2012 Chevy Sonic

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Thread: 2012 Chevy Sonic

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    2012 Chevy Sonic

    Okay, quick show of hands. How many people here remember the Chevy Aveo? ...Not too many, huh? OK, how many of you remember it FONDLY? ..Yeah, that's what I thought. The Aveo was GM's last attempt to build a competitive subcompact to slot below the Cobalt compact car and sell it for bargain-basement prices. What they wanted was a car that would be the best available for the price. What we got instead was a Korean engineered, slapped together piece of junk built with the cheapest materials possible with a boat anchor for an engine which made almost no power while getting the same gas mileage as the larger, better-built and more powerful Cobalt. So it came as no surprise when GM decided that for their new generation B-segment car, they've ditched the Aveo name for something a little more interesting.

    Their new car is called the Sonic, and as soon as I started hearing about it it began to pique my interest.


    It's a totally new car from the ground up, and Chevy was pretty adamant that they actually WANT people to buy this one. It's the cheapest Chevy available, coming in with a base price under $15,000USD. That base price gets you quite a bit of standard equipment, including alloy wheels and 10 airbags. The LT sedan (shown in link above) I drove was a bit better-equipped than that, and came in around 17 grand. It comes with a lot of kit--power windows and locks, AC, MP3-capable stereo (with AUX and USB-in for your iThing), stability control and cruise control among other options, so it's a good value for your money.

    First impressions? It's a surprisingly sporty-looking little car. I personally think the sedan looks a little bit awkward, especially from the rear, it's still not an unattractive car. The front end is espeically boldly styled for a vehicle of this class, so it'll certainly stand out. Climbing into the driver's seat will give you a comfortable driving position. The Sonic's gauge cluster was modeled after a sportbike's compact instrument panel. You get a big tach with a huge red needle, a large digital speedo, a digital bar fuel gauge and idiot lights for everything else. It might look a little gimmicky but it's easy to read at a glance and functional.The seats are a little bit softer than I'd like but they feel reasonably supportive. There's no lack of room in the Sonic, as my six foot frame had plenty of leg, shoulder, hip and headroom all the way around. The rear seat was the real surprise--with the driver's seat positioned comfortably, I was still able to fit in the rear seat behind it with enough room to not feel cramped. It reminded me of those little Chinese takeout containers that look about the size of an iPod and contain enough food to feed your family, your next door neighbor's family and whatever stray cats happen to still be in your neighborhood. The little TARDIS that could continues to the vehicle's commodious trunk, which looks to be almost as large as the trunk on my midsize Ford Fusion. The rear seats also fold down to hold even larger items.

    There are two engines and two transmissions available for the Sonic in the US. The base engine is a naturally-aspirated 1.8L four cylinder making around 136 HP and about 125 lb-ft of torque. The uplevel engine is a 1.4L turbo four rated at 138HP and 148lb-ft of torque. If these numbers sound familiar to you they should--they're the exact same engines found in the larger Chevy Cruze. You also get a selection of five-speed manual (base engine only) six-speed automatic or six-speed manual (turbo only)--the only car in this class aside from the Mini Cooper that offers a 6-speed stick. My test car had the base 1.8L motor mated to the six-speed auto--likely the most popular choice as it's cheap and easy to drive.

    The 1.8L engine seemed to have enough power to move the Sonic down the road reasonably well, but it's not the powertrain of choice to have. While it's more powerful than most of the cars in its class the lack of low-end torque hurts the car's acceleration. The slushbox doesn't help either. This car would be much better with a manual, but one wasn't available for me. Still, this engine better suits the Sonic than it does the much heavier Cruze. The six-speed auto that came with it did the best it could with what it had, but it spent a lot of time hunting for the right gear on hills at part-throttle, and it takes a little while to kick down into the appropriate gear.

    The car's ride was quite good for a car of this class, and it seemed to take corners well also--though with a fair bit of body roll. The suspension was tuned for comfort over handling, however I can tell this chassis would really shine with a little more power and a stiffer suspension setup. That said it is a comfortable car to drive, and I could see someone being quite comfortable over an extended highway trip.

    The one area this particular powertrain combination falls short is in fuel economy. The big reason many buy cars this small is for the great gas mileage, and the 1.8L with the automatic is a little underwhelming. It's only rated at 25/35 city/highway, which is below average for a car this small. For reference, the 1.4 turbo gets an honest 40 MPG highway while generating a good 20+lb-ft more torque--that puts the Sonic near the top of the class.

    So what's the verdict? Well it's good-looking, reasonably priced, stylish, roomy, handles acceptably well and rides comfortably. The base engine is a bit of a dog, though. Spend the extra few hundred bucks and spring for the turbo with a six-speed stick and you'll have a fun little pocket rocket on your hands.

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  3. #2
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    Re: 2012 Chevy Sonic

    Aveo got a bum rap from GM, then again, GM has done this before. Aveo really was not that bad of a car; it just needed a little bit more development to really be competitive. You failed to mention, that at the time, the Aveo was claimed to have a better finished/constructed interior than many of GM models, and that the engine was GM designed and built. By the way, the Sonic is pretty expensive for an economy car

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    Re: 2012 Chevy Sonic

    Aveo was a Daewoo - rebadged. No microcar is going to go over big here except for maybe in pockets of inner city traffic zones.

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    Re: 2012 Chevy Sonic

    A fine review jwrebholz! I'm looking forward to driving the Sonic myself when I get a chance.

    Quote Originally Posted by jwrebholz View Post
    You also get a selection of five-speed manual (base engine only) six-speed automatic or six-speed manual (turbo only)--the only car in this class aside from the Mini Cooper that offers a 6-speed stick.
    FWIW, the Accent/Rio duo is also available with a six-speed stick.
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    Re: 2012 Chevy Sonic

    Just for the record, the front seats of the Aveo were fantastic - comfortable and spacious. GM got that right.

    I don't think this kind of car is inner city only. The Aveo wasn't popular because gas mileage and acceleration were both disappointing. And while its crash ratings were good for the class at launch, GM didn't add any safety features for its entire service life.

    If the Sonic gets slightly better engines and better fuel economy, I think it will be a real success. Until then, the nicer interior, better safety, better styling, larger wheels, and improved handling won't attract buyers because people shopping in this segment put fuel economy first. I would never take the current Sonic 1.8 over a Cruze or the Sonic 1.4T over a Cruze Eco.

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    Re: 2012 Chevy Sonic

    The Sonic 1.4 gets great mileage, it's just not widely available for some reason.

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    Re: 2012 Chevy Sonic

    You suggested A/C was an option in Sonic. From what I understand it's std. Also, I've not had a chance to drive it but from what I have read, Sonic has best in class power, or close to it. The suspension was not built for comfort as you stated. It was designed by the bowling green team to handle better than any other sub compact, and body roll is minimal.

    Mind you that's what I have read.
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    Re: 2012 Chevy Sonic

    Where was the new Sonic designed and where is it built? I'm thinking it's designed in America and built in Korea.
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    Re: 2012 Chevy Sonic

    Quote Originally Posted by Shotgun View Post
    Where was the new Sonic designed and where is it built? I'm thinking it's designed in America and built in Korea.
    You are close. It is built in America just outside Detroit. A large design contribution was made by GM Korea. This combination if going to work well for GM IMO.

    http://www.autoweek.com/article/2011...IEWS/110609911

    Wait till you see what comes out at SEMA. GM and GMPP have gone all out on this.

    http://www.caranddriver.com/news/che...car-and-driver



    West Coast Customs is bringing FIVE. One already built in the GM booth and four live builds at SEMA.

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    Re: 2012 Chevy Sonic

    Quote Originally Posted by JusticePete View Post
    You are close. It is built in America just outside Detroit. A large design contribution was made by GM Korea. This combination if going to work well for GM IMO.

    http://www.autoweek.com/article/2011...IEWS/110609911

    Wait till you see what comes out at SEMA. GM and GMPP have gone all out on this.

    http://www.caranddriver.com/news/che...car-and-driver



    West Coast Customs is bringing FIVE. One already built in the GM booth and four live builds at SEMA.
    Thanks for the info!
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    Re: 2012 Chevy Sonic

    That actually looks ok. I cringe whenever I hear West Coast Customs is building anything for GM. I find WCC gaudy, riced out and just unappealing.... WCC is the anti-Foose.
    We don't need to Find New Roads, we need to fix the ones we have now....

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    Re: 2012 Chevy Sonic

    A friend of mine--on my recommendation--bought a Sonic a few days ago. He went with the turbo. He loves it. Yesterday he let me drive it.

    What a difference a turbo can make. The 1.4 feels MUCH more responsive than the 1.8, and all that extra twist really helps get the car off the line even with the automatic transmission. Despite only having 2 more horsepower, the extra torque makes it feel much faster and it WILL put you back into the seat when you step on it. The auto box is good at keeping the engine in its powerband when you've got your foot planted, and it didn't seem to hunt as much on hills at part-throttle. It seemed more happy to pick a gear and stick with it.

    I am thoroughly impressed. This is the best subcompact GM has ever built, and arguably the best one on the market.

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    Re: 2012 Chevy Sonic

    Quote Originally Posted by jwrebholz View Post
    A friend of mine--on my recommendation--bought a Sonic a few days ago. He went with the turbo. He loves it. Yesterday he let me drive it.

    What a difference a turbo can make. The 1.4 feels MUCH more responsive than the 1.8, and all that extra twist really helps get the car off the line even with the automatic transmission. Despite only having 2 more horsepower, the extra torque makes it feel much faster and it WILL put you back into the seat when you step on it. The auto box is good at keeping the engine in its powerband when you've got your foot planted, and it didn't seem to hunt as much on hills at part-throttle. It seemed more happy to pick a gear and stick with it.

    I am thoroughly impressed. This is the best subcompact GM has ever built, and arguably the best one on the market.
    I didn't think the turbo/auto combo was available yet. As far as I know, if you want an automatic Sonic right now, you are stuck with the 1.8L.
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    Re: 2012 Chevy Sonic

    Quote Originally Posted by silvergoat2k6 View Post
    I didn't think the turbo/auto combo was available yet. As far as I know, if you want an automatic Sonic right now, you are stuck with the 1.8L.
    I heard the same thing. Are you sure your friend has the 1.4T/6AT?
    We don't need to Find New Roads, we need to fix the ones we have now....

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    Re: 2012 Chevy Sonic

    ...
    He SAID it had a turbo and he's never lied to me--so I didn't pop the hood to look. The dealer TOLD HIM it had a turbo...

    If it doesn't, that dealer has got a LOT of explaining to do. My friend isn't really a car guy, he wouldn't know a turbocharger from a teacup.

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