Used Car Review

2012 Chevrolet Sonic: Used Car Review

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Used 2012 Chevrolet Sonic LTZ Sedan
Used 2012 Chevrolet Sonic
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author photo by Ron Sessions January 2015

The 2012 Chevrolet Sonic represented a significant upgrade over the Aveo that preceded it. With a stiff new structure, ride and handling developed by Corvette engineers, and a proven powertrain portfolio adapted from the heavier Chevy Cruze, the Sonic squared off against established subcompact contenders such as the Ford Fiesta and Honda Fit. Both 4-door sedan and 5-door hatchback models were offered, with the hatch being about 14.1 inches shorter than the sedan but providing up to 31 cu ft. of cargo space with the rear seat folded down. The U.S-built Sonic can deliver up to 40 miles per gallon on the highway with the optional 1.4-liter turbo 4-cylinder engine and 6-speed manual transmission. Innovative styling touches include motorcycle-inspired headlamps and dashboard instruments.

A used Sonic provides an impressive interior package, comfort and sporty handling, and a fuel-efficient subcompact layout, plus Chevrolet parts and servicing are readily available.

What We Like

Choice of sedan or hatchback body styles; good fuel economy from 1.4-liter turbo engine; communicative steering; roomy trunk; motorcycle dash design; 10 standard airbags

What We Don't

Cramped rear seat; disappointing fuel economy with 1.8-liter engine; hard-plastic door armrests; heavy for its size

Fuel Economy & Engine Specs

The 2012 Chevy Sonic has two available engines, which are both shared with the larger Chevy Cruze. Both are rated at 138 horsepower, but they have very different performance characteristics. The Sonic's standard engine is a 1.8-liter, dual-overhead-camshaft (DOHC) 4-cylinder with four valves per cylinder and continuously variable intake and exhaust cam phasing. The 1.8-liter must be revved to a lofty 6,300 rpm to make its 138 hp and produces just 125 lb-ft of peak torque at 3,800 rpm. It burns regular unleaded gas and is the only engine available on the base Sonic LS. The 1.8-liter is rated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as getting 26 mpg city/35 mpg hwy with the standard 5-speed manual transmission and 25 mpg city/35 mpg hwy with the optional 6-speed automatic.

The Sonic LT and LTZ are available with the optional 1.4-liter turbo. The turbocharged 1.4-liter DOHC turbo 4-cylinder also produces 138 hp but at a more accessible 4,900 rpm. It also develops a more robust 148 lb-ft of torque at 2500 rpm, so it doesn't have to work as hard in traffic. The turbocharger kicks in at low speed, so there is no noticeable turbo lag. It, too, runs on regular unleaded (although premium will help its performance in hot desert climates) and is EPA-rated at 29 mpg city/40 mpg hwy with the 6-speed manual and 27 mpg city/37 mpg hwy with the 6-speed automatic.

Standard Features & Options

The 2012 Chevrolet Sonic is available in LS, LT and LTZ trims.

Typical LS equipment includes air conditioning, cloth upholstery, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver's seat, a fold-down center driver's armrest, automatic headlamps, remote keyless entry, OnStar communications system with turn-by-turn navigation, a 4-speaker AM/FM stereo, 15-in alloy wheels, stability and traction control, anti-lock brakes, 10 airbags and power door locks. An upgraded 6-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo with MP3 playback, SiriusXM satellite radio, Bluetooth and USB functionality is optional.

Moving up to the LT adds heated power mirrors, power front windows, upgraded cloth trim, an uplevel 6-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo with SiriusXM satellite radio, Bluetooth and a USB port. Optional on the LT trim is cruise control, steering-wheel audio controls, wider 205/55 tires on 16-in alloy wheels, fog lamps, and the 1.4-liter turbo and 6-speed manual transmission.

The range-topping LTZ comes standard with cruise control, heated front seats, leatherette upholstery, the uplevel 6-speaker stereo with steering-wheel audio controls, fog lamps and 205/50 tires on 17-in alloy wheels. The 1.4 turbo engine, remote start, a power sunroof and a rear spoiler are all optional.


The Sonic may be the best subcompact Chevy in decades, but it lacks the track record of offerings from more established small-car brands such as Toyota and Honda. Steeper depreciation, however, means there will be some bargains out there, especially in the used-car lots of competing brands.

To get an idea of the 2012 Sonic's price range, check out the Kelley Blue Book used-car values at You can also search the AutoTrader Classifieds to see what models are for sale in your area.


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced the following recalls for the 2012 Sonic:

The driver-side airbag may short out and not deploy in a crash.

The windshield washer hose may separate from the reservoir. The lack of washer fluid may restrict visibility and increase crash risk.

The automatic transmission turbine shaft on Sonics with the 1.8-liter engine may fracture, increasing crash risk.

Exposed wires on the optional engine block heater risk electrical shock when the heater is plugged in.

Some Sonics were built without one of the front brake pads, affecting brake performance.

Recall repairs are required by law even if the vehicle is out of warranty. Your dealer can check to see if the repairs were performed, and if not, will fix the car at no charge to you.

Safety Ratings & Warranties

NHTSA gave the 2012 Chevy Sonic five stars for frontal- and side-impact tests and four stars for rollover performance.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the 2012 Sonic a Marginal rating for small-overlap front impacts and a Good rating for moderate-overlap front impacts, side impacts, roof strength and for head-restraint and seat crash performance.

General Motors covered the 2012 Sonic with a 3-year/36,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, a 5-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty with roadside assistance and a 6-year/100,000-mile corrosion-perforation warranty.

Chevrolet certified pre-owned (CPO) cars cannot have more than 75,000 miles on the odometer and must be 5 years old or less. Every CPO Sonic undergoes a 172-point inspection. Those that pass receive a 12-month/12,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty, plus whatever remains on the transferable, original 5-year/100,000-mile powertrain coverage. Also included is a 2-year/24,000-mile maintenance plan with roadside assistance.

Other Cars to Consider

2012 Ford Fiesta -- Also available as a 4-door sedan or 5-door hatchback, the Fiesta delivers sporty handling, good fuel economy (up to 40 mpg hwy with the optional Super Fuel Economy Package) and the latest in infotainment and safety systems. A 120-hp 1.6-liter 4-cylinder is the only engine choice. However, the rear seat is cramped, the dash design is very busy and the 6-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is jerky.

2012 Honda Fit -- This subcompact 5-door hatch is 3-feet shorter than a Honda Crosstour, but offers more interior space due to innovative packaging that places the gas tank under the front seat. Despite its mini-minivan look, the Fit is fun to drive, making the most of its 117-hp 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine.

AutoTrader's Advice

Unless you absolutely need a trunk, go for the Sonic hatchback. It's more than a foot shorter than the sedan, easier to park and maneuver, and has far more cargo space inside with the rear seat folded down. The base 1.8-liter isn't a bad engine, but it won't deliver the fuel economy and performance that makes the 1.4 turbo-powered Sonic so much fun to drive. When available, opt for a Chevrolet CPO Sonic, and always check with the dealer to make sure the car you're considering has had all recall items resolved.

Find a Chevrolet Sonic for sale

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Used 2012 Chevrolet Sonic LTZ Sedan
Used 2012 Chevrolet Sonic
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: Used Car Review - Autotrader