The 2012 Chevrolet Sonic is quite a nice little subcompact. It’s built on the new General Motors global platform and comes in the form of a sedan or a hatchback.
Both models of the new Sonic look good, with sleek styling and an urban design aimed at appealing to upscale younger American consumers. Our test car was the sedan, but I got a look at the five-door hatchback at the recent South Florida International Auto Show and I found it equally appealing, if not more so.
Both versions of the Sonic have distinctive design elements, including sharp creases, exposed headlights and other design cues that seem like they belong on a motorcycle (and that’s what they were derived from). Other nice features include excellent fit and finish and standard forged alloy wheels.
Three trim levels are offered — LS, LT and LTZ — and standard equipment includes cloth upholstery, manually adjustable seats, trip computer, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, air conditioning, 60/40 split folding rear seat, OnStar, a four-speaker AM/FM stereo system with auxiliary jack, a roof spoiler, front floor mats, remote keyless entry, power door locks and 15-inch forged alloy wheels. Hatchbacks come standard with rear washer and wiper.
Under the hood, Sonic offers an option of two four-cylinder 138 hp engines — a 1.8 liter naturally aspirated powerplant or a peppy little 1.4 liter turbocharged engine. The standard engine can be mated to either a six-speed automatic or a five-speed manual transmission, while the turbo is offered only with a six-speed manual gearbox (an automatic transmission option is planned for late 2012 models).
On the highway, the new Sonic yields a quiet ride and handles quite nicely. I wouldn’t call it sporty, but it does have a stiff body and pretty good power for a subcompact. Chevy literature notes that Corvette engineers assisted in tuning the MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension, which probably accounts for the responsive handling characteristics.
As for safety, the Sonic has antilock brakes (ABS), electronic brake force distribution (EBD) and panic brake assist; electronic stability control and traction control, a hill-hold feature, 10 airbags (including seat-mounted thorax side-impact, head curtain and knee airbags); a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and 60/40 folding rear seats.
Base price on the Sonic is under $15,000, but even with adding all the available options, such as a sunroof, heated seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, you’ll still drive the car home for less than $20,000. Not a bad deal. And the car is made in America.
Ron Beasley is the automotive editor for Miami’s Community Newspapers. He may be contacted by calling 305-662-2277, ext. 261, or by addressing email correspondence to LetsTalkCars@aol.com.