevy or Chevrolet?

Astoundingly, there is a sufficient number of Chevy songs for a Chevrolet Legends Platinum Edition double-CD compilation, which features classic American rock’n’roll tunes, but also includes ballads from the 1970s and hip-hop hits.

The tracks include Don McClean’s American Pie (drove my Chevy to the levee), Paula Cole’s Where Have all the Cowboys Gone (Oh you get me ready in your ’56 Chevy), The Pointer Sisters’ Neutron Dance (Someone stole my brand new Chevrolet) and the OMC’s How Bizarre (Policeman taps his shades, is that a Chevy ’69?).

All in all a nice mix of catchy tunes and a not-so-bad attempt at subliminal marketing.

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