With the added torque from the 1.4-litre turbocharged engine, the Sonic moves sprightly from a stop light, however it is easy to spin a wheel on slick surfaces. On snow covered streets, the Sonic’s standard traction control came into play quite frequently, as did its 4-wheel anti-lock braking system. In contrast, the standard stability control rarely entered the game as the Sonic performed well, being stable and predictable on slushy and icy surfaces.
On the freeway, the 1.4-litre displayed good acceleration from 80 to 120 km/h when downshifted to fourth gear. Fifth and sixth are mainly for fuel saving, which the 1.4 does well, with an Energuide rating of 7.3 L/100 km in the city and 5.1 L/100 km highway. With a combined rating of 6.3 L/100 km, it is 0.5 L/100 km more fuel efficient than the 1.8-litre engine. During our week of real world driving, the Sonic recorded 6.9 L/100 km in mostly city driving.
2012 Chevrolet Sonic LTZ sedan. Click image to enlarge
The Sonic sedan is fairly light, weighing 1,273 kg (2,806 lbs) in LTZ trim and strong cross winds are noticeable, but not overpowering. The car’s front MacPherson strut, rear torsion beam suspension does a decent job of cushioning the occupants from the frost heaves that have already appeared on Ottawa streets without losing touch with the road. The electric power steering is nicely balanced and the car feels quick and nimble, great attributes when running around shopping at Christmas.
The quality of materials, the headliner and dash covering, was better than I expected. Metallic trim on the steering wheel, centre console, knobs and shifter brightens up the interior. But the centerpiece of the dash is the compact instrument gauge that combines a digital speedometer with an analogue tachometer, resembling motorcycle instrumentation. Within this space is also housed the temperature and fuel gauge, and the driver information centre with trip meter, exterior temperature display, compass, oil life monitoring system and fuel consumption.
The front seats are comfortable and supportive and with manual fore and aft, up and down, and lumbar adjustment. Combined with a tilt and telescoping steering wheel, it is easy to find a comfortable seating position. Rear seat leg room is limited when the front seats are in their rear most position. Travelling with five adults required some comfort adjustments for the front sear passengers.
The rear seat folds 60/40 and nearly flat allowing the relatively large trunk to be extended into the rear passenger area. The Sonic sedan has 539 litres (19 cu. ft.) of space behind the rear seats and 869 litres (30.7 cu. ft.) with the seats folded.
I’ve thought quite a while about the Sonic sedan’s exterior styling. The hatchback is quite distinctive with its squared back and pinned-to-the-rear rear wheels. But the sedan looks more generic, rather conservative and similar in appearance to other subcompact sedans that maximize space on a short platform. However, GM’s designers have given the Sonic a distinctive Chevrolet grille with chrome surrounds and matte black honeycomb inserts and distinctive headlights and taillights that continue the motorcycle theme. Viewed from the front, there is no doubt this is a Chevrolet.
With a $545 million investment in its Orion Assembly Centre outside of Detroit, GM is betting heavily on the success of the Sonic in North America. It is the only subcompact currently built in North America and the decision to build it here added 1,000 new jobs to the Detroit area.
The subcompact class is one of the most competitive, rapidly changing and intensely innovative in the automotive industry, and important to all manufacturers working to meet ever stringent fuel consumption targets. With the Sonic, GM has a car that can compete with subcompacts from overseas.
Pricing: 2012 Chevrolet Sonic LTZ sedan