Ever since the time GM announced that they would be launching an all new hatchback, there has been a buzz of whether it would still be some Korean hatch which would be unladen into North American show rooms or would be it be an all new affair. At the Detroit Motor Show, the new Chevrolet Sonic nee Aveo was finally revealed and it finally didn’t look like some Korean hatchback which was thrown unwrapped onto North American shores. Like the newer cars coming from GM’s stables, the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic is a proper made for US and exported to different parts of the world hatchback. Well, its still some time for it to be launched in North America however test mules have been spotted around and it was high time that we found out that GM are offering test drives to automobile journalists from around the world. How could we resist such an offer? Obviously it was all about driving an all new car which is scheduled to affect the US market in a big way.
First for the looks, those barrel shaped head lamps are similar to the concept car which was shown in the various auto shows around the world. The grille looks awfully similar to the one in the Mitsubishi Evo. However it definitely is an evolution from the design of the current Aveo. The multi spoke alloy wheels make a design statement especially in front of the competition that its going to take on in the name of the Honda Fit and Ford Fiesta. The deep nacelles for the fog lamps however don’t house any fog lamps. However the head lamps certainly give one assurance that they are more than up for the task. As for the wing mirrors, they are half black and half body colored. By the way, the wheels are 15 inchers. The door handles reminisce one of the Chevrolet Beat which is doing duties in rest of the parts of the world. The door handles are hidden away in the B-pillars and especially the rear ones have a small opening for them. At the rear, the car looks wider than it actually is and the tail lamps are circular ones with some innovations dialed into them. For starters there is only a single tail pipe provided. Actually this hatch looks closer to the Hyundai i20 and seems to be inspired from it.
An all black theme pervades the interiors of this car however the most radical one out of them is the use of sportsbike like instrument cluster. The all digital display which shows the fuel readout, speed, instant fuel economy and rest of the stuff is clustered to one part whereas the red tipped tachometer hints at the sportiness of the engine. An all pervading blue theme seems to be the undertone for the interiors as every instrument is backlit with this color. Like the shift lights on a motorcycle, there are various small display notations. The 3 spoke steering wheel also imitates the one on the Chevrolet Volt. It is however devoid of any additional controls. The seat fabric had a hard texture to it and it remains to be seen if GM would persist with this same fabric for the final production version. The air con blowers are very much in the same fashion as some on the hand built Bentley or Rolls Royce cars. The switchgear had a meaty feel to it plus the seats are all electrically adjustable. Finding a comfortable seating position is nary a worry. The blessing in disguise is the fact that there aren’t too many switches on the central dashboard and hence looks clutter free. Back seat space is a tad lower than the placement of the front ones and this means a compromised under thigh support. Head room also falls short of the standards set by the Honda Fit nee Jazz. As for the boot space, it is enough to fill the groceries and stuff however no big suitcases can be accommodated in it. The seats, as a saving grace, can be split 60:40 and hence bigger or long sized luggage items can be easily fit in.
High steel strength comprises the chassis part of the new 2012 Chevrolet Sonic. This means that there would not only be a good driving feel to the car but also a sufficient crash worthiness imbibed into it. The torsion beam which is highly modified, makes for the rear suspension package while the struts from MacPherson upfront ensure that they take care of the dive and other properties pretty much easily. Compound Crank is what the engineers at General Motors would like to name this suspension setup. Even though, all this tech might seem a bit out of place in this modern era, the Sonic acquits itself very nicely from the tough chore of handling like the way hot hatches are meant to do. It has a stable poise around the first set of corners that we took in the small drive. Straight line stability cannot be commented upon however it would be more or less the same as its predecessor and that means GM have done a fabulous job with this hatch. As for the ride quality, the two words “Just Perfect” would suffice all. Moreover, the wind as also tyre noise are also the least amongst small hatchbacks however we would reserve the NVH comments after we subject this car to an entire torture of a review. The steering wheel is one of the lightest units that we have experienced recently. However around the corners, it had a nice meaty feel to it which meant that we were perfectly in control of the car.
At the outset, GM would offer two engine options on the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic. One is a 1.4 liter turbocharged unit with 4 cylinders which would offer 138 Hp of power and 148 pound feet of torque. The other engine option is a higher capacity one. It is the 1.8 liter unit which pumps out the same 138 Hp of power but a lower 128 pound feet of torque. For the more powerful engine, GM have offered a 5 speed manual gearbox and also a 6 speed auto one as option. For the more powerful but smaller capacity 1.4 liter engine, there is an option of both a 6 speed auto as also manual option. We had the chance to drive the turbocharged version with an auto transmission and guess what, it felt faster than the older Aveo. Since performance cannot be timed in a test drive, we cant bring the exact figures. However one thing for sure has improved over the older car and that is braking. The combination of discs and drums do their magic of bringing this car to the halt well within safe limits. Infact, on the hard course run that the other journos were subjecting this car to, we were amazed by the lack of brake fade when we got the turn to have a spin in this car. As for the fuel efficiency figures, GM quotes 40 mpg highway figure for the 1.8 liter motor and 26 mpg for city use. While for the more powerful turbo motor, fuel efficiency figures hover around 27 mpg on the city and 38 mpg on the highway.
Safety is well adhered to by the US standards though the Sonic is yet to be crash tested. As for the prices, the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic price is yet to be decided and even a guess wouldn’t work here.