Remember the Aveo? Well, it's history. For 2012, the subcompact has been replaced by the inside-out motorcycle-inspired Sonic. Like its predecessor, Chevrolet's smallest car is available as a sedan or hatchback, but with two power trains borrowed from the compact Cruze.
A 1.8-liter inline-4 cylinder engine (138 hp @ 6300 rpm) is standard, but those wanting more pep and punch in their ride can go for the quicker 1.4-liter turbocharged inline-4 cylinder (138 hp @ 4900 rpm). Power reaches the front wheels via a standard 5-speed manual. We test-drove the optional but seamless-shifting 6-speed stick; a 6-speed auto will arrive in a few months.
Thumbs up to the fresh and clean body of the Sonic highlighted mainly by the dual-port grille opening with a centered bowtie emblem, flanked by round headlights and tail lamps. The motorcycle theme continues as you step inside the roomy cabin to glance at ice-blue dials on the large round analog tachometer and digital speed display.
Kudos to Chevy for packing the car with such standard safety features as 10 airbags, stability and traction controls, four-wheel antilock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, remote keyless entry and tire pressure monitoring system. Best is the hill start assist, which holds the car stationary for two seconds on a slope after the brakes have been released.
Base-priced at $14,495, the mid-level sedan is available for $15,695 and can go up to $17,295. You will pay slightly more for the hatchback. And with gas prices hovering around $3.50 per gallon, the Sonic will bring a smile at the fuel pump knowing you can eke 29 mpg city/40 highway from the 12.2 gallon tank.
Undoubtedly, the Sonic is a lot of car for the money. It is athletic, lively, good-looking, fuel efficient and displays a fun-to-drive attitude found lacking till now in the subcompact segment.
SONIC HATCHBACK (1.8)
Wheelbase: 99.4 inches
Length: 159 inches
Suspension: MacPherson strut front; torsion beam rear
Steering: electric power
Weight: 2,684 pounds