2012 CHEVROLET SONIC New compact oozes style while also serving up fuel savings, sporty performance
At long last, Chevrolet appears to be taking the small-car segment seriously. The company’s newest entry replaces the Korea-built Aveo that has been around since the 2004 model year.
Like the Aveo, the Sonic is offered in both sedan and mini-wagon formats. However, these cars are constructed at GM’s Orion, Mich., plant and not in Korea. Therefore, there’s plenty of North American style built into the Sonic, such as a stubbier-looking nose, more prominent grille and fancier headlight pods.
In back, the sedan appears similar to the outgoing Aveo sedan, while the hatchback hides the rear door latches adjacent to the roof pillar. As well, the liftgate’s shape is one of the more stunning examples of this genre, with curved glass plus a set of really fancy taillamps that were apparently inspired by motorcycle headlights.
Inside, the dashboard and control panel exude an up-level quality rarely seen in the econo-car class.
Both Sonic body styles are larger than their outgoing Aveo counterparts by nearly 3.5 inches in overall length. In the sub-compact class, this increase is significant and helps provide a decent amount of passenger room.
More is definitely better as far as performance is concerned. The Sonic roars to life with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder churning out 138 horsepower or optional 1.4-liter four-cylinder turbocharged unit producing 138 hp. Although horsepower ratings are the same, the turbocharged engine makes 148 pounds-feet of torque compared with 125 pounds-feet for the base 1.8-liter.
A five-speed manual transmission, or optional six-speed automatic comes on the 1.8-liter, while the turbo is exclusively matched to a six-speed manual.
Chevy says the extra-rigid body structure, wide stance and suspension components were tuned by the Corvette engineering team, which should ensure that the Sonic delivers a sporty driving experience.
Base models arrive as relatively stripped-down price leaders but include 10 standard airbags. That’s equal to the Cruze, but four airbags more than the rest of the sub-compact pack. Among a variety of options are leather-covered seats (heated in front), power sunroof, MyChevrolet hands-free phone, text and audio connectivity and larger (up to 17 inches from 15) wheels.
2012 Chevrolet Sonic at a glance:
Overall: The Sonic is the tonic to cure those underachieving small-car blues.
Drivetrain: The larger Chevy Cruze lends its four-cylinder engines as well as its standard and automatic transmissions to put a little spring in the Sonic’s step.
Type: Four-door sedan; four-door hatchback
Base engine (hp): 1.8-liter DOHC I4 (138)
Optional engine (hp): 1.4-liter DOHC I4, turbocharged (138)
Layout: Front-engine, front- wheel-drive
Transmissions: Five-speed manual (std. on 1.8); six-speed manual (turbo only); six-speed automatic (opt. on 1.8)
Safety: Front airbags; front/rear side-impact airbags; front knee airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.
Weight (lb): 2,750
Base price (incl. destination): $14,500