2012 Chevrolet Sonic 5-Door LT Review

Highs and lows

  • Looks
  • Ride and handling
  • Overall quality
  • Fuel consumption

The little newcomer that turns the spotlight

There's a new player in the subcompact car game in the form of the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic.

2012 Chevrolet Sonic LT

Attractive body

The folks at GM keep telling us that the Sonic is a head turner, and you know what? They're right! I've seen many people make a conscious effort to stare at this striking little number, which boasts surprising levels of craftsmanship and dynamic design. The sharp-looking, 3D-style headlights are enough to hypnotize those in the market for a youthful, edgy B-segment car.

The rear door handles, integrated to the window frames, add a unique touch. However, the tail section as a whole looks more plain and unimaginative than the nose. In a way, it even reminds me of the Sonic's predecessor, the infamous Aveo.

2012 Chevrolet Sonic LT rear 3/4 view

Its design is sought, catchy and original. (Photo: Sébastien D'Amour)

Impressive cabin

The first thing that will catch your attention inside is undoubtedly the motorcycle-inspired instrument cluster, also part of the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic's distinctive signature. It really emphasizes the sporty side of this small hatchback. I personally have a soft spot for digital speedometers, so I was pretty excited to find one in the Sonic. Plus, the digits are big and make for easy reading.

The remainder of the dashboard is nicely designed as well. The controls are intuitive, and there's not too many of them. My only complaint here is the door lock buttons positioned between the seats; I would have preferred to have them in their usual location on the door panel. Maybe I'm just old-school...

Fit and finish needs to be commended and given credit for the Sonic's excellent value. Material selection is just as impressive. And I liked the fact that Chevy designers opted for tasteful patterns on the seats rather than flashy colours, for instance.

2012 Chevrolet Sonic LT dashboard

The dashboard is nicely designed as well and the controls are intuitive and there's not too many of them. (Photo: Sébastien D'Amour)

Is there room in there?

You won't have any problems hauling your friends around. In fact, I was amazed by the amount of room available in the back. Of course, the Chevrolet Sonic is no minivan, but two adults will enjoy ample legroom and comfort.

Getting to those rear seats is quite easy thanks to the large door openings. I fully appreciated this feature every time I had to fasten my little boy in his child seat. The trunk is decently sized, and you can fold the 60/40-split rear seats to get extra space for bulkier cargo.

Overall, I'm pleased with the way Chevrolet managed to address the biggest issue facing subcompact cars - providing rear passengers with (more than) adequate room without compromising trunk capacity. The Sonic proves fairly generous on both fronts.

2012 Chevrolet Sonic LT trunk

The trunk is decently sized, and you can fold the 60/40-split rear seats to get extra space for bulkier cargo. (Photo: Sébastien D'Amour)

On the road

Driving the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic turned out to be a pleasant experience. Not only does it manoeuvre easily through traffic, but it also shows good dynamics and balance. The clever suspension settings deliver the kind of sporty ride small car buyers usually look for without being excessively jarring or letting you feel every road imperfection.

Visibility is decent at best due to the massive A-pillars. On the flip side, the large side glass reduces blind spots.

The transmission is responsive and allows safe passing manoeuvres on the highway. However, in low-speed situations (under 40 km/h), it seems to struggle at times. Moreover, GM announces an average fuel economy rating of 7.1L/100km for the LT model with 6-speed autobox, but I wound up with 8.9L/100km (60% city and 40% highway mix). It's a sizable difference if you ask me, and a rather disappointing performance for such a small car. I expected better.

The numbers

The 2012 Chevrolet Sonic 5-Door starts at $14,495 and comes with a 1.8L 4-cylinder engine, stability control and six standard airbags. My LT tester with 6-speed automatic transmission ($1,500), heated front seats ($405) and other extras cost $21,860. By the way, a 4-door sedan is also available.

2012 Chevrolet Sonic LT front 3/4 view

My LT tester with 6-speed automatic transmission ($1,500), with other extras cost $21,860. (Photo: Sébastien D'Amour)

Sonic vs. the field

I believe the Sonic will attract a great number of B-segment shoppers with its overall balance, value, and youthful looks both inside and out. Compared with rivals, I'd say it offers a sportier driving experience than the Toyota Yaris and more rear passenger room than the Ford Fiesta. Unfortunately, the Sonic burns more gas than most.

Ultimately, this Chevrolet shows lots of promise and should meet the needs of modern commuters.