I booked my Chevrolet Aveo U-VA (AP 9 BG 9107) as soon as it was launched in Hyderabad and took delivery of it on the 1st of February, 2007. Till date the vehicle has completed nearly 15,000 km and here is my report of ownership of the vehicle which is nearly 3 years old.
When people look at my car they always tell me it is handsome and ask me what make it is. That surprises me a lot since the car has been in the market for a very long time now but as yet there are so many who are unaware of its existence. Apart from that I believe in maintaining my vehicles properly so excepting the few scratches that are inevitable when driving in Indian cities the car has a coat of paint that still shines like new (colour being blazing red) and that is what maybe makes the average person believe that there is a new car in the market. Whatever it is, it is a testimony to GM’s complete failure in marketing a more than decent car.
Let me substantiate that last statement of mine. I have not been a fan of GM in India ever since they rolled out the Opel Astra. But when the U-VA was launched somehow I wanted it quite badly. Most of all what impressed me was the design which makes the car look handsome in an understated way. It looked like an expensive car, a segment above the money that I was paying for it. I also loved the things that GM had bunged into even the basic version of the car. Power steering, remote fuel flap release, remote hatch door release, parcel tray at the rear, air-conditioning, light coming on when any of the doors was open, low fuel warning light, ORVMs on both sides of the car with an internal adjustment mechanism, vanity mirror et al. Except for power windows it seemed like everything else was thrown into the base model itself. I have seen no other company do this with their base model.
I liked the interiors of the car. Most of it is in what most people call dull grey and plasticky but then I saw that the execution was not bad at all and the touch of black and the faux carbon fibre look on the central console along with the black steering wheel looked quite good to me. I would also like to establish here that I knew that I was buying a 4.5 (on road price) lakh car and not a Mercedes or a BMW. So no complaints there. The fabric upholstery is quite good but I had a set of seat covers put over by the dealer himself. I drive the car always with the windows up and with the A/C on. That is probably the reason why the interiors of my car look still pretty new. I also make it a point to park the car in a shaded area and have a garage to park it at home and so there has been no fading of anything inside the car. In fact, the exterior paint which is red and normally likely to fade has held on quite well with very little or no fading at all. One reason that I have not mentioned for buying the car was the space that was available. I have previously owned a Maruti Van and a couple of Wagon Rs and since they conform to the Japanese Kei Jidosha regulations their track is quite narrow. The U-VA, a Giugiaro design, offers a much wider track and is therefore broader and that makes it a genuine five-seater even when a couple of 100+ kilo individuals like me are thrown in for good measure. I also liked the fact that the dash board of the car is a bit low and that makes visibility good and gives a sense of spaciousness. In the three years of ownership the interiors of the cars have held on and have given no reason for complaints. What should be understood however is that the car is used relatively sparingly, and maintained almost fanatically and therefore this experience may not be the standard torch bearer. But it is indelibly true that the car is well put together. There are few squeaks and creaks that come in during the monsoons and a service and greasing normally takes care of those irritations.
Suspension and handling
The suspension of the car is quite good. The chassis is a bit stiff and therefore contributes to reasonably good handling. Please put this in the context of everyday driving and not driving on a track or maniacal driving. The car is used in the city of Hyderabad where the average speed at which traffic moves is 14kmph (official figures) and therefore one is not looking at opportunities where one can rip the car at great speeds. There are certain roads though which allow for the occasional fast drive. The newly opened elevated express way to the new airport at Shamshabad is one such road. What makes it nice is that auto rickshaws, two wheelers and slow moving contraptions are not allowed on it. It has a series of bends and it makes it interesting to drive a little fast and see how the car handles. It handled very well when I drove at speeds of 100 km/h and then went on to drive at 145 km/h on the road to the airport. That road too has plenty of turns and twists and I found it fun driving there with the car slowing down only to 90 km/h when taking the twists. But remember that this is not advised when there is traffic. The twists are also not sharp and that is what allowed that kinds of speeds. On bad roads there is no transmission of shocks to the passengers of the car but one can hear thuds and a fair amount of road noise and tyre noise if the stereo is not switched on. A not bad at all rating in the end.
Engine and gear box
The engine is the best part of the car. It is quite noiseless and is extremely tractable. As mentioned it propelled the car to 145 km/h with a full complement of 5 passengers, 3 of whom were overweight (the overweightest being yours truly). In traffic it pulls well in all gears and obviates the necessity for frequent gear changes. It always starts on the first turn of the key and settles quickly into an idle as is wont with all MPFi engines of today. The gear box too is a delight to use, with it snicking the gears into place smoothly. But on cold mornings, engaging reverse gear for the first time can be a bit of a problem with two or three attempts required to slot it into place. Another thing that I had noticed was that if the car was not taken out for two or three days the brakes would not release even after the hand brake lever is released. Putting the car in gear and slipping the clutch slowly helps but it can be irritating. I always drive the car with the A/C on and still get a respectable 12 km/l fuel consumption figure. The roads that the car is driven on are pretty crowded and congested.
Cost of ownership
I am glad to say that the U-VA has not cost me much for ownership at all. Only two occasions that I really had to spend big amounts of money was when the car had two very minor mishaps. The first time around was when I was driving through the gate of a college and the security guard was asking me why I was there. While I was explaining to him that I was there for a guest lecture the gate on one side, pushed by a gust of wind, crashed into the driver’s side door, leaving a dent. I hate it when the car is dented and therefore went immediately to the service station to get the dent removed. It meant that I had to get the whole door repainted and that cost me about Rs. 4000/-. Another time a motorcyclist rammed into the rear of the car when I was stationary at a traffic signal and that resulted in a broken rear right light cluster, the replacement of which came to about Rs. 3000/-. Otherwise the promise that Karl Slym and GM have made about the 3year or 100000 km no spends promise is pretty good. It does bring down the money spent on the car. I have therefore not found the car heavy on my pocket. I am satisfied with the car. I can say that it is not a car that opens the flood gates of passion but it is something that should appeal to the faculty of reason. That it is a reasonably good looking and spacious car should only make it even more desirable. One last thought though. I have often wondered why this car has never figured in any comparison tests of big hatchbacks in any magazine.