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2012 Chevrolet Sonic

Overview
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2012 Chevrolet Sonic Review

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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.

You'll Like This Car If...

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.

You May Not Like This Car If...

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.

What's Significant About This Car?

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 the Sonic

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.

Digital Speedometer
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.

Bluetooth Audio
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.

2012 Chevrolet Sonic Details
2012 Chevrolet Sonic photo Interior

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).

Exterior
2012 Chevrolet Sonic photo

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.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

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.

Optional Equipment

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.

Under the Hood

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)

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2012 Chevrolet Sonic Consumer Reviews

Overall Rating
8.5
Out of 10

Based on 136 Ratings for the 2012 - 2015 models.

Review this car
  • Value
    8.4/10
    Quality
    8.2/10
  • Reliability
    8.8/10
    Performance
    8.5/10
  • Comfort
    8.3/10
    Styling
    8.5/10

Was great...for a year...

By on Wednesday, May 20, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 52,200

10 5.0
overall rating 5 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
5/10
Value
6/10
Reliability
3/10
Quality
6/10
Performance
6/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
8/10

Pros: "Cute interior, Sporty Look"

Cons: "Not reliable, speakers don't sound great."

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 4

"I've had this car since it was new, it was great for the first year. I purchased it in January of 2014 (they let it go at a great price since it was a 2013 new still on the lot, which was the deciding factor). It is fun to drive and no recalls (thankfully). I will say that the manufacturer's tires are terrible, but once I replaced those all the rough riding and bad handling went away. The interior is really interesting and great and it holds up very well. The trunk is also very large which is nice. But about 2 months ago my check engine light came on. Thermostat issues and the warranty didn't cover it. That was a $380 repair bill. Now the remote start has stopped, again warranty won't repair it and that is a $500 repair and the same issue with the thermostat is back again. Now instead of another repair I am considering trading it in."

1 person out of 1 found this review helpful

Nothing special

By on Friday, May 08, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 50,000

10 7.0
overall rating 7 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
7/10
Value
8/10
Reliability
8/10
Quality
6/10
Performance
6/10
Styling
6/10
Comfort
5/10

Pros: "Solid mechanically"

Cons: "doesnt have the options to compete"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 5

"If you want a car that will start and get you from A to B, this is no problem. However, this car hardly competes with the Ford fiesta or Honda fit. It is mechanically sound, but should not be priced near the competing cars. It just doesn’t have the stock options. The Sonic would be a great car if you could beat them down on price, but as it stands, The Ford and Honda models have much more value for the price."

2 people out of 3 found this review helpful

great car for the price

By on Sunday, April 19, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 13,000

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
10/10
Value
10/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
8/10

Pros: "ride,fast, lots of tech"

Cons: "gas ml, does not get around in snow at all !!!!!"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"great car runs well the 1.8 engine is fast enough I can keep up with most cars even passing them 60-80 mph very quickly ride is great for the small car. gas ml is about 27 combined ."

very basic car

By on Friday, April 17, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 1,800

10 4.0
overall rating 4 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
4/10
Value
1/10
Reliability
5/10
Quality
1/10
Performance
Not Rated
Styling
2/10
Comfort
2/10

Pros: "sharp looking"

Cons: "Hard to reach cupholders, no cd player"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1

"Just a very basic car for lots of money. The 6 speed transmission can't decide what gear to be in when trying to go up hills.At times the steering hesitates. It doesn't get any where near the suggested gas mileage. The value dropped $5,000 when I drove it off the lot."

6 people out of 8 found this review helpful

Careful!

By on Monday, April 06, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 42,000

10 7.0
overall rating 7 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
7/10
Value
4/10
Reliability
4/10
Quality
4/10
Performance
2/10
Styling
9/10
Comfort
7/10

Pros: "Beautiful, cool features, audio options+!"

Cons: "doesn't handle well, frequent servicing"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 4

"This particular model from Chevy is very classy. If you want a beautiful car with great features and great interior-this is it. However, with only 2 years and 35000 miles, I had to take it to the shop to get parts replaced TWICE. The car was practically brand new but wasn't made with reliable parts. Consider getting this car if you have a trustworthy mechanic who will check your caps etc... The car does not handle very easily. It's been checked and checked- there's nothing wrong with the driving mechanics, it's just super heavy as far as small cars go and going fast is a wobbly ordeal."

7 people out of 13 found this review helpful

Can't wait to get rid of it

By on Monday, March 30, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 61,000

10 2.0
overall rating 2 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
2/10
Value
1/10
Reliability
2/10
Quality
2/10
Performance
1/10
Styling
4/10
Comfort
4/10

Pros: "Low price, comfortable seating, spacious trunk"

Cons: "Too many to describe here"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1

"Although the car is comfortable in terms of seating, it constantly feels as though it's in the wrong gear and the engine is laboring. It hesitates, the ride is choppy and there have been constant mechanical issues - everything from Check Engine lights that come on for no reason to CV joint failure and engine failure. The interior is attractive enough, but things are spaced badly and the OnStar button on the rear view mirror makes it a challenge to adjust the mirror without hitting the button."

11 people out of 16 found this review helpful

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