2012 Chevrolet Sonic 2LT sedan review: Chevy’s new small car…made in the U.S.A.

2012 Chevrolet Sonic 2LT sedan

2012 Chevrolet Sonic 2LT sedan

It would be easy to write off the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic four-door sedan as merely a replacement for the Chevrolet Aveo, yawn and move on. But while it’s true that the Sonic sedan and its five-door hatchback stable mate replace similar models wearing the Aveo nameplate, “merely” doesn’t figure into the picture.

Not that there was anything wrong with the Chevy Aveo, but it was merely a rebadged Daewoo, made by GM’s Korean subsidiary, a model whose time had come and was long gone. But when Chevrolet decided to replace it, the name had been sufficiently linked to ordinariness and had never really resonated on the market that it had to go. Anyway, Sonic is more vigorous and dynamic. We’ll bet it cliniced well.

2012 Chevrolet Sonic 2LT sedan interior

Our test 2012 Chevrolet Sonic 2LT sedan had a striking brick over black interior color scheme.

Finding a new name is the easy part, at least compared to designing and engineering a whole new car. And there’s nothing left from the old Aveo.

Even the engines are new. The engines, a turbocharged 1.4-liter four cylinder and a 1.8-liter naturally-aspirated (non-turbo) four, are the same as used in the larger Chevrolet Cruze. Both, too, produce a maximum 13healthy8 horsepower, placing the Sonic among the leaders in the B-segment. The turbo 1.4, however, makes 148 lb.-ft. of torque between 1,850 rpm and 4,900 rpm. That’s downright impressive. It compares to 125 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,800 rpm from the 1.8-liter, although a two-stage variable intake manifold enables the engine to makes approximately 90 percent of its peak torque from 2,400 rpm to 6,500 rpm.

Three transmissions are available: a five-speed manual and six-speed automatic with the 1.8L and at least at this time, a six-speed manual with the 1.4-liter turbo. Regrets to those who can’t/prefer not to drive a stick. No turbo for you.

Everybody, however, gets the new styling. Chevrolet designers were able to install the Chevy face on the Sonic, the single crossbar grille identifying it for what it is. And while the overall design isn’t as adventuresome as some of its rivals, the Sonic’s accented front fenders and crisp spines up the hood are a marked contrast to the bland contours of its predecessor. The Chevrolet Sonic comes in five-door hatchback or conventional four-door sedan versions. Either way, the Sonic looks larger than it really is.

Typical for its class, the suspension is MacPherson struts up front with a twist beam rear axle, and all Sonics have front disc and rear drum brakes. Stability control is also standard on the Sonic as well, along with four-channel ABS—not the cheapest but definitely the best way to go. The Sonic also had standard electronic brakeforce distribution, which by changing the braking front to rear based on vehicle load reduces the need for the anti-lock braking system to kick in to begin with.

2012 Chevrolet Sonic 2LT sedan instrument panel

The 2012 Chevrolet Sonic has a unique and user-friendly instrument panel. The row of dots above and below the info center are inset warning lights.

The interior is particularly striking for this class of vehicle, at least for our 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Sedan 2LT.with its “Brick” dash pad that sweeps back into the door panels. It’s a small thing, perhaps, but classy, and makes the insides look bigger and less oppressive than all black. The plastic is all hard—no soft touch, for the most part—but at least it’s not a cheap brittle-hard.

The colors are reflected in the seat fabrics as well. The front seats have big bolsters with lots of support and are comfortable even on long drives. The back seat is snug on legroom but tall adults will fit, even if they won’t be happy to take long trips riding there.

The overall size of the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic shows up in elbow room, or at least how much of it must be shared. The Sonic is narrow, the third seatbelt in back worthwhile only for strapping in skinny kids.

The Chevy Sonic’s instrument panel is unique and an example of innovation done right. Shaped like a keyhole laid on its side, the i.p. has a large analog tachometer in the round part with a digital speedometer—along with a plethora of other info—on a rectangular LCD screen to its right. Warning lights are recessed into the top and bottom edges of the rectangle. It makes sense and it works.

Storage cubbies and bins abound in the Sonic’s interior. There’s a cubby to either side of the center stack, for example, and a dashtop bin with a top and a rubberized floor. Our test Chevy Sonic also made up for the fact that there’s no center console with double—upper-and-lower—glove boxes.

The radio has the two classic knobs for volume and tuning—some things don’t need to be reinvented—with additional buttons for secondary tasks below that. Chevy also went with the conventional three-knob heater/air conditioner controls.