2012 Chevrolet Sonic Long Term Road Test

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2012 Chevrolet Sonic: Can You Tow it Behind a Motorhome?

January 8, 2013

2012 Chevrolet Sonic

Sure, you can tow any car behind a motorhome if you have a trailer, but that's not the preferred method. The ideal situation is pictured above: a so-called "dinghy" vehicle rolls behind on its own four wheels, ready to be disconnected and driven around on side trips while the motorhome sits parked with its awning unfurled and its sliders popped out in full relaxation mode. The extra towed weight and storage hassle of a trailer puts an unwelcome damper on such proceedings.

This activity goes by many names: dinghy towing, flat towing and four-down towing to name a few. As you can imagine there are mechanical implications for the car involved.

Some transmissions depend on a rotating input shaft driven by a running engine for lubrication, others don't. Some all-wheel drive systems can deal with it, others can't. Manual transmissions are generally less troubled by this activity than automatics, to the extent that such use in many cars is restricted to manuals only. Others warn against dinghy towing altogether. The owner's manual usually has the details.

Where does this all leave the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic? Can you tow it behind a motorhome?

The short answer is yes. And it doesn't matter if your Sonic has an automatic or a stick-shift gearbox.

This is good news because the Sonic has a few other things going for it that are appreciated by dinghy towing folk. It's inexpensive, costing between $15,000 and $20,000. You can get it as a hatchback or a sedan. It's fuel efficient to the tune of 33 mpg combined and as high as 40 mpg on the highway. And it doesn't weigh much. Our 2012 Sonic LTZ turbo weighs 2,743 pounds, well under the 3,000-pound threshold that triggers the need for a remote motorhome-to-car braking system in some places.

Of course Chevrolet does want you to follow a few specific procedures before you head out.

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2012 Chevrolet Sonic Turbo: More Thoughts from the Central Valley

August 11, 2012

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It's interesting how a road trip can change your perspective on a car. After my 750-mile trip, I'm still a fan of the turbo Chevrolet Sonic, I still like its packaging, but I'd be hesitant to buy one myself.

One reason is the seats. They feel fine for a couple hours, but once I was past that threshold, the flat seat-bottom cushion was a problem. Definite case of dead butt, and I was still in some discomfort for about an hour after I arrived home. It's hard for me to lobby for Chevy to put more expensive seats in an inexpensive car, but I could use more firm support.

Also, while the manual air-conditioning is up to the task of cooling the car in triple-digit heat (although I'm not a good judge of this... I never set any auto climate control system below 72 degrees, and I never went past the "2" fan speed in the Sonic), the car has a lot of upright glass area -- because it's a tall hatchback. And the single visor doesn't extend. So when driving north on Interstate 5, the afternoon sun came streaming in from the west and there was no way to shade my face.

So what did I like?

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2012 Chevrolet Sonic LTZ: The Manual Mystique

July 10, 2012

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We've had lots of calls recently from journalists who are trying to figure out whether or not cars with manual transmissions are really making a comeback, or whether the manual-mania is largely a creation of carmaker marketing departments.

The sales figures for cars with stick shifts do indicate a slight uptick: a nearly 7 percent "take rate" as of the end of May 2012 versus 3.8 percent in 2011. But that trend might not hold up, and it will be interesting to see where stick shift sales land by December. For those who are interested in stick-shifting, we've put together an excellent story and video, How to Drive a Stick Shift.

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2012 Chevrolet Sonic LTZ: Octane Decision

April 25, 2012

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Our longterm 2012 Chevrolet Sonic has the same 1.4-liter turbocharged engine as our Chevy Cruze. Last year, the Cruze produced some thought-provoking results when tested on 87 and 91 octane in hot weather. Namely, on a per-mile basis it was cheaper to use 91 (the owner's manual doesn't require octane higher than 87).

There's little reason to believe the Sonic will respond differently in similar conditions. That said, we've not been super-strict about staying with 87 or 91 in the time we've had the Sonic in our care.

Were it your Sonic, though -- and assuming you live where summers are truly hot -- would you switch to 91 in summer months, having internalized the results at the link above? Or is the psychological hurdle of filling with fuel that has a higher per-gallon cost too great to bear? Be honest.

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor

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2012 Chevy Sonic LTZ: It's a Six-Speed

April 23, 2012

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Every time I go to drive our 2012 Chevy Sonic on the highway I forget, for at least 40% of my drive, that it's a six speed. I hop onto the highway, plunk it in fifth and continue with the flow of traffic.

The reasons for this are twofold: 1) I still think small cars always have a five speed. 2) At 70 MPH the Sonic cruises at 2,500 rpm in fifth. 2,500! That's nothing for a small car on the highway. Remember that Acura Integra Type R we tested? It spun 3,800 RPM at 70. That's the kind of highway revs most of us are used to in small, small displacement cars. When the Sonic is driven properly and put into sixth it spins a lazy 2,050 rpm at 70. Barely trying at all.

Thankfully I've only driven the Sonic on the highway a short distance. It shouldn't really have an impact on our overall fuel economy.

Mike Magrath, Features Editor, Edmunds.com

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2012 Chevrolet Sonic: 33.0, 34.2, 35.6, 40.1 MPG

March 29, 2012

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A few weeks ago I posted that our Sonic's fuel economy might see a rise while I was driving it. Well, I'm getting back to you. The title numbers above were my fuel economy numbers after fill-ups. They're all better than what we have been averaging.

The first three were standard city/highway mixes. For that last tank, the 40.1 mpg one, I put in a little effort to maximize economy. It was mostly highway driving, and I stayed very close to the speed limit (70 mph) and used cruise control whenever possible. The overall highway route was the same one I used to get 46.1 mpg in the Jetta last year.

I still think our Sonic's numbers for a year total will not be all that great (lots of city driving, typical editor driving style.) But I at least proved to myself that the Sonic will get good numbers if you want it to. For reference, EPA for our car is 29/40/33 mpg.

We'll also be using our Sonic for a special fuel economy test next month. I'm looking forward to that.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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2012 Chevrolet Sonic: High Gas Prices, But This Time Is Different

March 12, 2012

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The last time fuel prices surged in 2008, car shoppers reacted by gravitating towards more fuel efficient cars. That was fine unless you were a domestic automaker with nothing of substance to offer those shoppers.

But times have changed.

Actually, you could argue Chevrolet and Ford are well positioned should high fuel prices continue or even increase more. In both the subcompact and compact segments, the Sonic/Cruze and Fiesta/Focus are critically acclaimed and fully competitive choices. No longer are Honda and Toyota the only games in town.

Incidentally, for the fill up I did in the above photo, the Sonic logged 35.6 mpg, its best tank so far. That was me driving it for 280 miles of mixed city/highway. It might also lends credence to some of the comments made on Carroll's earlier post this month responding to why the Sonic's mpg numbers seem low -- for this tank it was more highway mileage, no Los Angeles commuting (I work remotely from our Santa Monica office) and my general small-car driving style, which I suspect is more conservative than the editorial norm. We'll see. I'll be driving the Sonic for at least another week.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 4,323 miles

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2012 Chevrolet Sonic LTZ: Underperforming?

March 01, 2012

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There are plenty of subjective reasons to like the Sonic. Here, I initially thought, was an objective one: Gasoline today in the Los Angeles/Long Beach area of California was $4.368 per gallon, up 18.2 cents for the week, according to AAA.

After three weeks of double-digit increases and the "the biggest one-month price jump in history," gas prices in the region of Edmunds worldwide HQ are within 30 cents of their all-time records, which were set in 2008, AAA says.

That would be one more reason to buy such a car (along with its attractive price and spirited driving). The car's onboard fuel-economy gauge was registering 34.8 mpg this morning -- though I do know better than to rely on it. In most cars, the gauges lie like desperate politicians.

Still, though, I was disappointed to see that our Sonic is underperforming when it comes to fuel economy. Its EPA rating is 33 mpg combined city/highway driving, and a class-leading 40 mpg highway with this engine and manual transmission, according to Chevrolet. (We paid an additional $700 for that 1.4 liter turbocharged engine on the premise that we'd get better fuel economy.)

Well, after 17 fill-ups, we're getting 27.7 mpg. We've mostly been fueling up with 87 octane, with the occasional 91-octane splurge. The Sonic has the fifth-highest fuel efficiency in our fleet for February.

But doesn't it seem like it should be doing better in the fuel-economy department?

Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @3,637 miles

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2012 Chevrolet Sonic LTZ: How Much Mileage Do You Really Need?

February 23, 2012

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Parked the Sonic next to our Prius C test car this morning in the garage. Cute aren't they?

When I got out I noticed that the two cars were alike in more ways than just their paint color. They're both very compact, four-door hatchbacks that boast great mileage. Obviously, the Prius is a hybrid so it gets to lay claim to better overall mileage, but is it really worth it?

Our Sonic cost us $18,700, or about a grand less than the starting price of the Prius. And that's for a fairly loaded up Sonic with plenty of nice features. That Prius might save you a $1,000 in the long run on gas, but I would much rather have the better looking Sonic and it's nicely-tuned suspension. What do you think? Is the Prius C worth it for the mileage alone?

Kelly Toepke, News Editor

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2012 Chevrolet Sonic LTZ: Video Review

February 09, 2012

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Here is Senior Editor Erin Riches with a video review of the 2012 Chevy Sonic. This video covers the whole Chevrolet Sonic model lineup but the action footage is Erin driving our long-term Sonic LTZ.

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2012 Chevy Sonic: Where's Our Ecologic Environmental Label?

January 27, 2012

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Chevy has just announced a new Ecologic window sticker that will be fitted to all new Chevy's starting with the 2013 Chevy Sonic. (Ours is a 2012.) The sticker "lets customers see some of the environmental features of the vehicle relating to manufacturing, driving and recycling." GM's Mark Reuss said that "Customers want companies to be honest and transparent about their environmental efforts and sustainability goals and rightly so. Putting an Ecologic label on each Chevrolet is just one more way for us to share our environmental progress."

The labels are audited by Two Tomorrows, a third-party sustainability agency which provides "assurance services to companies for environmental initiatives."

Three areas are covered on the label: Before the road, On the road and After the road. The first highlights manufacture and assembly, the second fuel-savings and the third notes how 85% of the vehicle is recycled.

While it probably won't aid in the sales of many cars, I can see this tactic reassuring nervous buyers that the car they want is still good for the environment. "Look, 85% of my Suburban can be recycled. Can your Prius batteries?"

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Edmunds Insurance Estimator

The Edmunds TCO® estimated monthly insurance payment for a 2012 Chevrolet Sonic in VA is:

$147 per month*
* Explanation
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