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The Chevy Aveo makes no sense for America. At least, that’s the message we got when Chevy killed off the Aveo in 2011. But after chasing down tacos and clay coffee mugs across Mexico City in a 2024 Chevrolet Aveo, I’m reconsidering the notion that the Aveo deserved to die. Because even outside of a major city like CDMX, the subcompact is an excellent daily and an eminently practical car.

Full Disclosure: General Motors let me drive a new Aveo in Mexico City over a three-day weekend while I chased down leads to enroll at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Or, at least, that’s what I told them. I was really mostly there for the pan dulce, the tacos al pastor and the Mexican-market cars.

Technically, the Chevy Aveo didn’t die after 2011. It was just sold as the Sonic, which is how the second-generation Aveo was known in the U.S. Then in 2020, the Aveo/Sonic was killed off for a second time. Was it a lack of goodwill among U.S. buyers that forced Chevy to rebadge the Aveo, only to kill it again? Maybe.

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Photo: Jalopnik / José Rodríguez Jr.

The first Aveo was a cheap subcompact that leaned hard into the “cheap” part. I have a soft spot for it because a good friend drove one in high school. It was nothing to brag about, but the Aveo was cheap enough to be viable for younger drivers. Nowadays, cheap new cars are more or less extinct in the U.S. You can blame buyers, or blame dealers or blame auto journalists who panned cheap cars like the first-gen Aveo.

I blame automakers, which concluded there is no real profit in selling entry level cars. That applies mainly to the U.S. market, which is admittedly one of the most lucrative in the world. Yet, in China, cheap small cars are thriving. Ditto in the markets of South America and Southeast Asia. And Mexico, too.

2024 Chevy Aveo: New Looks, New Engine

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Photo: Jalopnik / José Rodríguez Jr.

The Aveo is in its third generation. This latest model was designed by SAIC-GM-Wuling, and it’s currently made in China. SAIC-GM also makes the Wuling Mini EV, which is one of the best-selling EVs in the world. I’m now convinced that General Motors’ joint venture partners have a knack for churning out cheap cars that don’t feel cheap.

When I drove the new Chevy Trax, I came away with the impression that the Trax is plenty of car for relatively little money. That also applies to the new Aveo, which starts at just over $292,400 pesos, or $17,130 at current exchange rates. That price makes the new Aveo the cheapest model that Chevy sells in Mexico, which puts it in the same entry-level category as the Trax in the U.S.

The third-generation Aveo has a new design that looks nothing like the old. It’s much better than before with a wider, flatter front end that no longer screams “teen car.” There’s a new sedan and a hatchback model. I would go as far as to say the new Aveo’s looks are subtle and sophisticated. It almost looks German.

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Photo: Jalopnik / José Rodríguez Jr.

It’s funny just how different point of views can be across borders. A friend at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) remarked, “Órale, what a big car!” when he climbed aboard the Aveo. To someone who grew up around Mexican-market cars, the Aveo seems sizable. To an American, the Aveo is firmly a small car; the truth is somewhere in between. It fits four to five adults, depending on how cramped your rear passengers want to be. Chevy seems to have stumbled on an iteration that improves the Aveo in every meaningful way, including its size.

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Photo: Jalopnik / José Rodríguez Jr.

The Aveo’s wheelbase is 100 inches. The sedan is 67 inches wide and 177 inches long, which is four inches longer than a Kia Rio, and five inches shorter than a Nissan Sentra. It sits between a subcompact and compact, but it’s small either way. On paper, the Kia is a subcompact while the Nissan is a compact. But in the real world, the Sentra is bigger than ever thanks to model bloat. The new Aveo, however, doesn’t look bloated. It’s just right. Parking in Mexico City’s tiny garages is a breeze, and so is parallel parking on narrow streets.

The glow-up doesn’t end with the exterior. The interior of the new car is good, with a clean layout that’s easy to decipher and read while zipping in and out of lanes. There’s a row of physical buttons for frequently-used functions — like the emergency lights, which Mexican drivers use liberally — and toggles for HVAC controls. There’s wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which comes clearly across on the 8-inch infotainment screen.

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Photo: Jalopnik / José Rodríguez Jr.

Finally, let’s talk power output: The new Aveo comes with a 1.5-liter inline four making 97 horsepower (imperial) and 105 lb-ft of torque. The inline four can be mated to either a six-speed manual transmission or CVT. As much as I love rowing gears, I was grateful for the CVT while stuck in Mexico City traffic.

2024 Chevy Aveo: The Perfect Big City Car

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Photo: Jalopnik / José Rodríguez Jr.

My driving took me throughout many parts of Mexico City, which is unlike any road setting in the U.S. I drove in the historical city center, to markets in Roma and Coyoacán and to the site of the UNAM, known to locals as “C.U.,” which roughly translates to “university city.” I was looking for clay bowls and books, as well as tacos and pan dulce to fuel my adventures. I told myself I would need all the food I could get my hands on — for the purposes of this review, of course.

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Photo: Jalopnik / José Rodríguez Jr.

Image for article titled 2024 Chevrolet Aveo: Driving The Compact Expat In Mexico City

Photo: Jalopnik / José Rodríguez Jr.

Driving in the city is a paroxysm of activity alternating from stillness to chaos, with traffic gasping to catch up to itself. The roads are dense and full of detours, either from frequent closures or from my getting lost, which I’m pretty good at. I won’t blame Apple or Google Maps for all my missed exits, but even with the Aveo’s generous infotainment screen and reliable CarPlay, I managed to take a wrong turn once or twice. OK, so it was more than that, but it was just as well since I got to see more of the city from the rollercoaster ride of its roads.

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Photo: Jalopnik / José Rodríguez Jr.

That’s exactly the kind of setting a small, spry car like the Aveo was made for. The Aveo is not a fast car, but that hardly matters in the city where you’re not driving at speeds over 80 kilometers per hour (49 mph) very often. Even when you are going fast, you’ll coast for a beat or two before merging onto an interchange or slipping into a tunnel, thus scrubbing most of your speed.

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Photo: Jalopnik / José Rodríguez Jr.

The city’s twists and turns are relentless, while traffic is a curious mix of forgiving yet demanding drivers. People innately understand the zipper merge (orderly merging from two lanes one car at a time) but you better be quick. Don’t dawdle or doubt when it’s your turn to slot into the adjacent lane. There are no half-measures on these cramped roads. You’re either all in or not at all.

It’s fun but it can be exhausting. It’s like nothing in America where wide open expressways encourage boredom and distraction. On U.S. roads, people have room to pin the throttle, so cars are bigger and faster to fill the empty space. If there were an automotive equivalent of lebensraum, then the U.S. has won the war to claim it but small cars were its biggest casualty. In Mexico City, on the other hand, the Aveo putters along happily merging into the controlled chaos.

2024 Chevy Aveo: Unexpected Champ On The Highway

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Photo: Jalopnik / José Rodríguez Jr.

I figured that the Aveo would feel right at home in the city but would suffer on longer drives. I was wrong. In fact, I was was pleasantly surprised to find it was just as comfortable on the highway as the city, regardless of its engine size and lack of forced induction.

During my stay, I headed west along the Mexico City-Toluca highway to another university in Mexico State. It’s about an hour’s drive to Toluca from the capital, and it involves going further up the mountains. Mexico City sits at an altitude of 7,350 feet, but Toluca is even higher at nearly 9,000 feet above sea level.

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Photo: Jalopnik / José Rodríguez Jr.

You would expect that great of an altitude to be a slog for a small car whose engine is made for getting around cities, not driving on fast-paced mountain corridors. But the Aveo fared just fine. It took on Highway 15D without any fuss from the inline four or the CVT transmission. Passing power was adequate, and there was no perceptible dead zone in the power-band as I climbed.

The Aveo is not exactly what I would call a lightweight, coming in at about 3,400 pounds, but the engine’s 97 horses hustle the little car along the highway well enough. The suspension does a decent job at taming bumpy roads, and it features MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam at the rear.

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Photo: Jalopnik / José Rodríguez Jr.

In Mexico, there are speed bumps everywhere to slow drivers down — even on frontage roads. It took getting used to, but the Aveo’s suspension didn’t punish me too much. The ride was smoother and quieter than it had any right to be in a car this cheap, which, again, is made in China. The Aveo is comfortable on most drives, which is a departure from when the original model was sold in America.

Image for article titled 2024 Chevrolet Aveo: Driving The Compact Expat In Mexico City

Photo: Jalopnik / José Rodríguez Jr.

The 2024 Chevy Aveo is the city car par excellence, but it’s so much more useful than the label of city car implies. The Aveo is right at home along Mexico City’s famous avenues like Reforma or Insurgentes, but it’s just as comfortable on the expressway. This isn’t your high school buddy’s Aveo: it’s just as cheap but better. It turns out the Aveo didn’t die; it just moved abroad to live its best life.

Image for article titled 2024 Chevrolet Aveo: Driving The Compact Expat In Mexico City

Photo: Jalopnik / José Rodríguez Jr.

Image for article titled 2024 Chevrolet Aveo: Driving The Compact Expat In Mexico City

Photo: Jalopnik / José Rodríguez Jr.

Image for article titled 2024 Chevrolet Aveo: Driving The Compact Expat In Mexico City

Photo: Jalopnik / José Rodríguez Jr.

Image for article titled 2024 Chevrolet Aveo: Driving The Compact Expat In Mexico City

Photo: Jalopnik / José Rodríguez Jr.

Image for article titled 2024 Chevrolet Aveo: Driving The Compact Expat In Mexico City

Photo: Jalopnik / José Rodríguez Jr.

Image for article titled 2024 Chevrolet Aveo: Driving The Compact Expat In Mexico City

Photo: Jalopnik / José Rodríguez Jr.

Image for article titled 2024 Chevrolet Aveo: Driving The Compact Expat In Mexico City

Photo: Jalopnik / José Rodríguez Jr.

Image for article titled 2024 Chevrolet Aveo: Driving The Compact Expat In Mexico City

Photo: Jalopnik / José Rodríguez Jr.

Image for article titled 2024 Chevrolet Aveo: Driving The Compact Expat In Mexico City

Photo: Jalopnik / José Rodríguez Jr.

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