The 2012 Sonic replaces the unloved Korean-built Chevy Aveo, which reminded me in many ways of Ford's Aspire--which always seemed to aspire to being a car.
But enough of the digs at the poor ol' Aveo, when there's a reasonable replacement in hand.
I drove the 2012 Chevy Sonic 2LT sedan from Los Angeles to Las Vegas to cover a race. The route is a straight shot up Interstate 15, one in which everyone on the road seems to be vying for attention from the California Highway Patrol. Do 80mph and you're bound to get run over, though the speed limit for much of the way is 70.
This particular Sonic has the base 1.8-liter Ecotec four-cylinder engine with 138 horsepower at 6300 rpm and 125 ft-lbs of torque at 3800. Either a five-speed manual or a six-speed automatic is available with this engine; I had the automatic, with pushbutton manual shifting capability on the shift lever.
With the Sonic's lighter weight, I'd think that engine would be a better choice than the 1.8, which is heavier and not quite as modern. The downside for some folks is the 1.4T is only available with a six-speed manual transmission.
Independent MacPherson strut and a solid torsion beam comprise the front and rear suspensions, respectively, with stabilizer bars completing the chassis support. I find the chassis quite compliant, extremely quiet and able to handle dips in the road quite well. Turning circle is a nice 34.5 feet.
The antilock brakes are discs at the front and drums at the rear, a carry-over that works well enough in cut-and-thrust traffic. There is brake panic assist, which I had to use a time or two during a trying and long return trip.
Electric power steering has the usual lightness and is a bit vague on-center but has reasonable weight at speed.
The black test car had less than 1500 miles on it, and its mileage was a bit lower; over the road and in around-town jaunts in Las Vegas, I achieved mileage in the high 20s, and I drove it like I owned it. Well, most of the time.
There's plenty to like about the new Sonic as a long-distance tourer, and a few things that make a driver scratch the ol' head.
Gas mileage is definitely a plus; the ride is very good over rough pavement; and its handling isn't half-bad for the segment, although the Sonic has to compete with the fabulous Mazda2 and kissing cousin Ford Fiesta.
The shape of the new Sonic is engaging, with its front-end strakes, and it's obviously wind-cheating with good aerodynamics, seals and closures. With the tall trunk shape and 14 cubic feet of space, the Sonic sedan offers among the most spacious cargo holds in its segment.