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 Ron G on Sunday, July 20, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 5,800overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun to Drive, Interior comfort, quality feel"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I bought my '14 Sonic LTZ Sedan in April and so far, I love it. I am shocked at how good the quality of this car is so far. I also have a Corolla and I find the materials in this car to be on par with Toyota, at least in initial quality, I have only had this car 3 months after all. The exterior looks great. I recommend paying the $325 for Crystal Red Tintcoat, as this color looks great on this car. I love having a spoiler and the exposed headlights are a really cool feature on these cars. So far, I have found Chevy's MyLink to be very easy to use, I have had no issues with syncing my devices to it and the controls in the Sonic are simple to use. The driving position in this car is great. Visibility out the front is excellent and having the back up camera has come in handy for me as well. This is an excellent handling car. I enjoy driving this car and find myself making up excuses to go out just so that I can drive it, I like it that much. This is a very comfortable car on long trips. I have recently taken it up to Ohio and found the seats to be very supportive. This is one of a few cars that I have been in on a long trip that I didn't feel worn out after it was over. The gas mileage has been pretty good so far. I have the 1.8, not the 1.4 turbo, so I don't get the 40 mpg it's rated at, but my car averages about 30 mpg city and highway driving combined. There is actually a lot of room in this car too. I find it to be close to my Corolla in terms of interior room and it actually has more trunk space than the Corolla, my Corolla is an '08, not sure what the '14's are like. The car has plenty of power for it's size and the motor and transmission are well suited to this car. The only complaint that I have about this car is the armrest on the driver seat. I don't really care for it's position and kind of wish that GM would have made a regular console with an armrest instead. Only thing I have to nitpick! This is actually a fun car to own and has exceeded my expectations. SiriusXM is great to have, especially since you don't have a CD player with MyLink in the Sonic, only AUX jacks. The best thing for me though is this, although it has a high parts content from Korea, this car was assembled in Michigan."
11 people out of 19 found this review helpful
By DaBlackapino on Thursday, July 17, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 28,888overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun to Drive, Great Gas Mileage, Very Nimble."
Cons: "Engine not as PEP as other subs."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"When I got my license back on 5/27 i was looking at VARIOUS car's including this one. The Line up was the Mazda3,Focus,Rio and the Sonic. I Originally was Going to get the Mazda3 but then it was sold...but wasn't warranted by the Manufacturer. So it was a toss between the Rio and the Sonic since the Focus didn't get a GREAT Review by CR. So in the End I bought the Sonic..it's my First Car, it Rides well..VERY Good HANDLING, & Came with 3 months Free OnStar, which I will continue after the trial is over, and I even use the OnStar App for my iPhone. VERY Good Gas Mileage, although i Got the LS Auto with Power all EXCEPT Windows and no Cruise Control. VERY Nimble and Fun Car To Drive."
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."
6 people out of 10 found this review helpful
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 23 found this review helpful