The sedan is cute and the hatch adds utility but load them up with even the basics and the price gets out of hand quick.
Wayne Gerdes - CleanMPG
- Nov. 24, 2011
The 2012 Chevrolet Sonic with the 1.4L Turbo and tall ratio’ed stick - $17,195 as tested with a 29/40 mpgUS city/highway rating.
Chevrolet’s new entry in the B-Segment is not about to set the world on fire but it may attract far more attention and possibly sales from the hotly contested B-Segment competitors than its predecessor, the Aveo. While the Aveo sold well over the years, it was only because it was relegated to price leader status on dealership lots across the country thanks to an outdated design that had not really changed since its release as a 2002 over a decade ago.
2012 Chevrolet Sonic Specifications
The 2012 Chevrolet Sonic will be available in two body styles and three trim levels. Complete specifications, pricing, standard and optional equipment including a standard and optional list of features can be found on the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Specifications
2012 Chevrolet Sonic Drivetrain(s)
The all-new 2012 Sonic is powered by two engines we have become quite familiar with as of late since they are both directly out of the Chevrolet Cruze
. The normally aspirated 1.8L base engine and the turbocharged 1.4L offer up 138 HP with the turbo adding quite a bump up in torque to 148 lb.-ft. at just 2,500 RPM by comparison to 125 lb.-ft. at 3,800 from the 1.8L. With an ability to run up from 0 to 60 mph in less than 9-seconds, anyone that would complain that this sub-compact does not have enough giddy up and go in today’s stop and crawl traffic situations has their head firmly planted in terra firma.
What really distinguishes the Sonic from the rest of the B-Segment pack is its tall ratioed 6-speed stick that can only be acquired if you opt for the $700 more expensive 1.4L Turbo. This addition not only allows the Chevrolet Sonic to cruise down the freeway at a blissful 1,800 RPM’s with the speedometer needle pointing solidly at 60 mph, it allows the compact to achieve an easy 40 mpg highway rating without much in the way of driver input. To see GM leading the segment with a potent 1.4L mill mated to a well spread out MT with ratios that make sense is actually quite refreshing. The Sonic drivetrain design makes the rest of its competitors including the highly regarded Honda Fit Sport (2,825 RPM@60 mph) and sporty Ford Fiesta SEL (2,625 RPM @60 mph), both with 5-speed manual transmissions, look both outdated and silly.
2012 Chevrolet Sonic Ride and Handling
While the Sonic does not quite have the handling characteristics of a Corvette ZR1, it was tuned by the same individuals. For North American first time buyers, the MacPherson Strut with stabilizer bar equipped suspension up front and basic torsion beam in the rear provides a competent overall solution. As GM's least expensive new car, I was not expecting much but with the few miles I drove it yesterday afternoon, the tall hatch rides firm enough to allow little body roll -- far less than I had expected given the tall hatch structure -- yet subdues the standard roadway undulations and expansion joints we all experience on a day to day basis with little in the way of an ill-handling surprises.
The Sonics all electric power steering was not only designed to save fuel, it was also designed to surprise. A drive into the local USPS parking lot reveled that the Sonics steering was heavily boosted at slow speeds to remove even a hint of strain yet once underway, the assist was progressively reduced in such a fashion as to allow more road feel. This is an area that many sub-compact competitors have not quite yet figured out. Kudo’s to GM’s electric power steering design team.
We will have more on the Sonics handling prowess when I take it to the local empty mall parking lot -- at least I hope it will be empty sometime during Thanksgiving week -- accident avoidance area and of course a particular subdivision entry way with small but sharp curb that has revealed glaring flaws in some of the best handling automobiles on the road today.
2012 Chevrolet Sonic Exterior
With the now common Chevrolet inspired chrome accent surrounding a black honeycomb grille, swooping hood lines flowing down from the outer edge of the windscreen and mating with each other just above the grille surround, and projector like dual headlamps to either side, the Sonic reveals a purpose oriented expression but with a playful face.
A Chevrolet Signature Grille attached.
From the sides, two pronounced parallel character lines, one beginning from the front wheel well arches, through the door handles and sweeping through the rear tail light lenses and the other, beginning at the bottom of the front door and rising into the rear wheel arch brings about a sportiness not seen from a GM B or C-Segment in “forever”.
On the hatch, the rear door handles took a page out of the European Honda Civic 5-door hatch’s playbook with the rear door handles mounted within the C-pillar itself.
2012 Chevrolet Sonic Interior Features and Appointments
With > 90 cu. ft of passenger volume and 14/19 cu. ft. of cargo volume (Sedan and Hatch respectively), the Sonic gives the first time buyer a vehicle that includes the necessary size to accommodate the driver and passengers and a lot of room to tackle life’s cargo needs head on. A large number of cubby’s including an upper and lower glove box (ala Prius), two small cubby storage areas to each side of the head unit, a small opening underneath the climate controls and even a tray on top of the dash can store a large number of small items that would normally be placed in the glove box alone. Missing is a standard sunglass holder at the front of the headliner, a center console storage box and useable length sun visors that only cover but a fraction of the space needed up front or when swung to the sides when the sun is low in the sky to do much good.
Spartan but livable if you purchase in black
And a good number of storage spaces too.
A huge positive regarding the Sonic’s overall size, a particularly strident comparison arrives when comparing the B-Segment 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Sedan and the larger C-Segment 2012 Ford Focus. The sonic has an EPA rated passenger and cargo capacity of 91 and 12 cu. ft. respectively while the Focus is rated at just 90 and 13 cu. ft. respectively. That is a very interesting comparison and one I found to be eye opening.
From the driver’s perspective, if you are tall, this has to be one of the longest legged B-Segments ever created. Slide the front seat back to the rearward stops and this 6 footer could barely touch the pedals! Side to side room was a little cramped as all B-Segment vehicles are but nothing was protruding. And unlike many of today’s B and C-Segment offerings, the Sonic’s front seats do not have an overly intrusive seat bolstering on the lower cushion. Good for GM and thank goodness as I am getting real tired of this inclusion in most other smaller vehicles that pretend to be sports sedans to the chagrin of the driver who actually has to drive the car for the next 150,000 miles.
Taking a seat in the rear while snapping the front interior shot, I found the leg room ample and the seats support adequate. I will not be spending much time back there but will snap the standard front to back shot for comparison sales.
The Sonic’s headliner has a cloth like texture and appearance which is actually is a step above most in the class that use nothing more than an egg carton like cardboard lining. While not quite the same as the higher quality cloth like headliner in the all-new 2012 Kia Rio, the Sonic provides a nice upgrade over and above that included the Fiesta, Mazda2 and Fit.
The interior is ok for the highly price sensitive B-Segment with enough small grain texture plastics to warm the interior up a touch but it is not a new LaCrosse, Passat or an Audi A8 by any stretch.
I have read more than a few comments about the motorcycle inspired add-on instrument cluster. It is functional with a youth oriented design and so far, my only complaint is it is hard to immediately pick up the blue fonts on the black background in bright light and the fact it is a pain to cycle through the various functions using a menu button, the forward and back toggle ring on the left stalk and a rest button on the end of the same stalk.
A miscue was discovered when it comes to the 5-door hatch’s useable cargo capacity. While the hatch has a somewhat roomy on paper 19 cu. ft. of cargo space (to the ceiling) with the rear seats upright and almost 31 cu. ft. with the seats folded, the interior designers must have lost a battle for more useable cargo volume at an early stage. The back of the hatch was quite literally cut off at least 4” to short and the privacy cover takes up at least 4” of much needed cargo height. There is actually very little space between the closed hatch, back of the rear seats, floor and privacy cover to accommodate more than two smaller carryon’s. Even with the 60/40 split fold down seats and the privacy cover removed, there is not a prayer of holding more than two full sized pieces of luggage while allowing room for three in the passenger compartment.
The hatch lacks useful cargo capacity.
With this in mind, I would consider the sedan over the hatch due to everyday cargo space needs even though the hatch has more utility once the rear seats are folded down.
About the space available when the rear seats are folded down, there is an almost flat floor and a large hatch opening to fit all sorts of items one might try to fit over the course of the vehicles lifetime. An area that both the Rio/Accent contingent and Fiesta competitors must have forgotten about.
2012 Chevrolet Sonic Connectivity and Infotainment
In our short time with the MyChevrolet app, it did provide a location-based service including a parking reminder that allows drivers to save their parking location to a GPS-enabled map, set a timer to track how much time they have on the parking meter, and even add a note or photo with details about their parking location. What it does not allow you to do however is find your car in a vast Christmas shopping ladened parking lot after fact in case you did not setup your parking location prior to leaving your car which would prove to be far more useful.
The 2012 Chevrolet Sonic’s MyChevrolet app in action.
The owner’s manual is also supposed to be only a click away but we found it was not currently available.
MyChevrolet also integrates with the OnStar MyLink app so that you can remotely unlock or lock the doors or start the engine. This service was unfortunately also not yet available.
Sirius XM Satellite Radio is standard equipment with the LT trim but USB and Bluetooth functionality are unfortunately extra. Hopefully the lack of a Bluetooth enabled phone system will become a thing of the past as this is probably the most important safety device that can be installed in a vehicle other than shielding all cell signals from being received or emitted from within the car itself which has not yet been invented yet. Of course there is always the on-off switch but that is not how 100 million drivers use their phones on a daily basis in the US.
2012 Chevrolet Sonic Safety
The new for 2012 Sonic earned top ratings across the board in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) evaluations, qualifying as a Top Safety Pick with good ratings for front, side, rollover, and rear crash protection.
The Sonic is also one of the safest vehicles in the segment thanks to a class leading 10 air bags, (2) Front, (2) Side, and (2) Side Curtains plus front driver and passenger knee airbags and (2) rear passenger outward seat side airbags.
Nearly 60 percent of the body structure uses high-strength steel with ultra-high-strength steel strategically integrated in the forward portion of the rockers and the center cross bar. Together with the front bumper system and the engine compartment rails, cradle bars absorb the brunt of a frontal crash and redirect the crash energy around the safety cage protecting occupants in the event of a “worst case scenario”.
Additionally, the Sonics systems attempts to keep you out of harm’s way with electronic stability control (ESC), Traction Control (TC), anti-lock brakes (ABS), electronic brake force distribution (EBFD), power-assisted front disc and rear drum brakes with brake assist (BA).
Other Sonic safety features include the obligatory LATCH system (Lower Anchors and Top tethers for Children); six months of complimentary OnStar Directions and Connections service, including stolen vehicle assistance and automatic crash response.
Another standard feature is Sonic’s hill-hold technology. A pitch sensor detects the tilt of the body when the car is stopped on a slope and sends a signal to the stability control system. This triggers the electronically controlled brake hardware to keep the wheels clamped for up to two seconds after the driver releases the brake pedal.
Every stick driver has been in the uphill to start situation and no matter how good you are, there is always anticipation while wondering am I giving it enough gas, letting out the clutch fast enough to the grab point and then not over reacting by letting out fully upon first grab and stalling the engine. The all-new 2012 Sonic with the Manual transmissions relieves that stress which makes navigating hilly terrain as effortless as an automatic.
2012 Chevrolet Sonics Competitive Comparisons
|Year||Make||Model||Trim||Engine||Transmissions||Passenger Volume (cu. ft.)||Cargo Volume (cu. ft.)||EPA mpgUS (city/highway/combined)||Pricing (MSRP)*|
|2012||Chevrolet||Sonic||LTZ Hatch (1)||1.4L Turbo||6-speed MT||90||19||29/40/33||$17,995|
|2012||Hyundai||Accent||SE Hatch (2)||1.6L DI||6-speed MT||90||21||30/40/34||$16,650|
|2012||Kia||Rio||SX Hatch (3)||1.6L GDI||6-speed AT||88||15||30/40/34||$18,450|
|2012||Ford||Fiesta||SES Hatch (4)||1.6L||5-speed MT||85||15||29/38/33||$18,295|
|2012||Toyota||Yaris||SE Hatch (5)||1.5L||4-speed AT||85||16||30/38/33||$18,140|
|2012||Honda||Fit||Sport Hatch (6)||1.5L||5-speed MT||91||21||27/33/29||$19,051|
* All top level trims and include D&H.
1) Sonic LTZ includes 1.4L Turbo, CC, PW/PL/PM, Fog Lights, 17” alloys, tilt and telescopic wheel, steering wheel mounted audio controls, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, Bluetooth.
2) Accent SE includes CC, PW/PL/PM, Fog Lights, 16" alloys, tilt wheel only, steering wheel mounted audio controls, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, Bluetooth and 4 wheel discs.
3) Rio SX includes CC, PW/PL/PM (folding), 6-speed AT
, 17” alloys, UVO, tilt and telescopic wheel, steering wheel mounted audio controls, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, Bluetooth and 4 wheel discs.
4) Fiesta SES includes CC, PW/PL/PM, 16" alloys, tilt and telescopic wheel, steering wheel mounted audio controls, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, Bluetooth and SYNC.
5) Yaris SE includes CC, PW/PL/PM, 16" alloys, tilt wheel only, steering wheel mounted audio controls, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob and Bluetooth.
6) Fit Sport includes CC, PW/PL/PM, 16" alloys, tilt and telescopic wheel, steering wheel mounted audio controls, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.
2012 Chevrolet Sonics Fuel Economy
We have a few days to figure this one out and considering the tall ratio 6-speed MT, a curb weight some 266 pounds less than the Cruze ECO (Sonic hatch compared to Cruze sedan), low RRc based Hankook Optimo’s vs. the Cruze’s really low RRc Goodyear Assurance FuelMax’s, I have high hopes. During a quick 6 mile RT drive in mid 40 degree temps with only basic techniques used during a typical Chicago suburb rush hour on the day before Thanksgiving (read lots of traffic), the fuel miser allowed 46 mpg per the OEM aFCD and 47 per the SGe. Since the OEM aFCD is not capable of recording advanced techniques, I kept it basic. Later today I may perform the standard measured distance and top off to top off drive loop from the local Speedway to west Milwaukee and back to see just how good the Sonic can be.
Manufacturing - American Made and Proud of it!
Another feather in the Sonics cap is that it is the only American made sub-compact with production occurring at GM’s Orion Assembly Center in Michigan.
I like the sedan’s appearance and useable trunk space far more than the boxy and way to short hatch. Regarding passenger volume, the Sonic is an absolute hit. I also really enjoy all the storage cubby’s in the interior and the cloth like headliner but it really needs much larger sun visors and I would appreciate a sunglass holder.
The lack of Bluetooth on the LS trim is a huge disappointment. It should be standard on the LT trim as well.
Fuel Economy at steady state, on the test loop and the odometer study has yet to be completed.
About the price… Read the specification page in detail and you can see where the product planner’s lost it. The LS now appears as a loss leader since you cannot order anything with it. Add $1,200 for the LT and you receive "heated power mirrors, a chrome beltline molding and trunk/hatch handle
"? That "upgrade" is the largest pricing for the least amount of additional content I have seen in the B-Segment ranks.
Add an additional $2,000 on top of the LT for the LTZ and receive 17” painted alloys vs. the 15” or 16” alloys standard on the LS and LT, chrome door handles, fog lamps, perforated "leatherette
" (read vinyl) seats, heated front seats, leather wrapped steering wheel with mounted audio/Bluetooth controls and cruise control.
While the low upfront price of the LS is attractive, it is the LTZ that we will all live with and when you are talking about a $18,000 + B-Segment automobile, I can think of a number of far better equipped B, C and almost a much larger D-Segment automobile (think 2012 Sonata GLS) that are far more comfortable, larger and even better equipped while offering similar fuel economy capability.
The Sonic is certainly one of the class leaders with an excellent drivetrain and larger than life size in some respects but it is the price that takes the bloom off the rose. Within a year, I expect to see a few more $’s on the hood to make it content competitive with the likes of the 12 Rio, 12 Accent, 12 Yaris and even the 12 Elantra.
For more on the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic, feel free to peruse the following Sonic specific write-ups at your leisure.