2011 Detroit Auto Show
What is it?
2012 Chevrolet Sonic
What's special about it?
The 2012 Chevrolet Sonic is the small car GM has been saying it will build for decades. This time, however, the Sonic has been given a stylish look along with a generous helping of the company's latest technology. Penalty box? No, just a smaller version of the company's best sedans. At least that's how Chevrolet is pitching it.
Positioned to compete with Ford's Fiesta, Mazda's 2, Honda's Fit and Toyota's Yaris, Chevrolet's new entry will be available as a sedan or a five-door hatchback. There will be a choice of two engines and three transmissions, which it shares with the larger, heavier Chevy Cruze.
Engine choices include a turbocharged 1.4-liter inline four-cylinder rated at 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque or a 1.8-liter normally aspirated inline four-cylinder rated at 135 hp and 123 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed manual and six-speed automatic can both be paired with the 1.8-liter engine, while a six-speed manual is the only transmission option available with the 1.4-liter turbo mill. Fuel economy numbers haven't been released.
Those are class-leading power numbers according to Chevy, but the company is also bragging about the Sonic's suspension. It's nothing fancy in terms of hardware — struts up front, torsion beam out back — but the task of tuning them was turned over to engineers who also tuned the Corvette. Does that mean the Sonic will be a sportier subcompact than the Aveo that came before it? Maybe.
If anything, it shows that Chevrolet is more serious than ever about making its small car feel refined. To that end, the Sonic was designed with one of the stiffest chassis in the segment and the wheel sizes range up to 17 inches in diameter. The standard electronic stability control system also features rollover sensors and 10 airbags.
Mechanical bits aside, the Sonic also features a well-stocked interior, if you pay up for the options, of course. It offers heated front seats, remote start and a sunroof. The sedan's trunk space is also segment-leading, and both body styles offer more rear-seat room than the Ford Fiesta. Rear seats fold almost flat to increase cargo capacity, but there's no sign of any kind of multi-adjustable rear seat like the Honda Fit
The 2012 Chevrolet Sonic goes into production later this year at GM's Orion plant in Michigan.
Edmunds.com says: When it comes to subcompacts, most buyers are interested in utility first and performance last, which makes Honda's Fit a hard entry to beat. Still, the Sonic is a striking-looking package with some nice features, and that counts for something. — Josh Jacquot, Senior Editor