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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 New for 2012

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
8.6
Out of 10

Based on 162 Ratings for the 2012 - 2016 models.

Review this car
  • Value
    8.4/10
    Quality
    8.3/10
  • Reliability
    8.9/10
    Performance
    8.6/10
  • Comfort
    8.3/10
    Styling
    8.5/10

Amazingly quirky; Great Value; Stands out.

By on Wednesday, July 20, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 900

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
10/10

Pros: "Comfortable seats, especially for such a small car"

Cons: "Small tank, but fills up for cheap :) $16-$22!!!"

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

"I just got it a few weeks ago, and I love it. Not only did I get a great deal of discounts (went from 24000 to 11600), but it has everything. It's a jet black sonic rs sedan. It's got wifi, a digital display, lane keep assist, and a trunk space like you wouldn't believe! And it's got so many little quirky Millennial touches, from a little notch in the upper glove box for when you have an aux cable plugged in, to a third cup holder, and the most comfortable seats you are gonna get in this segment. I was actually thinking about a Honda Civic, but it started with 20% off for Summer, and ended with all of the standard equipment. Also, this little turbo has quite a bit of kick to it... Just accelerating from a red light gets Mustangs making challenges. It can't exactly compete, but it's still really cool. :)"

everything I hoped for

By on Wednesday, July 13, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 2,500

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
9/10

Pros: "efficient and fun"

Cons: "rear door limits rear seat ease"

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

"2016 Sonic hatch turbo delivered on what expected. Gas mileage in mid 30s. Turbo puts torque where you need it in powerband. Steering precise, ride supple, handling sharp, seat supportive and quiet road noise. I needed short car because of parking situation but do not feel deprived in this hatch-plenty of space inside. Proud it's made in USA!"

Love the Sonic

By on Saturday, June 25, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 15,000

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
9/10
Styling
9/10
Comfort
10/10

Pros: "Fun to drive, economical, inexpensive, well equipe"

Cons: "None"

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

"The Sonic is great fun to drive and very economical. Also very user friendly. Easy to load cargo and roomy enough for 4 people comfortably. Has been very reliable. No need for any repairs; only oil changes. The car is everything we expected and more. We did recommend the car to another person who bought one and loves it as well."

Terrific little car, rides like a larger car

By on Tuesday, June 21, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 15,000

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "Ride, great price, terrific mileage"

Cons: "not much, mylink radio is a little cumbersome"

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

"I own a 2015 lt manual and I am very happy with the car. Very comfortable and quiet ride especially for its size. I drive around 40 miles round trip to work on farm roads and through suburbs and am averaging 39 mpg. Better than I expected. Would definitely consider this car again."

nice little car,

By on Sunday, June 12, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 32,000

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "runs, has AC and radio, good mileage"

Cons: "The back seats have little leg room."

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

"I have had the car for about 18 months and have approximately 32K on it. It's no Cadillac, but does what I bought it for. Never missed a beat and gets about 34 miles per gallon on the average. Toke it on a trip (2500 miles) to southern ON, Canada last year and got 41+ miles on the flat roads of the north. Actually bought a 2015 automatic Sonic for my daughter."

1 person out of 2 found this review helpful

best ever

By on Tuesday, May 31, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 47,000

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
10/10

Pros: "great price, fun to drive, comfortable, good gas m"

Cons: "no dvd, bad gps app"

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

"I AM ABSOLUTELY IN LOVE WITH MY NEW CAR!! i purchased my car 4 months ago with 45,000 miles on it and i could not be happier. Car is so cute inside and out! everyone compliments it on how nice the interior is. runs great, only problem i had was having to replace the heating element on the drivers side 1 month in. Also the gas mileage is really good! $25 to fill the tank and lasts me along time...ill drive 60 miles on the highway and look down to see it JUST went down one gas notch. I could not be more happy with the car I picked...It is really fun to drive, i do not have any blind spots....for a small car it has plenty of front space and a decent amount of back space."

2 people out of 2 found this review helpful

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