Like everyone else, we rent cars when we travel on business, usually the smallest car on the lot. And lately, those rentals have been getting older and more battered.

So on a trip to Orlando two weeks ago, we approached the bright-blue 2009 Chevrolet Aveo 4-door sedan with caution. It looked cheerful, sure, but with 18,000 rental miles in less than a year, how badly abused would it prove to be?

We found Chevy's littlest offering was pleasant enough, though not as cleverly designed or fun to drive as the 2009 Honda Fit hatchback. As a new model for 2008, the Korean-built Aveo sedan is relatively modern, but not head of the class.

The interior's hardly luxurious, and you definitely have to keep your foot in the 107-horsepower, 1.6-liter four to keep up with traffic. But, it did everything we asked it to do without complaining. We're eager to test the new-for-2009 Chevrolet Aveo5 hatchback, which faces off against the Fit and promises better interior materials than our sedan.

Our colleagues at TheCarConnection only gave the Aveo 5.8 points out of a possible 10, but we're a little less harsh. We come from a different perspective; they gave the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro 8.4 points, whereas we've already made our thoughts known on that one (despite the LS model's 29 mpg highway rating).

Our seat-of-the-pants rating for the Aveo: 7.5 points out of 10.  And it was definitely easy on fuel: The EPA rates it at 26 mpg city / 34 mpg highway, but we put in just 4.8 gallons after covering 156 miles, for more than 32 mpg in energetic mixed use.

TCC called the car a "strictly by-the-numbers Asian economy car: MacPherson struts, a torsion-beam rear, and a short 97.7-inch wheelbase. Fourteen-inch wheels are standard, while 15-inchers (and anti-lock brakes) are optional."

In the end, we were happy enough with the Aveo, but we suspect the Fit would trounce  it for fun, fuel economy, and versatility. We haven't driven the 2009 Toyota Yaris, the other contender in this class, so we can't comment on how that one stacks up.

Oh, and rental-car abuse? The transmission in our little blue bomber had a persistent whine that rose with engine speed, and a (tolerable) front-end shimmy. We mentioned both to the woman who checked us in. She nodded and walked away to check in the next car.

Never, ever, buy a used rental car. You have been warned.

2009 Chevrolet Aveo - interior

2009 Chevrolet Aveo - interior