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Chevy Sonic joins in the small car boom

Chevrolet unveils the 2012 Sonic, a replacement for the Aveo, at the 2012 Detroit auto show.

Chevy Sonic
The 2012 Sonic is Chevy's new small car, replacing the Aveo. Josh Miller/CNET

DETROIT - Back in 2007, GM showed three small car designs, intending to shuck its old SUV habit and cater to economic-minded buyers. After some time spent sifting the group, GM settled on one of the cars, producing it as the Chevy Spark in Europe, but not in the U.S.

After some dithering, the company came up with a new, slightly larger, less funky looking version of the Spark aimed at the U.S. This new car is called the Sonic, and replaces the current Aveo.

The Sonic is a small car, but looks substantial, with a stance reminiscent of Scion models. Some features carry over directly from the European Spark, such as the rear door handles set into the side graphic, and the compact instrument cluster module.

But the Sonic has a more conventional looking join between hood and cabin than the Spark. Engines are also appropriately sized for the U.S., with a choice of a 1.8-liter four cylinder or a turbocharged 1.4-liter.

Production begins this year, and GM is proud to point out that the Sonic will be the only small car built in the U.S., bringing 1,000 new jobs to the Detroit area.