Home » Nice Sensible Commuter Cars With Stick-Shifts: 2008 Kia Rio vs 2006 Chevy Aveo

Nice Sensible Commuter Cars With Stick-Shifts: 2008 Kia Rio vs 2006 Chevy Aveo

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Okay, okay! Since David raised such a stink about both of yesterday’s cars being automatics, today we’re looking at a pair of cars from the same basic class, only with three pedals each. But first let’s see which slushbox you hated less:

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Looks like the Plymouth Neon is the winner. That’s “Plymouth,” with a P. And an R and an N and a D and so on, which I guess was the problem.

Now first, let me say that I am in absolute agreement with David (and half the commenters). Small cars especially should have manual transmissions. But while David is still young enough to crawl around under cars in junkyards and then hop in a manual truck and drive home without feeling like he’s been worked over by a Vegas bouncer, I’m old enough to be his… um… cool uncle, and I have the arthritis and stiff knees to prove it. I own three cars, and they’re all manuals, but I can’t guarantee the next one won’t be an automatic.

But then, it won’t be an economy car either, probably. So let’s see if we can take some of the penalty out of the boxes by adding some proper transmissions to the mix.

2008 Kia Rio – $2,200

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Engine/drivetrain: 1.6 liter inline 4, 5 speed manual, FWD

Location: Modesto, CA

Odometer reading: 150,000 miles

Runs/drives? “Great”

The existence of the Kia Rio in the U.S market always puzzled me. The brand already sold the Sephia (that’s the Spectra in the U.S.), a small cheap car, and then decided to import the Rio, an even smaller, cheaper car.

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This second-generation Rio is a true “poverty spec” machine: no air conditioning, no power features, nothing but an engine, some seats, and an aftermarket radio. Even in 2008, this would have been the plainest of plain-Jane cars, appealing only to the the most frugal of car shoppers. To drive a black car without air conditioning in Modesto for 150,000 miles just to save a few bucks speaks of an automotive asceticism bordering on self-loathing. One can’t help but wonder how much sweat is soaked into that cheap upholstery.

[Editor’s Note: I bought my brother’s girlfriend the cheapest car in the U.S. in 2009, the Nissan Versa, and learned while changing the serpentine belt that there was no compressor and that someone had replaced the HVAC controller to make it appear that the car had A/C. It did not. And it was black. My brother’s girlfriend is now in Arkansas sweating bullets because I’m a fool. -DT]

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But it looks like it has been well cared-for, and the seller says it runs and drives well, and the registration is current, which is always a good sign. And as always, less stuff is less stuff to go wrong. This car probably wasn’t worth ten or eleven grand when it was new, to be honest. Is it worth two now? You tell me.

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2006 Chevrolet Aveo – $2,395

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Engine/drivetrain: 1.6 liter inline 4, 5 speed manual, FWD

Location: Seattle, WA

Odometer reading: 186,000 miles

Runs/drives? We assume

The failure of small hatchbacks in America seems to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. We rarely get the good stuff, and when we do, it doesn’t stick around long; witness Ford’s withdrawal of both the Fiesta and the Focus from the US market. Back in 2006, when General Motors was launching the Opel/Vauxhall Corsa D in Europe and the UK – a delightful little car; I drove one from London to Edinburgh and back in 2012 – they saw fit to instead saddle the American market with a study in mediocrity called the Aveo.

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It’s not a bad little car, exactly; it’s just not good. I’ve never owned one, but I have test-driven a couple of them, and honestly barely remember a thing about them. On paper, and in photos, it looks like it should have the right stuff: it’s tiny, has a twin-cam engine and a five-speed stick, and it doesn’t look half bad. But the whole is somehow less than the sum of its parts.

At least it has a tach.

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This Aveo looks all right, but there are some disturbing-looking stains on the door panels. Not sure what that’s about. A few dings and scrapes tell a tale of parking lots past, but the paint looks decent. It does have a lot of miles, but I have heard that these follow the grand GM tradition of running like crap forever. The aftermarket alloy wheels are a nice touch.

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There isn’t a whole lot to recommend either of these beyond having manual gearboxes, but if you don’t want a Corolla that has been to the moon, or a Civic that has been attacked by a Pep Boys accessories aisle, something basic and Korean might just do the trick. I’ll leave it to you all which one is the better choice.


Images: Sellers
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59 Responses

  1. Fun story time: my wife is a geologist and was studying a landslide in bfe Utah, and as broke college kids we could barely afford the cheap flight to Vegas and a rental to get to the site. So we had a yellow with beige interior automatic aveo and we beat the snot out of that car for two weeks. We drove up and down the landslide, just loose gravel and dirt, through full on construction projects where everyone else had contractor spec 2500 pickups and I even managed to get us up the back side of the mountain so we could photograph the other side. Have a few other fun stories about that particular rental but voted aveo because it went above and beyond for off-road capability of a tiny econobox.

  2. For 3k you can get a first gen honda insight and get 60-70mpg and have a fun time driving it. Mine has close to 300k, original engine/trans, and likely the original battery. I purchased it with a non running IMA system for $3,000 in 2013. Deep discharging/grid charging the IMA pack brought it back to life and it works fine now. AC works. No leaks. 1800lbs. Drives like a CRX.

  3. I would usually pick the hatchback because they are almost always better however this Daewoo in Chevy badge isn’t cutting it. I hate you for making me pick a Kia, something I thought I would never do. Yes, gun to the head, the Kia is the better choice of this sandwich…

  4. I see mention or photo to suggest the Daewoo / Chevy has A/C. I can smell the interior funk just looking at those pictures. … assuming i’m going to kill it in rallycross I’d take the Rio for the extra … 7 HP when new?

  5. Kia. Most of my cars from the 20th century haven’t had AC, and I survived. When I was a kid we used to vacation all around the Southwest in a 1974 Renault 12 station wagon with black vinyl upholstery and no AC, and anything would be better than that. Between these two cars, the Kia is significantly less ugly, and just looks better-maintained. I’ve owned much worse.

  6. I rented an Aveo on a trip years ago. It was the biggest piece of shit and was already falling apart even though it had 150 miles on the clock. The door reflector fell off in the parking lot. It was SLOW and despite being a 4 banger got sort of crappy fuel economy.

    1. Rented one to drive from La Jolla to LA, and I have never been so petrified on an expressway (no power, steering vague to the point of being theoretical), and that includes driving a 3-speed auto 1st generation Suzuki Wagon-R (40hp?) uphill on the Tomei Expressway. When I returned it and complained to the guy at the rental office, he told me small cars are not designed for expressway driving. Strange how they manage it perfectly well everywhere else.

  7. I currently drive a 2008 Aveo 5 sv bought new. SV stands for “special value”. It was special I suppose, 11k for a brand new car which meant I could afford it and it had a warranty. No ac, crank windows, the only option was a provision to add ac later, which I considered but when I got laid off 3 months after I bought it that went out the window. Not a big deal to me as I’d never owned a car with working ac up to that point anyway. It’s small enough I can reach all 4 locks and window cranks from the drivers seat. It is slow, but that just gives me an excuse to drive the piss out of it and not worry about breaking the speed limit by too much. It has been mostly trouble free save for 2 flex pipes and a minor sticky clutch. I had been considering finding something different soon but with used car prices and fuel the way they currently are I may wait it out a bit. The car still runs well and I don’t feel pressured to buy right now.

  8. I went Kia, only because I know just how utterly terrible that Daewoo Chevrolet thing is. But no A/C in socal? I live in a climate best described as Arctic without the snow and even I couldn’t buy a car without AC.

  9. Some fun facts: the Aveo started production in 2002 as the Daewoo Kalos and was facelifted several times until production ended in 2011. The original design is actually penned by Giugiaro.
    I owned one for a while a couple years back, and while it was a penalty box with the feel of a tin can, it was reliable and economical.

  10. Having driven both cars (not these exact ones, mind you) the Kia, hands down. it was built after Kia started to figure out quality, but its still that basic 4 wheels and a heater that we long for. the Kia will be pretty buzzy on the freeway, due to short gearing, but that short gearing also makes it pretty tossable. its cheap, it knows it, and doesn’t hide it, thats admirable. that daewoo is just miserable. gutless, souless misery. that gearchange isn’t any fun. that motor isn’t pleasant sounding or feeling. the fact that its a hatch might make it more practical for some. knowing someone managed 180k miles in that shitbox just makes me feel ill.

  11. You know how a hot tub can seem kinda clean until someone turns the jets on? That’s how I feel about the Aveo, it probably smells pretty bad in there, but the AC will definitely make it worse. I’d rather crack a window in the Kia.

  12. I’ve driven a similar model Rio, and test driven a same-year manual Aveo.

    Rio all the way. The Rio is cheap but a decent driving vehicle all-round and more or less reliable. The Aveo is the cheapest, plasticy-est, least reliable vehicle with about the worst feeling manual transmission I’ve ever driven.

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