General Motors is showing signs of truly bucking its history of giving small cars short shrift in many areas. With all-new 2012 Chevrolet Sonic that arrives later this fall, along with the excellent new Chevrolet Cruze that's one of our best-rated small cars, GM is shaping up to have a fully competitive—and very safe—lineup of fresh new small cars.
Further evidence it's not just talk: The Sonic isn't even on sale yet, however the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has already crash-tested it—and the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic earned an excellent set of scores, including top 'good' ratings in frontal and side impact tests, rollover safety, and rear protection.
The ratings are a world better than those of the 2011 Chevrolet Aveo that it replaces. The Aveo has been one of the poorest-performing small cars with respect to safety, with an 'acceptable' score in frontal protection and just 'marginal' ratings in the other categories.
In the Institute's roof-strength test, which applies a force to a particular area of the roof for deformation—related to the likelihood of injury in a rollover—the 2012 Sonic also performed admirably, withstanding 5.37 times its weight. Vehicles with a strength-to-weight ratio of 4 or better score a 'good' rating, while the outgoing 2011 Chevrolet Aveo could only withstand 3.09 times its weight, the IIHS points out.
The 2012 Sonic includes ten standard airbags—including driver and front passenger knee bags—plus a new body structure that includes a safety-ring construction and increased use of high-strength steel.
Electronic stability control and anti-lock braking are also standard on the Sonic, though like most budget-priced small cars, the Sonic has rear drum brakes rather than four-wheel discs. But the Sonic is loaded with other conveniences that might also be seen as safety features. For instance, an electronic hill-holder—to keep the vehicle from rolling back on hill starts—is standard. OnStar Directions and Connections services, with automatic crash response and stolen vehicle assistance, are also included.
The 2012 Chevrolet Sonic has essentially the same engine lineup as the larger Cruze, and with much-improved handling and a sportier look and driving feel, it looks like Chevy has the likes of the Ford Fiesta and Hyundai Accent fully within its sights.
Stay tuned for an official First Drive and full review—and in the mean time, take a look at our quick preview-drive impressions of the 2012 Sonic.