Detroit 2011: 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Hatchback and Sedan World Premiere

Colum Wood
by Colum Wood

Originally launched at the Paris Auto Show as the new Chevrolet Aveo, General Motors is rebranding the car as the Sonic. With the Aveo name hardly revered in the industry it’s more than just a smart marketing move, giving an all-new name to an all-new car.

Debuting at the Detroit Auto Show today in both hatchback and (for the first time) sedan forms, the Sonic will compete against established rivals in the sub-compact segment like the Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris, not to mention newcomers like the Ford Fiesta. Aiming to attract younger buyers with sporty styling, the Sonic also has power on tap with a standard 135-hp 1.8L 4-cylinder, as well as an optional 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder – both of which are borrowed from the Chevy Cruze.

No fuel economy numbers have been released but expect close to 40-mpg highway from the 1.4T engine, which in a special Cruze Eco model actually manages 42-mpg. Helping get what will no doubt be excellent fuel economy is a 6-speed automatic transmission, with the option of a 6-speed stick shift on 1.4T models.

The interior looks to be a massive leap forward from the Aveo, taking inspiration from the Cruze and using higher-grade materials. And like the Aveo RS concept from last year’s Detroit show, it retains the motorcycle-inspired instrumentation with a large, circular analog tachometer and a digital speedometer.

Designed for functionality the Sonic hatchback gets 19 cubic feet of cargo room behind the rear seats, which expands to 37 cu-ft with the seats folded flat. Chevy claims that’s better than the Fiesta, although in terms of roominess, the Fiesta is hardly a benchmark in the segment. The Sonic sedan does, however, get 15 cubic feet of space, which is roughly the same size as you might expect in a mid-size sedan.

As for features, all models will come equipped with stability control and 10 airbags, while optional goodies include remote start and heated front seats.

Pricing for the Sonic sedan and hatch will be released closer to the car’s on sale date later this year.

GALLERY: Chevrolet Sonic Hatchback

GALLERY: Chevrolet Sonic Sedan

Official release after the jump:



  • Small car with aggressive, youthful design in five-door and sedan models
  • Available Ecotec 1.4L turbo with an estimated 138 hp (103 kW)
  • Engineered for agile, athletic ride and handling
  • Smart connectivity features including MyChevrolet smart phone app
  • Only small car built in America

DETROIT – Chevrolet displayed the all-new 2012 Sonic at the North American International Auto Show. Its youthful, aggressive design is backed by turbocharged performance and agile ride and handling, combining to deliver an efficient, fun-to-drive small car.

The Sonic is offered in two body styles: a stylish four-door sedan and a sporty five-door. Each delivers class-leading rear-seat roominess and cargo space. A variety of connectivity features enhance the driving experience.

“The all-new Chevrolet Sonic blends the practicality of a small car with the passion for driving that Chevrolet vehicles like the Corvette are known for,” said Chris Perry, vice president of Chevrolet marketing. “Its combination of great design, fun driving experience and the latest connectivity features create a serious competitor with a fun spirit.”

Production of the Sonic begins later in 2011 at the General Motors Orion Assembly Center in Michigan, which received a $545-million investment in upgrades and retooling, and will help restore approximately 1,000 jobs in the metropolitan Detroit area.

“Chevrolet is the only company building a small car in the United States,” said Perry. “We believe the Sonic will bring substance to the segment, with progressive styling, performance and value that will change perceptions of what a small car can be in America.”

Sonic’s highlights include:

  • Available efficient Ecotec 1.4L turbo engine rated at an estimated 138 horsepower (103 kW) – 18 horsepower (14 kW) more than Ford Fiesta – that delivers competitive fuel economy. It’s the same engine used in the Chevrolet Cruze in a smaller, lighter package for a greater feeling of performance
  • Standard Ecotec 1.8L engine paired with five-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmissions
  • Ecotec 1.4L turbo available with a six-speed manual transmission
  • Ride and handling tuned by Chevy Corvette engineers; standard electronic power steering and StabiliTrak electronic stability control with rollover sensing
  • Sedan model offers segment-best trunk capacity that is greater than most compact cars; hatchback and sedan offer better rear-seat roominess than Ford Fiesta. With a rear seat that folds nearly flat, the Sonic hatchback has greater cargo capacity than Fiesta
  • Connectivity includes OnStar with six months of Turn-by-Turn navigation. Available features include XM Satellite Radio, USB and Bluetooth functionality and MyChevrolet mobile application with OnStar MyLink vehicle connectivity
  • Remote start, heated front seats and sunroof, all rarities in the segment
  • Comprehensive safety features include 10 standard air bags, antilock brakes, electronic brake force distribution, brake assist and OnStar with Automatic Crash Response.

Progressive exterior design

From every angle, Sonic sedan and five-door models convey strength, stability and refinement. A wide, planted stance, with wheels-at-the-corners proportions, conveys performance. Progressive, raked body lines suggest movement even when the car is stationary.

Aggressive cues, including fender flares and motorcycle-inspired round headlamps, are blended with global design cues – a dual-element grille and round taillamps – for a design instantly recognizable as Chevrolet. The leading edge of the hood forms a character line above the headlamps, which flows in a sleek side profile characterized by uninterrupted body side lines, a high beltline and low roofline. The side mirrors carry the same shape as the car and seemingly disappear into the profile.

The sedan and five-door models are distinctively different. The five-door carries a tight, two-box shape with aggressive, diving feature lines, while the sedan’s “notchback” profile has a more upscale and mature presence. At first glance, the five-door model looks like a three-door hatch because the rear door handles are discreetly located in the “C”-pillar area. The rear of the five-door continues with unconventional details, including exposed, motorcycle-inspired rear taillamps.

Details that reinforce Sonic’s quality and attention to detail include chrome grille surrounds and matte black honeycomb grille inserts on all models, while a range of large wheel sizes, including 17-inch alloy wheels, reinforces its sporty demeanor.

Inspired interior

Sonic’s cabin complements the motorcycle-inspired exterior with a detailed instrument cluster featuring a large, round analog tachometer set within an asymmetrical LCD readout, with a large digital speedometer display.

Additional interior highlights include:

  • The mid-instrument panel surface is available in two colors (dark titanium and brick) and flows seamlessly into the upper doors, with premium low-glass finishes
  • The automatic shift knob has a “cobra head” design,” while the manual shifter has a chrome-finished knob
  • Tubular outboard climate outlets protrude from the instrument panel surface.

The interior includes storage compartments in the center stack and doors. The rear seats fold flat for carrying larger items. Front bucket seats are standard and heated front seats are available.

Cruze-based powertrains

Chevrolet Sonic models are powered by efficient, power-dense, small-displacement engines, including the Ecotec 1.4L turbo and the Ecotec 1.8L – the same engines used in the new Chevrolet Cruze. Three transmissions are available: a five-speed manual and six-speed automatic with the 1.8L and a six-speed manual with the 1.4L turbo.

The Ecotec 1.4L turbo’s power ratings are estimated at 138 horsepower (103 kW) and 148 lb.-ft. of torque (200 Nm) between 1,850 rpm and 4,900 rpm. The wide rpm range for the maximum torque – a specific trait of turbocharged engines – helps the engine deliver a better driving experience and performance. Premium design elements give the engine world-class smoothness and durability. Features include:

  • Low-mass hollow-frame cast iron block
  • Dual overhead camshafts with variable valve timing
  • Chain-driven cams
  • Roller-finger camshaft followers
  • Piston-cooling oil jets and integrated oil cooler
  • Variable-flow oil pump
  • Electronically controlled thermostat.

The 1.4L’s turbocharger is integrated within the exhaust manifold, for reduced weight and greater packaging flexibility in small vehicles. A reinforced crankshaft and stronger connecting rods deliver additional strength to support the engine’s pressurized power and torque over a wide rpm band.

The naturally aspirated Ecotec 1.8L engine has many of the same features of the Ecotec 1.4L turbo. It is a compact and durable four-cylinder engine designed for low maintenance, low emissions and fuel efficiency. Its two-stage variable intake manifold allows approximately 90 percent of peak torque to be available from 2,400 rpm to 6,500 rpm. It is estimated at 135 horsepower (101 kW), along with 123 lb.-ft. of torque (167 Nm) at 3,800 rpm.

Engineered for agile, athletic ride and handling

The Sonic brings agility and a fun-to-drive feel that is rare in the segment. Engineers who also work on the Corvette tuned the Sonic’s confident ride and handling, giving it a more direct and athletic feel, while balancing the vehicle for the broad range of driving conditions in North America.

All models feature a MacPherson strut front suspension with coil springs and stabilizer bar, and a semi-independent, torsion beam axle-mount compound link-type rear suspension – featuring a robust, tubular V-shape beam – with gas-charged shocks. The front and rear tracks are identical at 59.4 inches (1,509 mm), for well-planted stability and excellent balance.

Electronic power steering is standard and features a wear compensator that continually adjusts the system interaction with the steering gear to ensure precise steering action over the life of the system.

Sonic’s body structure is designed to be one of the stiffest in the segment. Its rigidity enabled engineers to tune the ride and handling more precisely. Sonic’s unique “flat top frame” cradle, for example, assures optimal stiffness in the front chassis portion of the vehicle. The rear axle is essentially a straight axle without contour for packaging restraints and reduced noise, vibration and harshness.

A range of wheel sizes is available, including 17-inch wheels and sport tires. Power-assisted front disc and rear drum brakes are standard, along with a four-channel antilock braking system. The four-sensor system – one at each wheel – incorporates electronic brake force distribution, which balances braking performance based on such factors as road conditions and the weight of passengers and/or cargo.



Models:Sonic 4-door sedan and 5-door hatchback
Body style / driveline:4-door or 5-door, front engine, front-wheel drive, 5 passengers
Construction:unitized body/frame
EPA vehicle class:subcompact
Manufacturing location:Orion Township, Mich.
Key competitors:Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris


1.8L DOHC I-4 1.4L turbocharged DOHC I-4
Displacement (cu. in. / cc):110 / 179683.2 / 1364
Bore and stroke (in. / mm):3.17 x 3.47 / 80.5 x 88.22.85 x 3.25 / 72.5 x 82.6
Block material:cast ironcast iron
Cylinder head material:cast aluminumcast aluminum
Valvetrain:overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, double continuously cam phaser intake and exhaust (DCVCP)overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, double continuously cam phaser intake and exhaust (DCVCP)
Ignition system:individual coil on plugindividual coil on plug
Fuel delivery:sequential multi-port fuel injectors with electronic throttle controlsequential multi-port fuel injectors with electronic throttle control
Compression ratio:10.5:19.5:1
Horsepower (hp / kW @ rpm):135 / 101 @ 6300 (est.)138 / 103 @ 4900 (est.)
Torque (lb.-ft. / Nm @ rpm):125 / 168 @ 3800 (est.)148 / 200 @ 1850 (est.)
Recommended fuel:regular unleadedregular unleaded
Max engine speed (rpm):65006500
Emissions controls:close-coupled catalytic converters; Quick-Sync 58x ignition system; returnless fuel rail; fast light-off O2 sensorclose-coupled and underfloor catalytic converters; Quick-Sync 58x ignition system; returnless fuel rail; fast light-off O2 sensor
Est. fuel economy (city / hwy):TBDTBD


M32 6-speed manual (1.4L turbo)

Hydra-Matic 6T30 6-speed automatic (1.8L)

M26 5-speed manual (1.8L)

Gear ratios (:1)




























Final drive:





Front:MacPherson struts with offset coil springs and stabilizer bar
Rear:semi-independent torsion beam axle with coil springs
Steering type:column-mounted electric power steering
Steering ratio:14:1
Steering wheel turns, lock-to-lock:2.8 (15- and 16-inch wheels)

2.7 (17-inch wheels)

Turning circle, curb-to-curb (ft / m):34.5 / 10.5 (14-, 15- and 16-inch wheels)

36.1 / 11 (17-inch wheels)


Type:ventilated front disc and rear drum, with standard ABS
Rotor diameter x thickness (in / mm):10.8 / 276
Drum diameter x width (in / mm):9 / 230
Total swept area (sq in / sq cm):TBD


Wheel size and type:15-inch alloy
16-inch alloy
17-inch alloy
Tires:P195/65R15 ALS
P205/55R16 ALS
P205/50R17 ALS



Wheelbase (in / mm):99.4 / 252599.4 / 2525
Overall length (in / mm):173.1 / 4399159 / 4039
Overall width (in / mm):68.3 / 173568.3 / 1735
Overall height (in / mm):59.7 / 151759.7 / 1517
Track (in / mm):front: 59.4 / 1509

rear: 59.4 / 1509

front: 59.4 / 1509

rear: 59.4 / 1509

Curb weight (lb / kg):TBDTBD


Seating capacity (front / rear):2 / 32 / 3
Headroom (in / mm):front: 38.7 / 982 (w/o sunroof)

front: 37.6 / 956 (w/ sunroof)

rear: 37.8 / 961 (w/o sunroof)

rear: 37.8 / 961 (w/ sunroof)

front: 38.7 / 982 (w/o sunroof)

front: 37.6 / 956 (w/ sunroof)

rear: 38.1 / 968 (w/o sunroof)

rear: 38.1 / 968 (w/ sunroof)

Legroom (in / mm):front: 41.8 / 1062

rear: 34.6 / 881

front: 41.8 / 1062

rear: 34.6 / 881

Shoulder room (in / mm):front: 53.4 / 1358

rear: 53 / 1347

front: 53.4 / 1358

rear: 53 / 1347

Hip room (in / mm):front: 51.4 / 1306

rear: 51.6 / 1310

front: 51.4 / 1306

rear: 51.6 / 1310


EPA interior volume (cu ft / L):TBDTBD
Cargo volume (cu ft / L):14 / 39719 / 539 (behind rear seats)

30.7 / 869 (seats folded)

EPA passenger vol. (cu ft / L):90.4 / 256090.6 / 2565
Fuel tank (gal / L):12.1 / 45.812.1 / 45.8
Engine oil (qt / L):TBDTBD
Cooling system (qt / L):TBDTBD

Note: Information shown is current at time of publication.

Colum Wood
Colum Wood

With AutoGuide from its launch, Colum previously acted as Editor-in-Chief of Modified Luxury & Exotics magazine where he became a certifiable car snob driving supercars like the Koenigsegg CCX and racing down the autobahn in anything over 500 hp. Find Colum on <a href="">Twitter.</a>

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