With gas prices continuing to hover near $4 a gallon, the subcompact car segment is heating up.
General Motors is almost ready to launch its new entry, the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic, which will compete with the Honda Fit, Ford Fiesta, Toyota Yaris, the new 2011 Hyundai Accent, and other small sedans and hatchbacks.
Up to now, consumers have only seen press photos and auto show displays of the car and Chevy has only provided a few press releases and a brief brochure.
On Memorial Day, however, the company released exhaustive details on the car on its online ordering guide, anticipating a rise in customer inquiries. The guide shows that variety will be key to Chevy's strategy for differentiating the Sonic from its competition.
Like several of its competitors, the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic comes in three trim levels. They use the conventional Chevy designators: LS, LT, and LTZ. Unlike any other competitor, though, each trim level will be offered in both hatchback and sedan form.
All trims come with aluminum wheels, air conditioning, stability control, anti-lock brakes, remote keyless entry, and 10 airbags. Every Sonic hatchback will have a rear spoiler.
Buyers opting for the mid-level LT models get several luxuries, including heated power mirrors, six-speaker audio, and a chrome belt line molding.
Upgrading to the top-notch LTZ gives buyers a USB port for the audio system, Bluetooth, cruise control, perforated leatherette seating, 17-Inch wheels, and even more chrome. Remote start is standard with the automatic transmission for the LTZ.
Continuing with the variety theme, Chevy will offer two engines for the Sonic, rare for this class. The engine choices are a 1.8-liter four-cylinder and a smaller, but turbocharged, 1.4-liter four similar to that used in the compact 2011 Chevy Cruze sedan.
The 1.8-liter engine is standard for all models, and can be ordered with a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. The 1.4-liter turbo can only be ordered with a six-manual transmission on LT and LTZ models; it's not offered at all on the base LS model.
The guide also reveals the Sonic's interior dimensions. It beats the Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit and 2012 Hyundai Accent in rear leg room and hip room, but falls a little short of all of them in front head room and all but the Fit in front legroom.
With its rear seats up, the Sonic hatchback's cargo volume is well ahead of the Fiesta, but behind Fit and Accent. The same is true when the rear seat is down.
Chevrolet has not revealed the exact start date for Sonic production, but its says the car should be at dealers this fall.
When that time comes, shoppers will have the choice of an American-built subcompact that follows the American tradition of offering a broad choice of models and options.
We look forward to bringing you our first drive report on the new 2012 Chevrolet Sonic.