The effects of 2008's petrol crisis are showing no signs of abating at this year's Detroit NAIAS - small cars, electrics and hybrids are the big stars of 2010 in Motor City. And Chevy is looking to capitalise, with a new muscled-up 'hot hatch' concept based on a revitalised update to its lukewarm Aveo platform. The 138-horsepower, 1.4 litre Aveo RS is Chevrolet's tricked-out take on what the tuner community should be able to do when the new, improved Aveo platform launches in 2011 - and Chevy's hoping this funky show car helps turn around the current Aveo's reputation as a rebadged Korean econobox.

The current Chevy Aveo is not the sort of car that gets the kiddies' blood pumping, or gives aftermarket tuners any ideas - to put it kindly, it's at best functional, and at worst, a bit dodgy in the quality department. But Chevy's presentation at Detroit yesterday made it clear that the upcoming 2011 Aveo is going to be a much more interesting beast indeed.

Wider, longer, sportier and more powerful, the new Aveo will be pitched at the same audience that get off on the Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris - still small and economical cars, but with a bit of style and go to them. And part of breaking into that segment, in Chevy's eyes, is getting the East and West coast tuner scenes to start seeing the Aveo as a platform for Euro-style hot hatch builds.

Hence the Aveo RS; it's Chevy's take on what a tuned-up 2011 Aveo might look like, and it's quite a nice looking animal. Its new wider, slightly longer wheelbase couples with 19-inch wheels to give it a muscular bulldog stance. Exposed headlamps and a fat dual-chamber Chevy grille are the most striking elements of the frontal aspect - and the rear is even sweeter with its integrated spoiler, exposed tail-lights and center-mounted dual exhaust.

The exposed lamps and brightly coloured brake calipers aren't the only design cues Chevy has taken from the motorcycle world - the digital dash looks unashamedly like it bolted straight in off a Gixxer or R1. The whole look and feel of the thing is very tidy and sharp, with a distinct performance edge. There's plenty more detail to enjoy in the photo gallery.

Speaking of performance, the Aveo RS would get about with reasonable lightness of foot given its 1.4-liter four cylinder turbo engine, which makes 138 horses and 148 foot-pounds of torque. It's good enough for the larger Cruze, so will provide a fairly snappy drive in the Aveo, you'd expect.

The redesigned Aveo is part of a general shake-up of Chevy's small-car range. The Volt will be the top-end early adopter electric, the Spark will take over the Aveo's role as the budget entry level car, the Aveo will move into a midrange spot and the Cruze will be more of a medium-sized car than a compact.

There will certainly be room for Chevy to offer the hotted-up RS as a kind of premium compact if it decides to take this concept through to production. Being as how the platform's well and truly on the way and there's nothing too outrageous bolted on to the RS show car, it's a distinct possibility that we'll see the RS in showrooms sometime down the track. That's certainly how the designers we spoke to feel as well. So no promises, but you might well be looking at a future production car.

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