When Chevrolet announced that its new subcompact for America would be called the Sonic, it not only gave notice of a name change, but also gave eagle-eyed observers a hint that the Sonic will be a very different car than what the rest of the world knows as the Aveo.
At first glance, the Sonic and the new European Aveo shown at September's Paris Motor Show look like the same car. However, a closer inspection reveals that they are almost completely different designs from the B-pillar back. These are just some of the differences:
The Sonic's C-pillar is set back at a more rakish angle than the Aveo's.
The plastic panel that surrounds the rear door handle in the Sonic has more sharply defined edges.
The character line that cuts through the front door handle runs smoothly to the back of the Sonic, instead of angling up towards the roof like in the Aveo.
The Sonic does not have a chrome beltline molding.
The Sonic's back window is angled more steeply than the Aveo's and is larger overall.
The taillights wrap farther around into the side of the Sonic.
The chrome bar above the Sonic's rear license plate is thinner.
The Sonic has a black molding that runs along the top of the side windows.
Chevy did not show the front of the Sonic, so there could be more differences lurking up there.
For the most part, car manufacturers don't modify their subcompacts much for the U.S. market, since these cars originate in other countries and make the bulk of their sales outside the U.S. What changes they do make are usually confined to the front and rear of the vehicles and are motivated by stricter U.S. safety regulations.
The changes from Aveo to Sonic are clearly more than the bare minimum needed to meet regulations. The differences are possible in part because the Sonic will not share a factory with its global Aveo counterpart, making it easier for each model to be tweaked for local consumption.
The 2012 Chevrolet Sonic will be built exclusively in Lake Orion, Michigan. Chevy will likely have more to say about the Aveo/Sonic differences when it presents the Sonic at the 2011 North American International Auto Show in January.