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2012 Chevrolet Sonic Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic was new.


Performance: 8.0

According to the automotive press, the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic suffers from a bit of understeer, and some shoppers will prefer the Honda Fit’s handling capabilities, but overall, they’re pleased with Chevrolet’s latest small car. They say its optional turbocharged engine offers plenty of oomph, though it won’t blow anyone away.

  • "That's not to say the Sonic was our clear favorite to drive. Like the larger Cruze, its steering is far too light, a trait that belies its accuracy. And though its six-speed manual is sufficiently smooth, it still doesn't match the Fit's five-speed for precision or its clutch-to-throttle calibration." -- Automobile Magazine 
  • "We drove the 1.4-liter turbo against the Ford and Honda on a squiggly course. All the cars felt solid and fun, so we’ll need a full road test to make some conclusions. It’s a good bet, however, that the Sonic will match or beat the Ford and Honda." -- Road and Track

Acceleration and Power

General Motors gives the Sonic the same four-cylinder engines it uses in the Chevrolet Cruze: an Ecotec turbocharged 1.4-liter and an Ecotec 1.8-liter. The 1.8-liter comes with either a five-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic, and the 1.4-liter turbo comes with a six-speed manual. The 1.8-liter engine produces 135 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque. The 1.4-liter turbo engine is more powerful, producing 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. According to the EPA, Sonic models equipped with the 1.8-liter engine average 26/35 mpg city/highway with a manual transmission, and 25/35 mpg with an automatic. Sonic models with the 1.4-liter engine and a manual transmission average 29/40 mpg.

So far, test drivers think the Sonic has some pep in its step, but they aren’t blown away by its 138-horsepower turbocharged engine. Still, they say, the Sonic can compete against the Mazda2, Ford Fiesta and Honda Fit.

  • "With a bit of tire squeal, the Sonic makes its way onto the course. A short shift into second before the first turn briefly exposes the car's weight, but once the turbo catches its breath, the car shoots energetically through the cones." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "Before our brief run in preproduction hatchback turbos, Chevy said the development team aimed to create the ‘most fun-to-drive 40-mpg vehicle’ sold in the United States. We aren't ready to agree with that statement after driving the car only on a makeshift autocross course, but it is apparent that the Sonic more than holds its own against the Fit and the Fiesta and, by extension, the Mazda 2." -- AutoWeek
  • "As engaging as the LTZ is to drive, the turbo engine feels a bit too remote. It sounds fine and there's not a trace of vibration, but it's not as responsive to the prods of the throttle as we'd like, and it doesn't match the sportiness of the chassis." -- Popular Mechanics

Handling and Braking

When reviewers tested the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic for the first time, they also had an opportunity to compare it with the Ford Fiesta and Honda Fit. After comparing these models, they say the Sonic is more nimble around curves than the Fiesta and Fit, and has a relatively smooth ride, though it is prone to understeer, which means that it turns corners wider than the driver intends.

  • "The Sonic is tight, refined and adept at soaking up road imperfections. Over a particularly pot-hole-filled road, the Sonic tracked perfectly around a bend and displayed impressive wheel control." -- Popular Mechanics
  • "This chassis balance becomes all the more evident when we set out on the track in two capable competitors - the Honda Fit and Ford Fiesta. Both of them prove much more reticent to change directions at speed and to rotate under braking. Somehow, the porky Chevy feels like a nimbler cone carver than either the Honda or the Ford." -- Automobile Magazine

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