By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 7.9
Some buyers will be drawn to the all-new 2012 Chevrolet Sonic because it's the only subcompact built in the U.S. Far more will be won over by the fact that it's the most well-rounded driver in the segment. As the bow-tie brand's newest answer to subcompact sedans and 5-door hatchbacks like the Honda Fit and Ford Fiesta, the Chevy Sonic comes into the world facing stiff competition. And if you're looking for standout styling or go-git-'em driving feel, you can indeed do better than the Sonic. But if you like the idea of an entry-level subcompact that drives more like a comfortable compact car, consider the Sonic an early favorite in your quest for affordable and efficient wheels.
In sedan or 5-door hatchback configuration, the 2012 Chevy Sonic is the quietest and most composed subcompact car you can buy. Combined with more conventional styling than some of its key competitors, the Sonic is destined to become a mass-market favorite.
The 2012 Chevy Sonic isn't the smallest car in the category, but it's not as accommodating or flexible as the 2012 Honda Fit. Nor is the interior as polished as the 2012 Hyundai Accent's. And while it proves impressively athletic when pushed, it doesn't encourage that sort of behavior as much as the 2012 Ford Fiesta.
The Chevy Aveo had grown so uncompetitive and unloved enough that when it came time for a new generation, Chevy changed everything including the name. With the arrival of the radically improved 2012 Chevy Sonic, the short list of subcompact cars worth considering is now one car longer.
Driving Impressions Around town and on the highway, the 2012 Chevy Sonic sets a new standard for subcompact driving refinement. The category as a whole has gotten less skittish and less buzzy...in recent years, but the new Sonic ups the ante considerably and drives like a bigger, pricier car than any of its competitors. It's not perfect, though. The up-level turbocharged engine available on LT and LZ models offers excellent fuel economy but suffers from the same quirky power delivery that hurt the Sonic's Chevy Cruze big brother in our most recent compact sedan comparison test. And until spring 2012, the turbocharged engine is only available with a 6-speed manual transmission – a combination that magnifies the engine's idiosyncrasies. Fortunately, the base-level 1.8-liter engine costs less, is available with the 6-speed automatic transmission right out of the gate, and delivers – in some ways – a better driving experience. It may be down on power, refinement and efficiency compared to the turbo option, but it's still one of the category's most powerful engines. One of the front-wheel-drive Sonic's best tricks is how it manages to deliver both segment-leading highway manners with impressive road-holding abilities. It's not stretching the leash to charge a canyon road, but you might be impressed by the grip and stability it delivers if that's what you want to do. We were.
We like traditional tachometers – the needle helps you time shifts and more quickly conveys the relative speed of the engine - but when it comes to tracking vehicle speed, two digits is better.
If your phone and digital music player are one, and you take more short trips than long drives, you'll appreciate the ability to play your music without having to constantly plug and unplug your phone.
Like the outside, the inside of the 2012 Chevy Sonic is a mix of conservative design with a touch of 2-wheeler inspiration manifested in the form of a compact gauge cluster with a digital speedometer. Like many of the newer subcompact cars, a key highlight of the Sonic interior is simply the dearth of weak spots common to the category's cabins only a few years ago. Worth noting are that the cupholders are good but awkwardly placed too rearward between the front seats, the backseat is one of the category's roomiest, and the 2-glovebox layout is especially nice for those who use a dedicated digital music player (the USB port is located in the smaller top box).
The motorcycle-inspired headlights notwithstanding, the 2012 Chevy Sonic is among the more traditionally styled subcompact cars in the segment. While it won't generate as much excitement as the crisper styling of the Ford Fiesta or Hyundai Accent, the flip side is that it won't push as many people away. One fun detail to check out: On the 5-door hatchback model, Chevy's designers "hid" the rear door handle in the black area of the C-pillar, in an effort to give the car a little bit of a 2-door look at first glance. Also, we love that even the base Chevy Sonic includes alloy wheels, as opposed to the covered steel wheels more common on base trims in the category.
In sedan or 5-door hatchback form, a 2012 Chevy Sonic LS includes a 1.8-liter engine, 5-speed manual transmission, 15-inch aluminum wheels, air conditioning, 4-speaker AM/FM/Aux sound system and OnStar with a 6-month subscription that includes convenient turn-by-turn navigation. You might notice power windows and mirrors are missing from the list - Chevy's omission, not ours (but not unusual for base-level subcompacts). A full range of standard safety equipment includes 10 airbags.
A fully loaded 2012 Chevy Sonic includes the 1.4-liter turbocharged engine matched with a 6-speed manual transmission (a 6-speed automatic is coming for spring 2012), leatherette seats, heated front seats, moonroof, cruise control, AM/FM/CD/MP3/USB/Aux/Bluetooth audio 6-speaker sound system, steering-wheel audio/phone controls and 17-inch wheels.
The bad news is that the more powerful, more fuel-efficient turbocharged engine won't be available with an automatic transmission until spring 2012. The good news is that the base 1.8-liter engine is a viable option with more linear power delivery. In fact, the pricier turbocharged engine's key strength isn't the added torque but the 5-mpg advantage in highway fuel economy. We haven't yet tested the 5-speed manual, but we were impressed by both the 6-speed automatic and 6-speed manual transmissions.
1.8-liter in-line 4-cylinder
138 horsepower @ 6,300 rpm
125 lb-ft of torque @ 3,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 26/35 (5-speed manual), 25/35 (6-speed automatic)
1.4-liter turbocharged in-line 4-cylinder
138 horsepower @ 4,900 rpm
148 lb-ft of torque @ 2,500 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 29/40 (6-speed manual only until spring 2012)
By Ash on Tuesday, July 08, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 34,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "cheap, fun, amazing features, awesome gas mileage"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I have had this car for a few months now and I love it. I traded in my Ford Focus for a new car, this is what I was approved for. I didn't even want to test drive this car until I saw it and got inside. One test drive and I was sold. it drives beautiful, has some great features and at the price it cost its like the extra stuff was free. So far nothing has broken, no issues whatsoever and I have a blast driving it. Its fun, feels sporty on the highway, and different from other cars in its class. Originality in a car these days is hard to find."
By mandry on Monday, June 30, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 36,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Great, quality vehicle, especially for the price. Sporty look with great gas mileage (about 32 in town, 35 highway). Roomy interior. The brick on black interior with leather seats that warm your bumm is fantastic. Not exactly a powerhouse but it was never intended for that."
10 people out of 19 found this review helpful
By Matt on Saturday, June 28, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 13,000overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Nice options for the price, value."
Cons: "Depreciation factor"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"Great value for my sonic. Car is loaded enough for me with the LT package which includes remote start that i like a lot. Car is comfortable for the size with the armrest included on drivers seat. Insurance is also very reasonable with having 10 airbags standard. I have almost 13,000 miles in just over 2 years and all i have done is change the oil 3 times, thats it. Paid a little more for the Inferno Orange color and i like that, now the bad part, depreciation is hard on this car, around 29%(average is 21%), but if you plan to keep it more than 2 years you will be fine with no money down.I paid around 18,200 with tax and fees and all that out the door with 1.9% financing."
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By billmo on Wednesday, June 18, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 15,000overall rating 3 of 10rating details
Pros: "cold ac. electric sterring road feel missing"
Cons: "to much plastic for fla sun with tint"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"The majority of the parts are from parent Company Daewoo. funny they could not make a car here in the US, so GM, just had the parts. Transmission, motor imported from South Korea. I have had buyers remorse since I bought this Car. Noisy, had to change tires. better ride less road noise. Another item from Korea. Low cost high profit I thought I had done my homework GM touting made in US, and at the time the internet did not have much to say except praise. mine is a 2012 with 15.000 miles on it. There are loads of certified used autos and a few in this segment of Autos. Do your homework check to see where tranny is made also motor as mentioned above they could not make it here why would you want to take that chance Mine is all Daewoo. Problems with suspension and an array of other problems. One item is the gas mileage city and highway with a/C on 21mpg and that's running the mid grade gas did better using 93 octane. In my option its not a chivy its a deawoo in Chevy.clothing I must say more of the later models do have mtrs and trannnys made here. You just have to be careful, also as mentioned loads of other parts from Daewoo. My shocks for an example are Daewoo. And I paid cash for it,20K leaves a lot to be desired this day and time. Headlight is plastic through and through plastic reflectors. This car after about 5 years or so is a through away car. ,"
7 people out of 21 found this review helpful
By Rapa on Monday, June 09, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 25,950overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Great Price/Value, Great mpg, Easy to maneuver"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"If you are looking for bang for you buck, you found the perfect car. I should mention I have the LT connectivity package, so it does have a lot of the bells and whistles. The car drives great. Does awesome on gas mileage. If I had to say there is a downside it would be the space in the car. If your tall, then this car is probably not a good choice for you, but you would figure that out quick on the test drive. I do have to say there is a lot of trunk space though. For example, I can fit my golf clubs easily in the trunk. Plus, the back seat folds down very easy, which allows even large items to be stowed/shipped. I've had the car for two years now and am still very happy with the purchase."
3 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By chevroletguy24 on Monday, June 09, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 5,500overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Solid car, fun to drive, small but spacious"
Cons: "none to list"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Bought a 2014 Sonic LT Turbo in March of this year. After driving this car for three full months, I have nothing but GREAT things to say about this car. I bought the hatchback in the color Cool Blue and. Its a solid, well manufactured car. Its got good "get up and go'" great interior space for a subcompact, a great exterior look, simple but fresh interior look with excellent accents and not to mention great MPGs! I'm averaging 33 MPG so far. Only got a slight taste of how it drives in the snow but I did my 18 mile drive to work in 5 inches of snow one day two weeks after I got it and it excelled. Drove better than my Impala did! Has great handling, takes corners like a champ, easy to park, really just a fun, fun, fun car to drive! If you are looking for something fresh and exciting, give this car a chance! You won't be disappointed!"
2 people out of 2 found this review helpful