For next year, Chevy is upping the ante, with a turbocharged 2013 Sonic RS model that's meant to take the littlest U.S.-built Chevrolet into hot-hatch territory. The Sonic RS will be formally launched at next month's 2012 Detroit Auto Show.
It's the production version of the Chevrolet Aveo RS concept revealed two years ago at the 2010 Detroit show (the Sonic is known in the rest of the world as the Chevrolet Aveo).
Same engine, new gear ratios
The 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS will use the same turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine offered in the standard Sonic, developing 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission comes standard--with unique gear ratios, Chevy says--and a six-speed automatic is optional.
The Sonic RS is only offered on the five-door hatchback model, whose suspension has been lowered and stiffened for better handling.
Since the engine and transmission choices are largely standard, the RS has to rely on appearance to be distinctive. It includes 17-inch alloy wheels, a new grille, fog lamps in the front fascia, and various aero elements on the rest of the body. There are also mirror caps and chrome tips on the sport exhaust.
Inside, the RS offers sports seats, a thicker-rimmed steering wheel, aluminum pedals, and different instrument panel graphics.
Hardly a hot hatch
The 1.4-liter turbo in the Sonic is fun to drive, with surprising power for its size.
2010 Chevrolet Aveo RS concept
But the Sonic RS is hardly likely to compete in the "hot hatch" arena against subcompacts and compacts--like the Volkswagen GTI, to name one--with far more powerful engines than the models they're based on.
So what's its role?
Chevrolet says the Sonic RS is meant to "amplify" the car's "youthful style and driving experience." In other words, it's a trim kit to make the car look good and seem sporty.
Colors are Victory Red, Summit White, Cyber Gray Metallic and--a new shade for 2013--Black Granite Metallic.
The company hasn't released pricing for the 2013 Sonic RS hatchback, and won't do so until closer to the time it goes on sale, which is says will be "late in 2012."
Keep watching this site for all our 2012 Detroit Auto Show coverage. There'll be plenty more to come in the days and weeks leading up to the show.