Base Price (MSRP):$13,735.00 / As Tested (MSRP): $18,580.00
View The 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Specifications
| Review by: Laura Burstein
New subcompact is sporty yet sensible.
The 2012 Chevrolet Sonic is available as either a four-door sedan or five-door hatchback. The 138-hp 1.8-liter engine comes standard on all models. A 5-speed manual transmission is standard, an automatic transmission is optional. The 1.4-liter turbocharged engine is available for LT and LTZ models along with a 6-speed manual transmission.
The Sonic LS sedan ($14,495) and Sonic LS hatchback ($15,395) come with cloth upholstery, manually adjustable seats, trip computer, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, air conditioning, 60/40 split folding rear seat, OnStar telematics service and a four-speaker, AM/FM stereo system with auxiliary jack, a roof spoiler, front floor mats, remote keyless entry, power door locks, 15-inch forged alloy wheels. All hatchback models come standard with rear washer and wiper.
Sonic LT sedan ($15,695) and Sonic LT hatchback ($16,495) add upgraded cloth upholstery, heated outside power mirrors, power windows, rear floor mats, and a six-speaker premium sound system with CD player and satellite radio capability. Options include a connectivity package with USB, Bluetooth connectivity and cruise control ($525), and 16-inch wheels with fog lamps ($295).
Sonic LTX sedan ($17,295) and LTZ hatchback ($17,995) upgrade with leatherette upholstery, heated front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control, wheel-mounted audio controls, a connectivity package with USB port and Bluetooth phone and music connectivity, fog lights, and 17-inch alloy wheels. Select features that come standard on the LTX are available on lower trim levels.
Safety features on all models include antilock brakes (ABS), electronic brake force distribution (EBD) and panic brake assist; electronic stability control and traction control, hill-hold feature, and 10 airbags: front driver and passenger, seat mounted thorax side-impact, head curtain, rear side-impact and knee airbags.
Although it's made in America, the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic was sketched and modeled in Korea by designers who are avid motorcycle enthusiasts. As such, the Sonic contains many design cues borrowed from two wheelers.
The five-door hatchback model has a younger, more aggressive, boxy shape with hidden rear door handles and exposed rear tail lights. The four-door sedan's profile, meanwhile, is sleeker and more refined.
On both body styles, the Sonic uses round, exposed headlamps, chrome trim around Chevy's trademark dual-port grille and honeycomb-shaped grille inserts. Alloy wheels, available in 15, 16 or 17-inch, look far more sophisticated than the plastic wheel covers or steel wheels found on some cars in this segment.
Large gaps between body panels were one tell-tale sign of cheap cars of the past. But the Chevrolet Sonic manages to pare down body gaps to 3.5 millimeters or less. Also, a special welding technique was used to make for a cleaner, more flush fit.
The cabin of the Chevrolet Sonic carries over the motorcycle-inspired design with a large, round tachometer front and center. A large LCD speedometer to the right of the tach glows a pleasant blue color and is easy to read.
Audio and climate controls are simple, logical and easy to read and reach. The tall, narrow slots on either side of the center stack add extra storage, but they look out of place.
The cloth seats are comfortable and are easily adjustable. We especially like the tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, which is often tough to get as standard equipment on more luxurious cars. Dash and trim materials (mostly plastics) are attractive and the colors and textures are well-executed.
In the rear, there is enough headroom and legroom, even for taller passengers.
Cargo space tops out at an average 14 cubic-feet for the sedan and a decent 19 cubic feet for the hatchback. A shelf in the rear of the hatch stows away for tall items and is completely removable for more space when the 60/40 folding rear seats are down, for a total of 30.7 cubic feet.
The audio system is average for the segment. We'd order the iPod and USB port, which allows music streaming via Bluetooth with Pandora or music files stored locally on a mobile phone.
The Chevrolet Sonic delivers spritely acceleration performance with the standard 1.8-liter engine. Power from the 1.8-liter engine is sufficient off the line, but we found throttle tip-in to be overly sensitive and that made for jumpy standing starts until we got used to it.
We sometimes had trouble choosing the right gear over hills and through windy roads. With the automatic, we needed to manually shift to get the optimum power. With the manual, we felt like a driving Goldilocks: second gear was too short, yet third was much too tall. This suggests torque from the 1.8-liter engine might not be sufficiently broad and robust for the gear ratios. In layman's terms, more power would be useful for motoring around town.
We found the 1.4-liter turbo models a tad zippier.
Steering was surprisingly responsive. While the Sonic lacks the go-kart handling of a Mini Cooper Clubman, it offers enough sportiness to feel engaged on the road. The suspension was compliant enough to handle bumps and railroad tracks, yet still firm enough to let us round corners with minimal body roll.
Braking is responsive; the pedal bites down quickly enough for those who like instant feedback, but is perhaps a little too bitey for those who like a more progressive pedal feel.
Fuel economy for the Chevrolet Sonic regardless of body style is an EPA estimated 26/35 mpg City/Highway with the 1.8-liter engine and 5-speed manual transmission, 25/35 mpg with the automatic. Official government figures for the 1.4-liter turbo were not available at press time.
The 2012 Chevrolet Sonic is a peppy, well-executed subcompact car with lots of standard features and surprisingly good performance at a reasonable price.
Laura Burstein filed this NewCarTestDrive.com report after her test drive of the Chevrolet Sonic.