Bottom line: The new Sonic is a credible competitor in the small car wars, much more so than its predecessor, the Chevrolet Aveo. But the new car is still surrounded by capable rivals.
Ride, acceleration, handling: Ride and acceleration are very good. But you can’t press the Sonic too hard in curves, where it can wobble a bit when pushed.
Body style/layout: The 2012 Sonic LT hatchback is a front-engine, front-wheel-hatchback with four side doors and a rear hatch. It comes as a sedan with four side doors and a notchback trunk. As a sedan and car, it is offered as the base LT, mid-line LT and top-line LTZ.
Standard engine and transmission for the Sonic LT: It comes with a 1.8-liter, double overhead-cam, 16-valve, inline four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing (138 horsepower, 125 foot-pounds of torque). The engine is mated to a five-speed manual gearbox.
Mileage for the Sonic LT hatchback: You get 26 miles per gallon in the city and 35 miles on the highway, which is industry competitive, although it falls below 40 miles per gallon highway for the GS. If you want to be in the 40+ miles per gallon in the subcompact club, driving a Sonic, you need to get GM’s available turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which delivers up to 43 miles per gallon on the highway. Regular gas is okay for all Sonic cars. But premium generally works best with turbocharged models.
Capacities: Comfortable seating for four people. Five is a crowd in this car. Cargo capacity with back seats up is 19 cubic feet. With back seats down, it’s 30.7 cubic feet. The fuel tank holds 12.2 gallons of gasoline.
Safety: Standard equipment in the 2012 Sonic LT hatchback includes ventilated front discs/rear drums (not ideal, but works fine in this application); four-wheel antilock brake protection; emergency braking assistance; electronic brake force distribution; electronic stability and traction control; OnStar emergency communication system with a free, six-month trial subscription; 10 air bags-including two front knee bags, side and head air bags; and electronic police notification and tracking in case your Sonic is stolen.
Price for the 2012 Sonic LT hatchback: The base price on that model is $15,735. Dealer’s invoice price is $15,106. Price as tested is $17,240, including $75 for optional oil pain heater (recommended for snowy climates); $260 for special wheels and fog lamps, both optional; and $375 for the available communications connectivity package. Add a $760 destination fee. Dealer’s price as tested with those options/fees is $16,522. This car is selling reasonably well, which means GM is stingy with rebates. Compare with Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Hyundai Accent, and Toyota Yaris and Corolla.