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2012 Chevrolet Sonic - 2011 Detroit Auto Show

January 2011 author photo


January 10, 2011

“Uh-VAY-oh.” “AH-vee-oh.” What is the correct pronunciation for Chevrolet’s subcompact model? For 2012, Chevy has a hint: it is pronounced “Sonic.”

GM is ditching the puzzling name, and it hopes, with it, the utter disregard consumers have shown its small car. The company promises that the 2012 Sonic is a clear move upmarket. One important change: while the Aveo was designed and built by GM’s Korean affiliate Daewoo, the Sonic will be assembled in Michigan, the only small car made in America.

Domestic assembly and use of the turbocharged 138-hp 1.4-liter engine seen currently in the Cruze promise dramatic change, and visibly aggressive exterior lines backed by motorcycle instrument-inspired gauge layout write a lot of checks. We’ll have to wait until the media drive introduction to find out whether Sonic can cash them.

Chris Perry, vice president of marketing for Chevrolet is paid to be enthusiastic about the car, but he’s writing some dubious checks on the Sonic’s account too, with claims like “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.”

We’ll be happy if the Sonic compares favorably with the Honda Fit and Ford Fiesta. Or maybe the Civic and Focus.

It is hard to be sure where the Sonic will fit, with the Spark sliding in beneath it in the product line. Unlike other subcompacts, the Sonic will be available in both four-door sedan and five-door hatch models. The base powertrain is the 135-hp 1.8-liter Ecotec four-cylinder with either a six-speed automatic or five-speed manual transmission, while the optional turbo employs a six-speed manual transmission.

The styling inside and out is handsome, though the interior materials remain a notch short of “nice” by most definitions of the term. Apparently following W.C. Fields’ sterling guidance, Chevy appears to have concluded that if they can’t dazzle customers with brilliance, they will baffle them with some new electronics

In this case that takes the form of the MyChevrolet remote control smart phone app like the one seen in TV commercials remotely starting a Chevy Volt. And unlocking the doors, checking the fuel level and tire pressure. OK, consider us baffled, these are cool widgets, especially in concert with OnStar, satellite radio, Bluetooth connectivity and available seat heaters. We’re suckers for seat heaters this time of the year, especially in Detroit.

GM says that following a $545 million retooling, the Orion Assembly Center will start cranking out Sonics sometime later this year.

DAN CARNEY is a veteran auto industry observer who has written for, Motor Trend, AutoWeek, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, Better Homes and Gardens and other publications.  He has authored two books, "Dodge Viper" and "Honda S2000" and is a juror for the North American Car of the Year award.  Carney covers the industry from the increasingly strategic location of Washington, D.C.

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2012 Chevrolet Sonic - 2011 Detroit Auto Show - Autotrader