2012 Chevy Sonic

2012 Chevrolet Sonic. © General Motors

2012 Chevrolet Sonic. © General Motors

Last year Chevrolet introduced a new car to replace the aging, and unloved, Aveo. The Aveo was not a horrible car, it was just below average when compared to other sub-compacts. It was bad luck that the Aveo had to compete with the likes of the Honda Fit, Ford Fiesta and the Nissan Versa. If only it could have competed with the Chevy Chevette or Vega or Ford Pinto… but it was not to be, and so the Aveo moves out and the Sonic moves in.

From the outside the new Sonic still resembles the Aveo to a large degree (especially the hatchback) but this is a case where appearances are misleading. The Sonic is a completely different car, redesigned from the ground up. The engine is new, the 6-speed transmission is new, the suspension, steering, radio, ergonomics, you name it, it is probably new.

So, was Chevy better at their homework than I was at mine? The answer is yes. The Sonic is a much better car than the Aveo and almost competes with the Ford Fiesta and the Honda Fit. It doesn’t win, but at least it is in the race, something that was never true for the Aveo. The Sonic handles well, is surprisingly quiet, has comfortable seats and decent (not great) acceleration with the base engine. Unlike some of its competitors the Sonic offers a turbo-charged engine as an option that improves performance considerably, but of course adds extra expense and has a slight impact on the fuel economy.

The Sonic features a motorcycle inspired instrument cluster. © General Motors

The Sonic features a motorcycle like instrument cluster. © General Motors

The most noticeable drawback to the Sonic is its 6-speed automatic transmission when paired with the base 4-cylinder motor. In their desire to maximize fuel efficiency Chevy has sacrificed drivability. The transmission’s continual hunt for the right gear, especially when accelerating, is a constant annoyance. Point of fact, getting the car to accelerate at all is a challenge, it can be done, but you really have to step on   the gas pedal to do it.

Like the Fiesta and the Fit, the Sonic comes with a lot of standard equipment. The base models of all three cars have, as standard, items that used to be optional on small, inexpensive cars like the Sonic.  The standard equipment includes air-conditioning, power door locks and and an AM/FM radio with an auxiliary input for an MP3 player.  Maybe because the Sonic is supposed to be sporty or maybe to eek another mile per gallon out of it, it is the only one of the three competitors that has 15″ alloy wheels standard — even on the base model.

Comparisons — all hatchbacks with Automatic Transmission.

Chevy Sonic LS / LT Ford Fiesta S / SE Honda Fit Base / Sport
Base Price
$15,835 / $16,935 $15,295 / $17,295 $16,125 / $17,910
MPG* (city, highway, combined) 27/37/31 29/39/33 27/33/30
Overall Length (in.) 159.0 160.1 161.6
Overall Width (in.) 68.3 67.8 67.7
Overall Height (in) 59.7 58.0 60.0
Stereo w/USB Opt. / Stan. N.A. / Std. Std. / Std.
Bluetooth N.A. / Opt. N.A. / Std. N.A. / Std.
Steering wheel
Std. / Std. Std. / Std. Std. / Std.
Cruise Control N.A. / Opt. N.A. / Std. Std. / Std.
Power Windows N.A / Std. N.A / Std. Std. / Std.
Sirus XM Opt. / Std. N.A. / Opt. N.A. / N.A.
Alloy wheels
Std. / Std N.A. / Opt. N.A. / Std.

The Chevy Sonic is a decent car and a huge step up from the Aveo. It does not compete with the Ford Fiesta or the Honda Fit, but it can generally be had for less money.  The Sonic is well equipped and should be reliable. Chevy and Ford are both discounting their cars, especially the well-equipped higher end models, so don’t buy a Sonic if you can get the Fiesta for the same price.

If you have any questions about the Sonic, feel free to leave a reply.

*MPG information from www.FuelEconomy.gov