General Motors Automobiles Philippines surprised many a motorist with the launch of the Chevrolet Aveo in 2003, mainly because it was a sudden 180-degree turn from the gas-guzzling utility vehicles and passenger cars in its lineup, and because it was yet another response to the constant fuel hikes. But what the other manufacturers didn't know was that GM had to generate top-of-mind consciousness with the youth market, since most of its products were geared towards padre de familias and basketball moms. Yes, the Aveo did get some market share since its launch, but unfortunately the competition managed to distance itself significantly. With that in mind, GM decided it was high time to launch a new iteration of its subcompact hatch at the Metrowalk area in Ortigas Center (Pasig).

The outside is arguably the hatchback's most significant � and most obvious - change. A new large horizontal split grille (with the thick horizontal single line carrying a large gold Chevrolet logo, known as the bowtie) prevalent in most Chevrolet models from 2007 onwards replaces the small, inlet-like mug of its predecessor. The grille is similar to the grille found on all current Audi models, and that � along with the new wing-tipped headlights (which remind you a bit of the current BMW 5-Series), faux air inlets (in front of the side mirror housings), the mesh front grille backing, front foglights (with aluminum housings) and the faux mesh rear bumper lining (to give it a semblance of weight reduction) - gives it a heavy dash of sportiness. Further complementing the exterior profile is a one inch bump in wheel diameter that gives the unit potential added tarmac grip - thin-spoked 15 x 6 alloy wheels, wrapped up in Hanook Optimo 185/55R15 series rubber.

The interior is also a big change. There are cues from the previous model Chevrolet Optra, such as a four-spoke steering wheel (sans the radio controls on the seven o' clock side), the aircon control layout, the dashboard gauge cluster (with a rev counter; the previous model didn't have one), a 60:40 split rear backrest and power-assist for all four door locks and windows. The circular aircon vents are retained, but they have a better design (similar to that on the Mazda 3) and bigger inlets to let in cool air quicker. The snug seat fabric and the primarily black interior colorway were retained, but there are more metallic inserts, specifically within the steering wheel spokes and on the a/t shift knob. It also looks less dark when light enters the cabin. In contrast the inside of the previous model Aveo hatch looked like you're entering a photographic dark room, with or without the entrance of light.

The Aveo hatch now comes in one displacement (a 1.5L single overhead camshaft, inline four banger, 82 hp and 128 NM of torque) and layout (front wheel drive) but is offered in two tranny trims � a five-speed m/t and a four-speed a/t. The excellent NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) of its predecessor is retained, as well as the predictable, firm and easy-to-modulate braking. Also retained is a power-assisted steering setup that amplifies the hatchback's agility and nimbleness, but not to the point where feedback is low and the feel is too light.

As with most subcompact hatchbacks, the Aveo's suspension is composed of traditional struts up front and torsion beams (with coil springs) at the rear. The default behavior of this setup is taut (and can border on unforgiving occasionally), but this is a given due to limited suspension travel as a result of space constraints.

In trying economic times hatchbacks like the new Chevrolet Aveo get serious consideration due to their fuel-sipping properties and compact dimensions. Those properties, plus the Aveo's attractive exterior, interior and price (P 710,000 for the a/t, P 670,000 for the m/t), complement the Chevrolet's youth movement. "We want to capture a large part of the youth market, and with the new Aveo hatchback, we are confident that we can do it," said GM marketing manager Loy Calina.