1. Chevrolet Sonic
And our number one pick for the most surprisingly good car of 2012 is the Chevrolet Sonic. GM has invested heavily in reinventing itself in the small category and it’s working. First came the Cruze and now the Sonic, a car that delivers as promised, with a stylish 5-door hatchback that out-powers all rivals and is genuinely fun to drive.
What makes this such a shocker is because of how far behind GM has lagged in the small car segment. To call its predecessor, the Aveo, lacklustre, would have been a compliment. The new interior, while not faultless from a materials perspective, is definitely unique with its motorcycle inspired gauges, plus the Sonic comes with goodies like hill-hold assist (manual transmission models), 10 airbags and standard alloy wheels. The base 1.8L 4-cylinder is passable, while a 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder can be had for just $700 extra. It makes 138-hp, tying the Accent for the most power in the sub-compact class, while 148 lb-ft of torque is significantly more than any rival. Plus, the tiny 4-banger gets 29/40 mpg.
On top of all this, the Sonic hatchback offers solid cargo room and a reasonably sized rear seat area, two qualities the Ford Fiesta certainly can’t claim.