Posted in: Cars,
by Patrick DeHaan on May 29, 2012 12:28 PM
With the agressive looking 2012 Chevrolet Sonic LTZ just begging to seen- it becomes noticed by many, for not only its performance under the hood or in the fuel economy column, but its balanced spec sheet that is meant to impress.
The Chevrolet Sonic is GM's answer to critics of the Aveo, the mediocre vehicle that was Chevy's answer to high gasoline prices that many prospective buyers were turned off to. This time around, GM packed a punch in the Sonic, with an optional 1.4l turbo-charged 6-speed transmission under the hood. Not only does the motor pack a punch, but sips instead of gulps the recommended regular 87 octane gasoline- leading to an EPA rating of 29/40, which is among the best in class.
You might think that a subcompact with such stats would lack in other areas- say handling, but you'd be surprised that in my driving, handling was crisp, responsive, and well-balanced. Not only did the vehicle handle hairpin turns well, but it did so with an agressive bite.
The Chevy Sonic that I test drove contained the optional 1.4l turbocharged inline four cylinder, rated at 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. Impressive numbers for a 1.4l indeed. The six speed transmission also allowed improved fuel efficiency and a fun factor (my vehicle was fitted with a manual transmission). While the engine was sipping fuel, it didn't have a problem gaining speed quickly when needing to pass. Perhaps the only drawback was the need to downshift moreso than I'm accustomed to, but with the positive being fuel economy, I shouldn't complain much. The Sonic performs the 0-60 in just under 9 seconds- not exactly the fastest car, but a well balanced car. Stopping all the power takes about 125 feet or so, which puts it in the middle of competition for stopping power. The pedal felt quite firm, and did not fade, which many small compacts seem to struggle with. In the nearly 1000 miles I drove the Sonic, I achieved about 33mpg combined, although most of my miles were highway. This efficiency leads the Sonic to the top in its segment for fuel economy, beating the Mazda 2, Honda Fit, and coming close to the Hyundai Accent. As for suspension, the Sonic handled surprisingly well. I previously had a daily driver that Road and Track rated as one of the best handling cars of all time, and indeed it was, so this segment of the test is very important to me. I was surprised that the Sonic held together very well through 180-degree turns, with steering also quite easy.
Initial quality was excellent as I first sat in the Sonic. The cloth seats were good, with room for minor improvements, but overall the ride quality was excellent. At highway speeds, there was little noise, and carrying a conversation was easy, as was listening to the XM/Sirius radio that my test car contained. The interior of the car seemed to be very roomy, but storage for paperwork/manuals and other items was on the small side. There was no center console storage, rather two cupholders that held a one liter bottle with ease- a welcome surprise. The doors also had similar sized cup holders. Perhaps one of the biggest issues was nothing to do with immediate comfort, but the lack of storage space for luggage. This vehicle is excellent for road tripping with just two or perhaps three people. However, with four people, you'd be very hard pressed for storage. The truck held two small to medium sized bags, and while the rear seats fold down, if you have four people, there's simply not enough storage. In this regard, the Sonic isn't near the top of its class, unless you fold the seats down, making the car a two-seater. Other vehicles, such as the Fit and Accent, had more available room for cargo than the Sonic.
My test vehicle came equipped with alloy 17" wheels, a very nice, and suggested addition for prospective buyers. The wheels certainly made the car stand out more. The orange paint brought the exterior to life and certainly stood out to others based on the looks the vehicle received. The orange paint is a $195 charge, so if you want to stand out, it'll cost you. But there's no such thing as a free lunch these days.
Should you buy it?
The 2012 Sonic is a good fit for those looking for a subcompact vehicle with superb fuel economy and a balanced power package to go with it. The seemingly roomy interior was also a huge plus, so if you like a roomy interior, this car may be a match. If you're looking to road trip for four every weekend, the Sonic's available storage may not meet your needs. But really, who's got the time and money to road trip with four all the time?
We'll be testing a Ford Fiesta soon, so be sure to check back in a month to see how we think the Sonic and Fiesta compare.