2012 Chevrolet Sonic Preview

January 13, 2011

Things are going to get very interesting a bit later this year when the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic subcompact sedan and five-door hatchback hit the market. 2011 Honda Fit and Ford Fiesta already own a good piece of the pie, but Chevy is counting on Sonic’s appeal to win over some of the competitors’ buyers – and then some.

But it’s not just a trio in this field of contenders. There’s new competition as well, in the 2012 Hyundai Accent, 2012 Kia Rio, and the U.S. version of Nissan Micra. Just what we like here at Family Car Guide – a good, healthy influx of fresh new products to keep things exciting for family small car consumers.

Debuting at the 2011 Detroit Auto Show, the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic is all about nifty design details, better interior room than Honda Fit, expected five-star government safety ratings (10 standard airbags, electronic stability control, traction control, and anti-lock brakes), shared Cruze powertrains, anticipated 40 mpg fuel economy, standard OnStar hardware with six months free turn-by-turn navigation, optional remote start, heated front seats, and more.  Read more about Sonic’s Detroit debut in Marty Padgett’s story in The Car Connection.

Quick Sonic stats

Here’s what we know. Sonic will be available in four-door sedan and five-door hatchback models. Size-wise, Sonic sedan sits on a 99.4-inch wheelbase and is 173.1 inches long. The Sonic hatchback is 159 inches in length. Relative to its slightly larger sibling Chevrolet Cruze, Sonic is 2 inches narrower, 6 inches shorter in wheelbase, 11 inches shorter overall, and 500 pounds lighter.

The Sonic is expected to share the same powerplants as Cruze: 135-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine (base) and optional 138-horsepower 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. Five-speed manual is standard in the base model, with five-speed automatic optional. A six-speed manual will go in the turbo.

Interior room is expected to be best-in-class – better than Fit – with 14 cubic feet of trunk storage in the Sonic sedan and 19 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seat, and more than 30 cubic feet with the rear seat folded down.

2010 sales of competition

Gauging how the Chevy Sonic will fare against the competition is anyone’s guess. Expect some pretty intense marketing on the part of Chevrolet to amp up consumer interest in the new small car.

Media reports have mentioned the all-new 2011 Ford Fiesta’s disappointing sales – totaling 23,273 in 2010 – but it only takes a spike in gasoline prices to $4.00 or more ($5.00-plus in California) this summer to change that sales picture dramatically.

The Honda Fit, on the other hand, saw a decrease of 18.7 percent in 2010 sales of 54,354 (from year earlier sales numbers of 67,315).

The Sonic replaces the Chevy Aveo, which last year sold 48,623 units, up 26.2 percent from 2009 sales of 38,516.

Price needs to be right

There’s also the little matter of price to consider. The Ford Fiesta, which reviewers (including The Car Connection) have applauded as fun to drive, carries base prices of $13,210 to $17,120. The Honda Fit, similarly hailed as fun to drive, starts at $15,100 to $19,200. Both cars received a Consumer Guide Best Buy accolade for 2011.

As for Chevy Aveo, its price was certainly affordable, ranging from $11,965 to $15,365. If Chevy prices Sonic appropriately, the new subcompact’s entry into the marketplace could make for a small car showdown worth watching.

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