Okay, subsonic would be a more accurate description of this car, but the five-door 2012 Chevrolet Sonic LTZ does not need blinding speed to attract buyers looking for a feature-laden subcompact sedan.
Before we even start our examination, though, let’s erase any thoughts you might have about that late Korean-made dud, the Aveo, which the Sonic replaces. The new, made-in America small fry is way better and way more fun to drive than that unfortunate import.
And, let’s concede that, even with gas prices now slipping back a few cents per gallon, the jury is still out on how many American car buyers will be willing to make a sacrifice in size for the sake of efficiency.
Those who are willing to make that sacrifice will find that the Sonic isn’t so much of a sacrifice, after all.
Think of the Sonic as Chevy Cruze light. The Sonic uses the same engines, similar transmissions, and holds four adults in reasonable comfort — just like the popular, hot-selling, compact Cruze.
Yes, it’s smaller and, yes, it holds less cargo than the Cruze, but the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic is a city car that can be equally at home on the wide interstates and the winding back roads.
The 2012 Sonic comes in two body styles, a traditional-looking four-door sedan and a five-door hatchback, which kind of resembles a Kia Soul. The hatchback version was the one supplied for my examination.
Two engines are available: a standard 1.8-liter, four-cylinder model that generates 138 horsepower and 125 pound feet of torque; and an optional turbocharged, 1.4-liter, 4-cylinder powerplant that generates an identical 138 horsepower, but a beefier 148 pound-feet of torque.
The base engine can be teamed with a 6-speed automatic transmission or a five-speed manual. The turbo motor can be paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission or a six-speed manual shifter.
The test car combined the slightly more expensive turbo engine with the 6-speed manual transmission, my favorite among the powertrain choices but probably not the one that will be chosen by the bulk of Sonic purchasers.
The car I drove is EPA-rated at 29 mpg city/40 mpg highway, while the standard engine combined with manual shifter is calculated at 25/35 and its counterpart with automatic transmission is expected to average 26/35. I averaged an overall 34 mpg in a week of restrained urban and suburban motoring. Both engines run happily on regular-grade fuel.
While a subcompact front-wheel drive hatchback is not a realistic substitute for a sports sedan, the pint-sized Sonic I piloted for a week was entertaining to drive.
Despite the engine’s diminutive displacement, the turbo assist boosted power enough to give the Sonic a 0-to-60 mph time of approximately 8 seconds. Not neck snapping, for sure, but certainly more than merely adequate for a subcompact.