Road test: 2011 Chevrolet Aveo/Sonic

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Having successfully created a single, global C-segment platform to underpin the Chevrolet Cruze/Orlando and Opel/Vauxhall Astra/Meriva, GM is now out to repeat the trick in the B-segment. The 2011 Chevrolet Aveo (to be known as ‘Sonic’ in the USA) is the first vehicle on this new Global Small Vehicle Architecture, which has been four years in development, and will spawn a number of other cars including the next Opel/Vauxhall Corsa.

“A lot of the technical inspiration for the Aveo came from today’s Corsa,” explains Chris Biggs, vehicle line director for Global Small Car at GM DAT, which led the development of both architecture and car. “We tried to build on that, refine it, make it better. Opel engineers were heavily involved in the platform upfront and many of our European colleagues have remained involved.

“For the first time in the B-segment in GM we’ve pulled together our knowledge base for small cars around the world. That meant not just Europe, but also strong influence from Brazil and Asia. Differently to any program I’ve been involved with at GM before, it truly was a global project.”

Aveo rides on a 2,525mm wheelbase with wide track and a tapered body that stems from a design idea of a ‘four-wheeled motorcycle’.

“It gives the car both an athletic stance visually, but also a very solid footprint from a handling standpoint,” says Biggs. “That’s assisted by a very rigid body structure, which gives the ride and handling a very solid feel.”

The car is longer and wider than its predecessor, with a resulting increase in mass, but Biggs is particularly proud of the team’s efforts to keep the car’s weight in check: it should be certified at around 1,070kg in Europe.

Suspension is conventional B-segment, with MacPherson struts up front, and a compound-crank, twist-beam rear axle. Wheels in the range of 14-17in will be available; even the 17s should retain a compliant ride, Biggs assures us. There are market-specific chassis setups for Europe, Korea and the USA; Aveo will be on all-season tires in the latter two territories.

Production starts in Korea in February 2011 for the Korean and European markets; from the summer, Aveo will also be made in China and Lake Orion, USA, as well as in other countries from 2012.

Chevrolet is targeting two other global small cars as its key competition: Ford Fiesta and Honda Fit/Jazz “They’re two very different concepts, but two very strong competitors,” Biggs acknowledges. “We’re targeting sales of more than 500,000 units a year.”

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Graham Heeps is a regular contributor, and knows the dynamics industry well, having previously edited the title. Graham also writes regularly on automotive and motorsport subjects for other magazines from Vehicle Dynamics International’s publisher, UKi Media & Events (as well as editing Tire Technology International), and contributes to a range of online and print publications in the UK, USA and Canada.

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