The 2012 Chevrolet Sonic is an all-new, from-the-ground-up vehicle, and while its size and basic proportions aren't all that much different than those of the former Aveo, nicely contoured sheetmetal, a more elegant roofline, and fine detailing throughout give it an entirely different, more upscale (and even somewhat sporty) look and feel.
The Aveo sedan adds a few more inches of overall length compared to the hatch, though the front half of the vehicle is largely the same—as is the wheelbase. One other key design difference: while the rear doors in the hatchback are 'hidden' (located up high at the back), those in the sedan are of a more conventional design and location.
In front and in back, you won't make any mistake in identifying the Sonic; it's adorned with huge Chevy bow-tie badges. But the Sonic takes several other new Chevrolet design cues and amps them up just a little bit; for instance, the dual grille has been moved downward, centered over the front bumper, while the headlights are round, and set in a black background. Likewise, there's more blacked-out trim throughout to help provide crisper lines around the doors and hatch.
While the previous Aveo sedan was, in our opinion, the far more homely choice over the hatchback, the new Sonic sedan simply gets the proportions right—appearing from many angles as a somewhat shorter, blunted Cruze, which is not at all a bad thing. The roofline in back, with the sloping rear window and crisp decklid edge (reminding us of the upcoming 2013 Malibu), gives it a nice neat (and not bulbous) look. Especially in the hatch, the upward side crease and shapely creased wheelwells help give it more of a 'hot hatch' look. And shockingly, all 2012 Sonic models, even the base LS, come with alloy wheels.
Inside, the Sonic feels far sportier than you might expect for such an affordable vehicle. The Aveo's somewhat cockpit-like instrument panel wraps around to the doors and curves downward into a center console area, enveloping the front seat occupants. There's a new three-spoke steering-wheel design, borrowed from other recently redesigned Chevrolet models, and the V-shaped center stack very efficiently and attractively consolidates audio and climate controls. Front and center for the driver is an all-new instrument cluster, with a digital speedometer and trip meter grouped together, yet an analog tachometer, which altogether helps cement that sporty feel. While materials aren't quite on par with larger, more expensive vehicles, they're better than more budget-priced cars, and you'll find details like contrast stitching for the vinyl (leatherette) seats and contrasting, grained instrument-panel and door surfaces. Subtle chrome rings provide accents, but it doesn't go overboard with the jewelry.