NPF: ED DRIVES TINY CAR, HILARITY ENSUES

Early Thursday morning I flew back to my beloved Indiana in preparation for the graduation ceremony on Saturday morning. Not wanting to be a burden to friends and family the entire time I am in Bloomington, Chicago, and points inbetween I rented a car.

Upon confirming my reservation for a "compact" with the esteemed gentleman from Alamo, he proceeded to solicit additional money from me with promises of a larger vehicle in return. "Kind sir," I replied, "try not your snake-oil salesman's tactics and cheap conjurer's tricks on me! I wish only for the mode of conveyance stated, and at the price agreed upon!" Since I normally drive a 10 year old Nissan Sentra the idea of needing a larger vechile for just a few days seemed silly. Chastened, the would-be huckster directed me to a row of identical Chevrolet Aveos.

I hesitated.

"Perchance I have been too rash, honored salesman," said I, trembling in awe at the sheer shittiness of the alleged automobiles before me. But my inner Polack won in the end and rather than shelling out an additional $50 for the 10-day rental I figured, how bad can this Korean chariot (via the Kingdom of Detroit) be?

I learned an important lesson today. Do not ask questions if you are not prepared for the answer.

Now, if nothing else about this scenario amuses you, just enjoy the physical comedy of someone who is 6'4" and essentially all limb tucking his knees to his chin in this:

The effect is not unlike seeing the Yeti seated on a roller skate.

Upon first entering the vehicle one recoils and asks, "Can there be any gray plastic left in the world after GM is done making Aveo interiors?" The entire world must suffer shortages of molded Chinese gray plastic every time GM/Daewoo fires up the production lines for another exercise in futility. "Oh well, I am not interested in its beauty; it need only convey me from kingdom to kingdom for a few days."

Having been happily off the GM wagon for many years, a lifetime of corner-cutting manufacturing techniques nonetheless came flooding back to me the instant I attempted to accelerate. Getting to highway speed is a leisurely, contemplative process, and the vehicle no doubt possesses the loudest engine I have ever heard that is less than 8 cylinders, not powering a lawn mower or air compressor, and not attached to the wing of an airplane. But since said engine is so tiny, the tone is ear-splitting but pathetic, like an enormous dragon with emphysema trying to roar. I can best compare it to driving an oversized Dustbuster, or perhaps a cross between Fran Drescher and Soundwave.

The ancient four-speed transmission reminded me of why GM has not moved to equip all of its vehicles with five-speeds like other manufacturers. Indeed, why attempt the five-speed before having mastered four? After a quick inspection to see if the transmission was filled with grape Smuckers, I ascertained that the curious performance quirks I experienced are inherent to the design.

Last but not least I was reminded of my favorite memory of years of driving Pontiacs. I like to call it the "GM shakes," the terrifying sense that the vehicle is about to disintegrate into 1000 pieces as you approach 70 mph. I suppose 70 mph is pretty fast, although not unreasonable. In a GM car, however, 70 mph sounds and feels like one is in the cockpit of the Apollo capsule atop a Saturn V rocket – just as the boosters kick in. In the Aveo, 70 mph inspired me to make sure that my will is up to date. The combination of plastic bodywork, cheap tires, and brittle third-world steel frame may appeal to younger buyers, though, because it always feels like you're going really fast in an Aveo. Even at 35 mph the cacophony of tire, wind, and engine noise sounds like an alcohol-fueled rocket car blasting across the Bonneville salt flats en route to the land speed record.

Upon arrival at my destination I immediately called the director of marketing at GM and proposed two slogans: "Aveo: American Trabant" and "The New Chevy Aveo: isn't it marginally better than walking?" Both struck him as genius. I was paid a handsome six-figure sum, part of which I used to purchase this Aveo from Alamo and have it compacted into a tiny cube, which I then set on fire.

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35 Responses to “NPF: ED DRIVES TINY CAR, HILARITY ENSUES”

  1. Stonecutter Says:

    "…my inner Polack won in the end and rather than shelling out an additional $50 for the 10-day rental I figured, how bad can this Korean chariot (via the Kingdom of Detroit) be?"

    As a native of the Northwest Side of Chicago, this literally made me do a spit take.

  2. OliverWendelHolmslice Says:

    I'm always fascinated when someone extolls the virtues of their recently purchased GM/Ford car. Often it goes something like "I only paid X for this car; that's 3,000 less than a comparable Toyota/Honda/Something German that won't fall apart either, and it gets the same gas milage!!"

    I can only shake my head sadly at them. Whatever money they think they saved up front will be paid out in maintainance costs over the next few years anyway, and that doesn't factor in dealing with the cheap plastic interior.

    The things American car companies choose to save money on is baffling. The Ford Mustang, which is supposed to be a performance car, has a solid rear axle. Yes, a rear wheel drive car that essentially has no rear suspension; a concept that most companies moved past in the 1970s. On the other end of the spectrum, the Chevrolette Corvette has the same cheap plastic interior as the Aveo…COME ON MAN, PUT THE WHOLE PACAKGE TOGETHER!!!

  3. Justin_Anderson Says:

    I nearly spit my gum out whilst reading this. Comedy gold!
    A few years back, both my (ex) girlfriend and I had car issues and were provided rental cars by our insurance companies. I got a nice new V6 Camry and she got a lovely Aveo. And our injured cars were somewhat comparable (me- Audi A4; her- VW Passat). I vowed never to insure any vehicle I ever own with State Farm!!

  4. MekTek Says:

    I laughed so hard I almost died!! To be fair there is an available 5-speed Aveo to be had, of course it's prone failure around 50,000 miles. But the Aveo is a Daewoo with a bowtie, it does not reflect the entire spectrum of GM or American cars. Im an ASE Tech and do not regularly drive an American car, still the lions share of automobile innovation hails from the the U.S. though it is first "experienced" on imports. We are coming up on a new year and that's a lifetime in automotive development, but you have wonder why our trains have been diesel/ electric "hybrids" for over half a century and were out here anxiously awaiting the oh so glorious VOLT……what a pittance!!!

  5. j Says:

    While reading this I would have been laughing, had I not been quivering with rage!

    Move up to the big world of 5-speed manual, and then let us know whether your feelings about the engine change. Perhaps this is the cause of my disagreement with you about engine noise; I regularly drive at 85 mph and no passengers have ever complained about engine noise. Of course perhaps they can't hear anything over their own giggling :)

    -proud lifelong Aveo owner

  6. Paige Says:

    "Last but not least I was reminded of my favorite memory of years of driving Pontiacs. I like to call it the "GM shakes," the terrifying sense that the vehicle is about to disintegrate into 1000 pieces as you approach 70 mph."

    So true.

  7. jon Says:

    When going on long walks through my neighborhood, I sometimes browsed a nearby car dealership and found myself wondering why Chevy even bothered with the Aveo. It was their small car manufactured for the sole purpose of offsetting the crappy mileage of their huge-selling SUVs and other crap. Still, it was an insult to the notion of good mileage, a giant F.U. to design, and worst of all, not even a good car in the cheap range. Hyundai makes two or three similar-priced cars that have four doors, actually look halfway decent, and don't make people think "Is that a Geo Metro?" when you'd drive by.

    I in no way blame the government or mileage standards for the fact that Chevy put that piece of crap on the market. Chevy could have easily made a Honda CRX clone and put in a small, efficient motor and made a commuter car, but for some reason decided that it had to make an Aveo. Honda, meanwhile, is making the Fits and Civics, Toyota makes its own tiny thing while still making Corollas at a good clip, and Hyundai's entire line kicks the Aveo's lumbering ass in every manner but American-ness. As if there isn't something wrong with that.

  8. JohnR Says:

    but it's so cute! Hey, at least it's not a Ford (although now that it's winter, drving a car that has a sporting chance of bursting into flames at any moment is not an entirely bad thing). I have to point out that Ford must be commended for working for several decades now on finding new and different ways to get their various vehicles to ignite. Innovation is truly job one!
    Me, I love my Sonata – it gets appalling gas mileage, but is incredibly roomy, quiet, and I can merge onto I81 in the mountains of Pennsylvania without a qualm as the silky-smooth suto transmission slides us up to 85 quickly and confidently.

  9. doug Says:

    I have always driven small cars. I have in the past been a GM fan. When the last civic needed replacing(200,000+ miles), we went to chevy dlr and tried aveo. You were perhaps too kind..what a POS

    on the mark and funny. Have a wonderful holiday to all.

  10. NYD Says:

    Ok, the Fran Drescher and Soundwave joke just made me laugh outloud in the office.

    It's a quiet office.

  11. comrade x Says:

    I know all too well Ed's pain. Having to move from the country to the city 8 years ago i had to trade in my trusty Ford F- 150 for an " efficient" city car. So I got a Saturn SL. Overall, not a bad car…it's reliable and a frame built like a brick shithouse – mine was run over by an SUV and all that needed replacing was some of the cheap plastic shit, like the front bumper. But people who are 6' + have a devil of a time shoehorning themselves in and out of the thing. Also you are so low to the ground your vision is blocked by anything taller than a vole.

  12. grendelkhan Says:

    Since I normally drive a 10 year old Nissan Sentra

    Ha. I frequently drive a seventeen year old Nissan Sentra. A Canadian one, too. (Kilometers marked on the outside ring of the speedometer.) The thing's been in at least two accidents, and it's still limping along. It rattles, sure, especially when idling, and I can't afford to have whatever the problem is fixed, but hey, it passed emissions.

    just enjoy the physical comedy of someone who is 6'4" and essentially all limb tucking his knees to his chin in this

    When I was a lad, my family owned a Subaru Justy. Imagine five people (three over six feet) cramming into one of those. It was like a clown car.

  13. ladiesbane Says:

    "PUT IT IN 'Q'!"

  14. Sarah Says:

    Ah, compact cars. And economy class airplane seats. Among the few times when it's good to be a short person.

  15. cicely Says:

    Hilarity indeed! If only this post hadn't come up during lunch….

    *mopping up snorted chicken soup*

  16. skyskier Says:

    Yes but GM's web site says that the "spacious" Aveo will "comfortably seat 5 and makes any trip enjoyable". I think something is not quite right here.

  17. Nan Says:

    I'm only 5'3" and the rental Aveo I got stuck with a couple years ago (thanks to being on government travel on at the time, upgrades weren't an option) struck me as something only hamsters should drive.

  18. Daniel Says:

    Shades of the 1996 classic Simpsons episode, "22 Short Films About Springfield."

  19. Amelia Says:

    I read this while sitting in the Vegas airport during my layover, and happily felt free to laugh loudly until tears streamed down my face because, hey, I'm still behaving more appropriately and sanely than most folks here.

  20. jazzbumpa Says:

    Just a couple brief points.

    1) Other than nameplate, marketing, and overall cheapiness, I doubt that the Daewoo Aveo really has anything GM-ish about it, not withstanding the various coincidences you described.

    B) Now that I know that you are a giant humanoid with the wingspan of a condor on steroids, I'm going to be a lot more careful about what I say here.

    iii) Or maybe not.

    delta) Grape Smuckers? Don't be silly. That is only used for axle fluid.

    Cheers!
    JzB the well lubed trombonist

  21. OliverWendelHolmslice Says:

    Sir, I have some phone messages here for you:

    "To the owner of the Canary-vomit Yellow Aveo: your car is illegally parked. You have 30 minutes to move your car"
    "You now have 15 minutes to move your car"
    "Your car is now being towed"
    "Your car is being crushed into a cube"
    "You have 30 minutes to move your cube"

  22. beau Says:

    Ed: "Do find something comical about the way i drive my automobile? … should that make me subject to ridicule?"

    World: "I guess so"

  23. Mac Says:

    Ed?

    http://images4.wikia.nocookie.net/simpsons/images/thumb/6/60/Very_Tall_Man.jpg/200px-Very_Tall_Man.jpg

  24. Prudence Says:

    that post was nothing short of fried gold, well played. being a euro commie and a hair under 5'4,, i've driven many daftly small cars, many of them srsly fun to pilot, some just scary. having driven a few american small cars as rentals, i've often wondered why gm et al don't make them better, after all the ones in europe and asia are pretty serviceable. now i know that gm, ford, etc aren't really good at car manufacturing, and that few americans want small cars, and that do are probably not middle/high income. i don't have a car now, my lovely us city has excellent transportation options, but i occasionally miss my peugeot 205GTi, it went like shit off a stick, made faster by the fact i think it was made from 205 orangina cans hammered together.

  25. Prudence Says:

    ps i once saw a horse nibbling on a trabant in hungary, the paint had peeled back exposing the pressed wood pulp framework, which had swelled thanks to rain. ah, soviet engineering.

  26. creature Says:

    The Aveo is perhaps an example of all that is flawed in the US auto manufacturing section. It could have been a nice, small car. It would have been a few thousand dollars more, as good content costs more and this car is just there to justify the overweight, ever thisty SUVs and pickups. Cheap ass is as cheap ass does. I have been in the automotive biz- service and repair- for about 40 years. I drive German cars, big, luxury ones- not new, of course, but in good shape and well maintained. Decent fuel mileage and overall comfort and confidence. Aveos and their ilk, I
    I don't like driving them from the lot into the shop or vice-versa. Truly a disposable car- the Yugo of the new era.

  27. Nate Says:

    Ah yes, the GM shakes. My first car, a '91 Pontiac Grand Am, had this affliction, even hinting at getting close to 65 mph you could feel mini-tremors. Also, when you turned on the heater, it smelled like waffles covered in maple syrup. My brother called it the Wafflemobile.

  28. baldheadeddork Says:

    Excellent car review, Ed. I had to ride in one of those crap heaps last weekend when friends visited and offered to drive to dinner. I'm only 5'11" and I hit my knees on the door frame getting out.

    Has anyone actually ever bought one of these off a dealer's lot?

    Good to have you back in Bloomington for a couple of days.

  29. baldheadeddork Says:

    @ creature

    The Aveo isn't a US car, so I don't know what it says about US auto manufacturing. It is an existing Korean market model from Daewoo, which is owned by GM. They shoved the Aveo into their lineup when gas prices exploded a couple of years ago.

    You drive S and 7-class German cars? Not disposable cars, but since the early 90's their reputation for reliability has been a lot higher than the reality of actually owning one with a lot of miles on it. The fuel economy is decent (low 30's) on the highway thanks to tall gearing (the same trick GM uses to get its Corvette and Camaro over 25mpg) but in town you're doing no better than a SUV.

    I'd love to have a Mercedes W124 or a BMW E24 but anything after that is going to be a black hole of expensive electrical repairs.

  30. Danny Says:

    PICTURES, ED, PICTURES !!!!

  31. flathead Says:

    Hey– don't lump all American cars with the Aveo. I have a Focus hatchback. No shakes. Steering is great. My husband is 6'3" and fits in it fine (although of course we take the Accord on long trips). The gas mileage is mediocre, though. In fact, I test drove a Fit because I thought I might want something with better MPG and antilock brakes. Honestly, I could not imagine driving that thing on a regular basis. It revved so high –there was a constant whine. The ride was punishing too. It made me appreciate my car more, that is for sure.
    I stick with manual transmissions, though. I don't really want to merge on the freeway in a car with a small engine and an AT. Bad combination.
    Actually, I am waiting for the Ford Fiesta to be introduced over here before I look at cars again.
    The Aveo is just a piece of crap that was hastily introduced when GM realized it had nothing to attract the growing segment shoppers looking for smaller, more fuel efficient cars. Of course, the joke is the Aveo is not fuel efficient.

  32. Patti Says:

    I enjoy my Detroit cars, but I did not even think to consider the Aveo when I last needed to buy one… Remember the Geo Metro? Or the whole line of Geos? They used to shake horribly at 50mph, but after GM gave up on Geo, they slapped the Chevy name on all of their cars, so suddenly you had a Chevy Tracker with all the safety features of a stripped down Suzuki.

    I actually considered a Geo Metro when in high school (to replace my Death Trap Nissan), but I could not get over the fear that the engine would fall out while attempting 60mph. Seriously never had a problem with the Chevy Cavalier I bought instead (well, until someone ran into the side of my car).

    I don't know why GM keeps finding Truly Crappy Cars to market as their entry level subcompact car. They seem to be universally horrible.

  33. Danny Says:

    Pictures?

    Chicken, Ed. Bawk!!

  34. Palmer Draffen Says:

    Thank you for your post. Great.