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Roadshow Video Reviews
2012 Chevy SonicThe 2012 Chevy Sonic is a small car with a lot of power that might just surprise you.
-We'd long had this little mustard yellow Chevy Avia on the CNET car tech garage. It's our test mule for electronics. I've never driven it. I never will. I'm afraid to be seen on it, but that's changing when it comes to bottom of Chevy's line. This bottom ain't bottom anymore. This is what replaces the Aveo, the 2012 Sonic LTZ Turbo. Let's check it out. Don't mind if I do and check the tech. Now, in the car in this price point, you're never gonna get super luxu materials, but they are definitely a step up from the Aveo. Instrument cluster real different motorcycle inspired big analog tuck on the left. Everything else is digital on the blue screen to the right including your own speedometer, which is relatively unusual in car in this price class to have that digital only. Here is the head unit and it always looks like this. There is never an LCD here. This car doesn't offer integrated map or vehicle control on a big screen, but you got a bright screen, bright blue, easy to read with basic options. Now, if you do a totally basic sonic, not even a turbo, you're gonna get AM/FM and that aux jack and that's it, not even a CD. CDs and upgrade, satellite radios and upgrade, also USB for you tom driver iPad, and on the higher trim cars, you got Bluetooth handsfree calling and Bluetooth audio streaming. So, you end up with a pretty nice array of stuff here, but the only thing it's missing is no ability to go to premium sound. The best you can do is go from 4 speakers to 6 and no HD radio. Oh that's a small thing, but these 2 kind of nasty looking vehicles up on the side of the center stock a real handy. Now, on most Sonic, non-turbos, you get a base 5 speed manual for about a grand more, a 6-speed automatic, kind of an advance gearbox. On this car being a turbo, on choice only, and that is a 6-speed manual. If you don't like using a clutch, you don't wanna buy a Sonic Turbo. Okay, now, our Sonic is a turbo. The base Sonic would not be this who would naturally aspirated to feel injected 1.8 liter for, kind of garden variety stuff giving you 138 horsepower, same horsepower on the turbo. So, what's the point. Well, it's a 1.4 liter turbo, they get more torque out of it, 23 foot pounds more bringing that up from 125 to 148, moves the car from 0-60 in 8 seconds instead of like 8.8 and gives you better MPG, 29-40, instead of 26-35 with the standard car. So, they are using the turbo here as much for efficiency as they are for performance and drivability. Okay now, on the road, the first thing I notice in the Sonic Turbo is that it's a 1.4 liter, not without turbo. It prints small engine before it prints turbo engine. On you learn to modulate the throttle the way it wants, you can get decent and reliable power on it, but I'll do often when I jump on it, need something. It's just not there or it's a full second away. Suspension and handling are just fine. In fact, it's more of a ride quality story than it is a handling story. It doesn't have the sharpness that I remember from the Honda Fit sport for example nor the power availability from the Ford Fiesta, but it doesn't do a bad job meddling either, and the overall quality of the cabin is quite good, nothing rattles or feels cheap. I'm not getting any bad road noise or vibration. That's a key win on a car in this class is for it to feel inside more like it's a cruise than a Sonic and I think they've largely nail that. Okay, the bottom line on the Sonic, this is a big car for Chevy. It's a clean sheath design made in the US, unlike the Aveo. It's also important, I think, right now. This car comes in around 20 or so as a turbo loaded up all CNET style, which isn't too lavish, but it's got the basics. As we saw, drivability, real nice, you won't feel like you're in as cheap a car as it is. Main competition: Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, and definitely Hyundai Accent. It doesn't dominate any of those cars, but it competes on MPG, power and value nicely across the board.