2012 Chevrolet Sonic Review | Edmunds.com

2012 Chevrolet Sonic

Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) is a category of used car. Often late-model vehicles, they have been inspected, refurbished, if necessary, and are under warranty by the manufacturer.
Chevrolet Sonic Features and Specs

Features & Specs

  • Engine 1.8 L Inline 4-cylinder
  • Drivetrain Front Wheel Drive
  • Transmission 5-speed Manual
  • Horse Power 138 hp @ 6300 rpm
  • Fuel Economy 26/35 mpg
  • Bluetooth No
  • Navigation No
  • Heated Seats No

Review of the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic

  • With a winning blend of power, comfort and fuel efficiency, the all-new 2012 Chevrolet Sonic is one of the segment's top picks.

  • Safety
  • Pros

    Excellent power and fuel economy from optional turbocharged engine; attractive, livable cabin; crisp handling; low price; top safety scores.

  • Cons

    The 2012 Chevrolet Sonic is an all-new subcompact, available in both sedan and four-door-hatchback configurations.

  • What's New for 2012

    The 2012 Chevrolet Sonic is an all-new subcompact, available in both sedan and four-door-hatchback configurations.

Full 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Review

What's New for 2012

The 2012 Chevrolet Sonic is an all-new subcompact, available in both sedan and four-door-hatchback configurations.


For a long time, domestic cars were laggards in the small-car segment, but these days, the picture is much different; homegrown models are at the forefront both in sales and overall quality. The latest example of worthy local talent is the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic, a subcompact that replaces the Aveo in Chevy's lineup.

The name change was certainly in order, since relative to the Aveo, the Sonic represents a quantum leap forward. Offered as both a sedan and a four-door hatchback, this Chevy features an attractive cabin that's one of the most livable in the subcompact segment. Compared to its rivals, the Sonic provides generous in-cabin storage; every square inch of space is cleverly utilized, as is evidenced by that nifty, unusually placed pair of bins located high on the center stack. There's ample head- and shoulder room for front passengers, and the spacious second row keeps 6-footers comfortable -- as long as there isn't another 6-footer in the front seat.

Things get even more appealing when you peek under the hood. A 1.8-liter inline-4 produces a healthy 138 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque, while the even more desirable turbocharged 1.4-liter matches this horsepower and increases torque to a remarkably robust 148 lb-ft. The Sonic handles with engaging responsiveness and fuel economy is competitive, with the turbocharged engine getting an estimated 40 mpg on the highway. Perhaps most importantly for those who are downsizing from something larger, the Sonic feels as if it's much bigger and more substantial from behind the wheel.

The subcompact class isn't exactly hard up for talent, and you'd be wise to take a close look at some of the Sonic's rivals. The redesigned Hyundai Accent boasts refinement and superb mileage, while the Ford Fiesta brings a composed ride and sporty handling. There's also the capable Honda Fit, which earns a recommendation on the strength of its highly versatile interior. Still, the Sonic's blend of power, comfort, safety and fuel efficiency is compelling enough to make this Chevy a top contender in a very tough segment.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options

The 2012 Chevrolet Sonic is a subcompact that's available as a sedan and a four-door hatchback. Both body styles come in three trims: LS, LT and LTZ.

The LS includes 15-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, a four-way (manual) adjustable driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 60/40-split rear seat, a trip computer, OnStar and a four-speaker AM/FM stereo with an auxiliary audio jack. A six-speaker sound system with a CD/MP3 player and satellite radio is available as an option.

LT models add the LS trim's optional six-speaker setup, along with heated side mirrors, full power accessories and upgraded cloth upholstery. Additionally, this trim is eligible for a Connectivity Plus Cruise package that includes cruise control, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, an iPod/USB audio interface and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls. LT models equipped with an automatic transmission get a remote vehicle starter system with this package. The LT trim is also eligible for a Wheels and Foglamp package that includes 16-inch wheels and foglamps.

With the top-of-the-line LTZ trim, you get the LT's standard features and the amenities in the Connectivity Plus Cruise package, along with 17-inch alloy wheels, foglamps, heated front seats, leatherette premium vinyl upholstery and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. A sunroof is available as an option.

Powertrains and Performance

The standard engine on the 2012 Sonic is a 1.8-liter inline-4 that makes 138 hp and 125 lb-ft of torque. LT and LTZ models are available with a turbocharged 1.4-liter inline-4 that generates 138 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard with the 1.8 liter, while the Turbo gets a six-speed manual. A six-speed automatic is optional on both.

In Edmunds testing, a manual-equipped Sonic LTZ sprinted from zero to 60 mph in 8.8 seconds, a quick time for this class.

EPA fuel economy estimates stand at 26 mpg city/35 mpg highway and 29 mpg combined for the 1.8-liter engine with the manual transmission, and 25/35/28 with the automatic. Despite its extra power, the Turbo is actually estimated to be more efficient, with 29/40/33 for the manual and 27/37/31 for the automatic.


All 2012 Chevrolet Sonic models come standard with stability control, antilock brakes (front disc, rear drum), side curtain airbags, front knee airbags and side-impact airbags for all outboard passengers (front and rear).

In government crash testing, the Sonic received a perfect five stars for overall protection, overall frontal protection and overall side protection. This is the strongest performance currently in the class. The Sonic was rated a "Top Safety Pick" by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, receiving a top score of "Good" in frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength crash tests.

In Edmunds brake testing, a Sonic LTZ stopped from 60 mph in 123 feet, an average distance for this class of car.

Interior Design and Special Features

The Sonic's industrial-theme cabin is handsome to look at, with a thoroughly modern feel. Materials quality is respectable, though there are some cheap-looking plastics in evidence. Controls are logically clustered and clearly labeled, making it easy to find one's way around the center stack. Factory-installed navigation isn't offered, but given the wide range of inexpensive portable and handheld nav systems on the market, we don't see this omission being a problem for most shoppers.

The front row offers good shoulder and headroom, and rear passengers benefit from legroom that's among the best in the segment. Luggage capacity on the Sonic hatch is midpack, at 19 cubic feet; maximum cargo capacity is 30.9 cubic feet, well behind that of rivals like the Fit and the Accent. The sedan's trunk accommodates 14 cubic feet of luggage, making it among the roomiest in this segment.

Driving Impressions

With the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic, you get engaging handling that doesn't come at the expense of a comfortable ride. Ride quality is firm enough to paint a realistic picture of the road, while at the same time being accommodating enough to buffer undue harshness. The cabin is relatively quiet both on surface streets and on the freeway, while the steering is one of its high points -- light in parking lots but well-weighted and natural-feeling at speed. In total, the Sonic drives like a bigger, more composed car than you would expect.

Both of the Sonic's engines offer good performance for this segment. The turbocharged 1.4 is especially torquey and peppy, offering 0-60-mph acceleration that's nearly a second quicker than many of its rivals. The fact that it returns better fuel economy than the regular engine means you should definitely consider doling out the extra cash for this impressive little engine.

What Others Are Saying

Customer Reviews

Things start falling appart

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Vehicle: 2012 Chevrolet Sonic LT 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl 6A)

I drive about 120 miles per day and do get a little better gas mileage than my last car. The problem is the gas tank is so small I have to fuel up every other day, although the tank is smaller than my last car. My check engine light started coming on recently and I had the codes checked, indicating an oxygen sensor. I checked and the bold that holds the bracket and wiring for the oxygen sensor had fallen out and was gone leaving the oxygen sensor cable on the hot manifold. Can't find the bolt so I have it zip tied to a little loop on the engine. I have checked some forums and it is common on the Sonic and Cruz (same motor) The engine over temp light started coming on as well.

33k on 2012 sonic

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Vehicle: 2012 Chevrolet Sonic LT 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl 6A)

Bought this car new. Stock tires are useless in MI winters, so 4 snows are used in winter. Still gets 30+ mpg with snows! Good equipment package on LT models. We just got back from a trip to the UP of Michigan. Got 38.5 mpg overall and its rated at 35 hwy. I'm picky about my cars and this one has had minor damage and repairs (others fault) twice. Drives very well at highway speeds and has usable seating for four. Holds a good amount of cargo with rear seats folded down, even in the sedan. No mechanical problems or issues to date. My only complaint is that it is not very forgiving on rough roads and we have a lot of those around here.

Decent little car that i

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Vehicle: 2012 Chevrolet Sonic LT 4dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl 5M)

I got the base LT hatchback with no cruise control or bluetooth and with the 5-speed manual. It's a fun little car to drive due to handling and braking, though I came to dislike the drivetrain a bit. I took a lot of longer trips in the car and it is great for that, both in comfort and in gas mileage. I recently traded it in, however, mostly due to a need to get something with an automatic transmission so I could share the car and to get something a little larger. I feel build quality could have been a little better, though many of my issues could have been due to having a first-year model. Despite my issues I'd still recommend this car and think it's a great value.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

Plastic toy car!! don't buy!!!

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Vehicle: 2012 Chevrolet Sonic LT 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl 6A)

Do not buy this car, I repeat do not buy this car!! This car is hunk of junk. The out side design and interior are unique and appealing, but don't let that suck you in. You feel every single bump no matter what, and the suspension is horrible. This Car Has Terrible heat, absolutely terrible. If you live in Canada like myself, stay clear. The gas mileage is good as it's 90% hwy driven. The gears shifting are very noticeable, and acceleration is very slow (1.8 L). The sound system is terrible and most LS, and LT's don't even come with rear speakers. Besides the appealing look it, its horrible to drive, It's like driving a plastic toy car! Not worth the $, buy a cobalt, anything, but not this!!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Nothing exciting

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Vehicle: 2012 Chevrolet Sonic LTZ 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl 6A)

We bought this car because of the price and advertised MPG. Since owning it, we have noticed that the MPG is no where near what it claims to be, as much at 7 MPG less at times. The look of the car is interesting to be kind. The front end is UGLY and the rest is bland. The inside has some nice features such as leather, heated seats, bluetooth, and power everything. However the cabin is very cramped and the driver seat is painful at times. The arm rests are at different heights which can be awkward. Do not expect to be comfortable if you weigh more than 150lbs. Performance of this car is a joke. The non-turbo has no throttle response at all and struggles on even small hills.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

I wouldn't buy one again

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Vehicle: 2012 Chevrolet Sonic LT 4dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl 6A)

For a small car the Sonic's fuel economy is poor. The car's computer claims I attain 5.6 mpg than I actually get. (eg the computer tells me I am averaging 30mpg when manual calculations reflect 24.4mpg. Pretty darn poor considering I drive 60% hwy. The car is comfortable for the driver & front passenger but if either is 6 feet or more only children will be comfortable in the back. Shifting gears in the automatic transmission is VERY noticeable & I only have 5,000 mi on the car.

Talk About The 2012 Sonic

Gas Mileage


  • 26
  • cty
  • 35
  • highway
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Identifix Reliability Ratings

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