2012 Chevrolet Sonic Review

Type:

Pros & Cons

  • Excellent power and fuel economy from optional turbocharged engine
  • attractive, livable cabin
  • crisp handling
  • low price
  • top safety scores.
  • The 2012 Chevrolet Sonic is an all-new subcompact, available in both sedan and four-door-hatchback configurations.
Other years
List Price Range
$5,995 - $6,195

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Edmunds' Expert Review

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

Vehicle overview

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.

2012 Chevrolet Sonic models

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.

2012 Highlights

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

Performance & mpg

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.

Safety

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.

Driving

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.

Interior

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.


Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

Sonic LTZ Turbo 1.4 Hatchback
daveh14,03/05/2012
Just purchased a week ago. Car rides and handles great. Had a hard time finding the turbo model - bought it sight unseen as it was in-transit to the dealer. Makes driving enjoyable again (my previous car was a mini-van). Getting great fuel mileage, so far, averaging about 36 with a high of 41 (and that's doing about 70 on the highway). Comfortable seating and looking forwards to a cross-country trip this summer.
Critics Overlook this Valuable Car
sonicdriver,06/01/2016
LS 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl 5M)
This was my first new car purchase after college. I've grown up driving Hyundai, Mercury, Ford, etc, but never a Chevrolet. The dealer and service support is fantastic, and this car is worth every penny. After 50k miles, I've only needed one minor repair on the fuel valve, and the warranty covered everything. This car has some road noise, but that's what happens when you're in a small, fast car low to the ground on the highway. Yes, gas and brakes are sensitive in the best way possible - I've lived in Dallas for four years and have never gotten in an accident, thanks to the amazing brake response. Acceleration is super easy - I've caught myself speeding a few times without meaning to. The car handles well and the alignment is still perfect four years after purchasing. The A/C is super efficient and the sound system is decent enough. There is major storage space. The only drawback is that the car IS little, so not perfect for roadtrips of 4 or more people, considering rear seat space. The size of the car makes up for it since there's no parking space too small for this car, but it totally doesn't feel like a small car from the driver or front passenger seat. Perfect for families of three or less. My average MPG in the DFW area is around 32, but gets up to 45 on long road trips. Definitely would buy again.
I own TWO 2012 Sonics... Read this Review!
Gary N,07/04/2016
LT 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl 6A)
I'm not sure what some people do with their cars. We have TWO 2012 Sonic LT Auto's, both with the 1.8L engine. One is a Sedan and the other is a Hatch. I like the sedan a bit better because is is actually longer, giving more cargo space in most cases. Plus, due to aerodynamics, the sedan gets better MPG, especially on the highway, where we routinely get 37 MPG out of that car. But, I also like the hatch, because it has the bigger wheels and fog lights. If it only got the same MPG... There have been a few recall issues, but not many. I do my own oil/filter changes and full synthetic is the way to go. The only odd thing on the sedan was the air intake hose between the air box and manifold cracked on the sedan and that tripped the engine light. It was a $35 part, so I just replaced it in the garage. UPDATE: GM extended the warranty on this part and reimbursed my repair cost. UPDATE: Both cars have had the air intake break and both were fixed by GM. Also, we are starting to get some thermostat codes popping on the one with 75k miles on it. It's either a dirty connector, or a failed sensor (less than $50) as they all seem to do this. On the hatch, I took a pot-holed exit ramp too fast and broke a ball joint, so that was $150 with labor and alignment. Other than that, we have about 100K miles combined and ONE unexpected repair. BTW tie rods and ball joints on smaller cars are almost routine maintenance when driving on Michigan roads. Overall pretty good repair record, in my opinion. These are good cars for the money. The insurance is reasonable (we are over 50) they ride pretty well for being so small, especially compared to the imports. We live in Michigan and have full sets of snow tires for these cars, since the factory tires are useless in the snow. But, with the right tires, they are good in winter. I routinely drive though 6-8 inches of snow and isolated patches up to a foot and have never been stranded. The sedan was rear-ended early on, and the fix was done well at the dealership. We take care of our cars and these have been particularly trouble-free. But, a lot of younger people buy these cars and maybe they don't take care of them. Also, a lot of used Sonics are coming on the market now from rental fleets, so they might not have been cared for that well either. The flood of rental returns is also lowering the resale right now. All things considered, I'd buy another one tomorrow, probably a turbo LT sedan. UPDATE: I did buy a 2013 LT Turbo Sedan, slightly used a few months ago, so now I have THREE Sonics. They are pretty good cars, my only recent gripe being a few rattles have developed, but they are cheap and easy to fix. The dealer put a replacement set of plastic stabilizer bar links on the 2013 with only 5k miles and there was a TSB put out for a bad seal between the engine and transmission on the car with the turbo engine. That leak was fixed at no cost to me. UPDATE: I sold the 2012 hatch and traded off the 2012 sedan with the 1.8L engine, so we are down to only the 2013 turbo sedan now. Still good cars, but the cooling systems on them do tend to get leaks and cracks in the plastic parts. None of these parts are expensive or difficult to replace for a DIY person, but bleeding the air out of the system after repairs is nearly impossible. I had to take them to a local shop to have them do it for me because we had air in the heater core and it was 20 below zero outside... They pressure tested it and everything was good, but then a month or so later, the water pump started weeping coolant, and it was due for a timing belt... A few months after that I traded it off. The 2013 now has 20k miles on it and the rear shocks are starting to go bad - another common but inexpensive issue. I did this on at least one of the others and it was easier than I thought, but I'm waiting until spring to do this car. I still recommend these cars, but you really need to get the right deal on them, as I did on two of the three I bought. They do tend to have some issues, but they are inexpensive repairs if done yourself and none of them ever left us stranded anywhere. I actually never replaced any of the batteries.
Amazing performance for a small car!
edtamber,05/07/2012
My husband actually brought this car to my attention after my current vehicle had to put in the shop with no hope of repair. After going back and forth, I finally decided to give it a chance and test drove the vehicle for 2 days. I was amazed! I have one child and there was plenty of room for him in the back and they really made every little bit of space count in this car!! Needless to say I was sold and we ended up buying it on the day I was to return it!!

Features & Specs

MPG
25 city / 35 hwy
Seats 5
6-speed automatic
Gas
138 hp @ 6300 rpm
MPG
25 city / 35 hwy
Seats 5
6-speed automatic
Gas
138 hp @ 6300 rpm
MPG
26 city / 35 hwy
Seats 5
5-speed manual
Gas
138 hp @ 6300 rpm
MPG
25 city / 35 hwy
Seats 5
6-speed automatic
Gas
138 hp @ 6300 rpm
See all Used 2012 Chevrolet Sonic features & specs

Safety

NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    Overall5 / 5
    Driver5 / 5
    Passenger5 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    Overall5 / 5
  • Side Barrier Rating
    Overall5 / 5
    Driver5 / 5
    Passenger5 / 5
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front Seat5 / 5
    Back Seat5 / 5
  • Rollover
    Rollover4 / 5
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of Rollover12.6%
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Good
  • Roof Strength Test
    Good
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Good
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test
    Good

More about the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic
More About This Model

With its devilish smirk and in-your-face Burnt Orange paint job, this 2012 Chevrolet Sonic LTZ looks like a car intent on stirring things up. It's fitting, since General Motors hopes the all-new Sonic (which replaces the forgettable Aveo in Chevy's lineup) will rock 'em and sock 'em in a way that revises the pecking order within the subcompact segment.

Chevy has done this kind of thing before; its compact Cruze came out of nowhere to become a worldwide sales darling. What's clear is that the Sonic is armed for battle. Our test car's turbocharged 1.4-liter inline-4 kicks up class-leading horsepower and torque, and it does so while managing an EPA-estimated 40 mpg on the highway. Handling is relatively keen and responsive, and the car's comfortable cabin — with a stylish industrial motif and ample storage opportunities — is both easy to look at and easy to live with.

The ruling class in the subcompact segment most certainly includes the refined Hyundai Accent, the versatile Honda Fit and the tech-laden Ford Fiesta. Add the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic to that list; it hits the mark for shoppers who value strong fuel economy, brisk acceleration and an accommodating cabin.

Used 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Overview

The Used 2012 Chevrolet Sonic is offered in the following submodels: Sonic Hatchback, Sonic Sedan. Available styles include LT 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl 6A), LT 4dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl 6A), LT 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl 5M), LS 4dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl 6A), LS 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl 5M), LS 4dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl 5M), LTZ 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl 6A), LTZ 4dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl 6A), LTZ 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl 5M), LTZ 4dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl 5M), LS 4dr Sedan (1.8L 4cyl 6A), and LT 4dr Hatchback (1.8L 4cyl 5M).

What's a good price on a Used 2012 Chevrolet Sonic?

Price comparisons for Used 2012 Chevrolet Sonic trim styles:

  • The Used 2012 Chevrolet Sonic LT is priced between $5,261 and$9,598 with odometer readings between 62917 and155310 miles.
  • The Used 2012 Chevrolet Sonic LS is priced between $5,995 and$6,190 with odometer readings between 67770 and88116 miles.

Shop with Edmunds for perks and special offers on used cars, trucks, and SUVs near Ashburn, VA. Doing so could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars. Edmunds also provides consumer-driven dealership sales and service reviews to help you make informed decisions about what cars to buy and where to buy them.

Which used 2012 Chevrolet Sonics are available in my area?

Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 2012 Chevrolet Sonic for sale near. There are currently 7 used and CPO 2012 Sonics listed for sale in your area, with list prices as low as $5,261 and mileage as low as 62917 miles. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 2012 Chevrolet Sonic.

Can't find a used 2012 Chevrolet Sonics you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a used Chevrolet Sonic for sale - 11 great deals out of 14 listings starting at $25,036.

Find a used Chevrolet for sale - 3 great deals out of 21 listings starting at $18,133.

Find a used certified pre-owned Chevrolet Sonic for sale - 4 great deals out of 24 listings starting at $15,229.

Find a used certified pre-owned Chevrolet for sale - 4 great deals out of 15 listings starting at $24,594.

Should I lease or buy a 2012 Chevrolet Sonic?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

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