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2012 Chevrolet Sonic

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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 144 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
    8.2/10
    Styling
    8.5/10

Good on gas ( average 32.9mpg) comfortable ride

By on Thursday, July 16, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 7,300

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
9/10
Value
10/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
9/10
Styling
9/10
Comfort
9/10

Pros: "Comfortable Econo car a lot of extras + Onstar"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9

"A very good Economy car lt's got a lot of feature on LT ! Own this Sonic for a year now very comfortable ride! Will be riding too Florida this Fall!!! This Car is made here in thee USA !!!!! I get very good gas mileage I average 32.9 MPG I can get on the highway 38MPG (and I can have a HEAVY FOOT sometimes)!OnStar is great( what you pay to keep it you save on Insurance) You can beat the Price I got over $4,000 Incentives The sticker price was over $19,000 . So I got a car for around $15000 BEFORE my Trade ! Try and get a Japan or Korean Car for that!!! Chevy has a good Car HERE!!!"

11 people out of 20 found this review helpful

Peppy sporty and fun to drive!

By on Saturday, July 11, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 31,382

10 8.0
overall rating 8 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
8/10
Value
8/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
8/10
Performance
9/10
Styling
9/10
Comfort
8/10

Pros: "Peppy, easy to park, comfort options, turbo 6-Sp"

Cons: "no passenger arm rest, tight interior, lower MPG"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9

2012 Sonic w special paint package

"I needed a commuter car to put 30K miles a year on for a few years into a rough neighborhood in NJ with little parking. This peppy turbo makes the 80 million drive fun and surprisingly comfortable. The leather seats and seat warmers at great in the winter, and the sunroof lets me enjoy the sun,like a convertible without the hassle of a soft top. Fills the bill as a good commuter car. Mileage is less than the 40MPG touted- more like 33 average. Looks like a Mini Cooper but much cheaper to purchase listing side-by-side options."

8 people out of 22 found this review helpful

2012 Sonic w special paint package

Best value and most fun in a small car, EVER,

By on Tuesday, July 07, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 37,600

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
10/10
Value
10/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
9/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
9/10
Comfort
9/10

Pros: "Fun, fun, fun! Great mileage and price point."

Cons: "No center console, 3 cup holders instead."

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

"For what I paid, I can not believe the great combination of fun and utility, coupled with great fuel economy in this car. We plan on getting another Sonic when we are in the market. Not extreme luxury, but very comfortable, even for my 6'5" husband., who can not slide the driver's seat, all the way back to drive in comfort, so NBA ready! People looking for a good value AND a good time, check this one out. The 6 speed manual is a joy to drive!"

11 people out of 25 found this review helpful

Disappointed in Chevy for the Quality of Sonic

By on Saturday, July 04, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 60,000

10 5.0
overall rating 5 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
5/10
Value
1/10
Reliability
5/10
Quality
1/10
Performance
5/10
Styling
5/10
Comfort
4/10

Pros: "Cute, love the hatchback, like the red color"

Cons: "Cheaply made, inferior quality in so many areas"

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

"I bought the car because I thought it was cute, my price range, I like Chevy products and good mileage. I have owned 3 Malibu's in the past. I was extremely disappointed in the Quality of the Sonic. Little things kept falling off, the windows are so thin that the heat and/or cold comes in very quickly so no insulation. Also the radio quit working when temps got to be over 105 degrees on a number of occasions. The motor light kept coming on and after a number of tries, found out it was a hose that was split in two different areas. The engine is loud and really is not made well at all. Completely disappointed that Chevy would come out with a car that is not up to their standard. I can't wait to get a new car because this one is history!"

15 people out of 28 found this review helpful

fun car to drive

By on Saturday, June 20, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 2,300

10 8.0
overall rating 8 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "fun to drive & plenty of pep"

Cons: "cup holder placement, stationary/small visor"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9

"what a cute little car...I fell in love with it on the internet while shopping around...drives great hugs the road and has a short center of gravity that makes driving fun again...quite peppy impressed even my hubby...goes anywhere we've taken it just fine...it is a small car but it doesn't feel like it driving or getting in and out of it. MPG has been great...better than sticker on RS version. One drawback is the cup-holders as they're kinda awkward to get to and I'm not crazy about how small the sun visor is and the fact it is not adjustable on the side...if these two small things were addressed would make the care even more impressive."

7 people out of 15 found this review helpful

Great commuter/very sporty

By on Sunday, May 24, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 8,500

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "fun to drive, great price, family friendly, sporty"

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

"I traded in my 02 Chevy Malibu for a 2014 Chevy Sonic LS. I bought it standard, not even knowing how to drive it. I learned the day I bought it how to and I have to say I think this car was perfect to learn on. The clutch is super forgiving, it doesn't have an overly dramatic "stall out", and it shifts with ease. It even has an indicator below the MPH of when to "ideally" shift. From first glance, I noticed this car was super sporty, which was one of the main reasons I invested in it. I did plasti-dip over the chrome on the exterior, and it gave the car a whole new look and feel. It handles well, does well in inclement weather, brakes good, and accelerates decent for the engine specs. I am about to put a cold air intake in it, so hopefully this will give it the added "boost" I'm missing. I love the stereo, I do miss having a CD player though. The aux ports make up for this. The interior is really nice and clean, and doesn't look or feel cheap at all. Overall, aesthetically speaking, this car is perfect for someone like me: 21, first time financing, and I commute 60miles a day, 5 days a week. I get a solid 41.2 MPG (or so says the car) majority of the time and have calculated manually 39.6. I can't complain!"

36 people out of 60 found this review helpful

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Trading in or Selling? Know where you stand with the most up-to-date Kelley Blue Book Value at your fingertips. See your car's value

Buying this car?