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Quick Spins: 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Turbo

Jeff Glucker September 18, 2012 Chevrolet Reviews, Reviews 43 Comments

For years eons, Chevrolet has coughed up small cars with a quality level that made the buyers understand that the automaker actually hates them. If you bought an Aveo, General Motors would send a pack of 16-year-old bullies to your house to stand on the corner and make fun of you until you started crying. Thankfully though, those days are long gone, and the bow-tie-badge loving brand has developed an affinity for the A, B, and C segment machines that flow forth from its assembly plants around the world. One of those vehicles is the Chevrolet Sonic… and it’s quite good.

The Chevy Sonic is available in both sedan and hatchback body styles, and it doesn’t take a casual reader of the site to figure out which we prefer here in the Redusernab. The sedan looks fine as a crunched down Cruze, but the hatchback looks awesomely aggressive despite its relatively small stature. Both body styles are available with something special though, and you’ll know what we mean with a cursory look at the ass end of the car.

See that badge that says “Turbo”?

Under the hood sits a 1.4-liter four-banger that benefits from forced induction. Thanks to the happy snail, this mighty little mill pumps out 138 horsepower and a surprisingly delightful tune. Paired with the six-speed manual gearbox, the Sonic Turbo becomes a true sub-compact play thing that is a pleasure to drive on your favorite stretch of bendy tarmac. The steering is on target, the brakes don’t have to work hard to haul in the low curb weight, and if you feel like driving responsibly you could (possibly) hit 40 miles per gallon on the highway.

You’ll need to shell out at least $17,000 to get the turbo, but that peanuts in a world where most good cars seem to start at $25,000 and up.

  • A turbo in a compact does not make up for the Aveo, GM. It helps right some wrongs, but not all.

  • pj134

    So Mr. Gluucker, Sonic Turbo, Dart (turbo'd), Abarth or Veloster Turbo. Who wins in your book?

    • Plecostomus

      I would love to see a Redusernab Head To Head budget turbo FWD-econobox showdown

    • Haven't drive the Dart yet… but I'd take Veloster Turbo over the Sonic only because MOAR POWER. Fiat is out of the running due to lack of head room and the odd driving position.

      I'm really curious about the Sonic RS though… which I drive next week.

      • pj134

        Get the RT Dart and then your world tour of cars that would be good for my 30 mile each way with very little highway commute.

        Is power the only thing that makes the Veloster better?

        The FIAT sounds so good though… maybe the RT with the 2.0 versino of it will be more appropriate.

  • If GM could retool the large "HYBRID" sticker from the Tahoe to say "TURBO!!!" and slap it on this puppy, I'd have to consider it.

    • Preludacris

      Your local sign shop could do that!
      -Local Sign Shop Employee

      • Plecostomus

        Can my local sign shop make up some really awesome 80's turbo graphics for it, ones so large they should be visible from space, a la real 80's TURBO cars?

        • Devin

          Did someone say AWESOME 80's TURBO GRAPHIX?

          <img src=";

          Oh, no? Never mind then. Keith Courage and I will just go off on our own.

    • jeepjeff

      But it still wouldn't have turbo seat belts.

      • Dean Bigglesworth

        Maybe not, but some Max Racing seat belt pads should more than make up for that.

        <img src="; width="600" img>

        • Vairship

          Yes, because THAT's what I want: seat belts that are made in China. It's not as if your life might depend on them some day…

    • Jay

      That would upset weight distrib too much.

    • BAMacPherson

      Only the coolest cars have TURBO emblazoned on the side.

      <img src="; width="600">

      • FuzzyPlushroom

        <img src=";

  • rpdred6

    This is such a fun little car, drove one last fall

  • failboat

    <img src=";

    sorry, its a cheap effort. but at the time I felt like someone needed to do something.

  • thomasmac

    I really like the sedan, its a shame in Canada one has to buy the LTZ to get the 1.4 turbo engine, you guys can get it as an option for the LT IIRC. When I read reviews that say its like a mini GTI I can`t help but want one. Definantly on the list when my girlfriend`s Grand Am bites the dust

    • Devin

      The base engine isn't bad, actually, though naturally the turbo is a turbo. I looked at one just because I'm considering whether I want to keep my current vehicle or get a shiny new thing because I am like a magpie and new and shiny things are appealing. Anyway, drives really well, sounds not bad, it's almost unbelievable that it came from the same company as the Aveo. If the turbo is better it's got to be pretty damn good.

      One thing I discovered is that GM Canada likes to shove a big sticker on there – the one I drove was dangerously close to $20k – but then give you a big pile of incentives to get a nice looking payment – the payment on the one I was given was much less than the payment of the last $20k car I drove. It seems like a risky strategy to me though, sticker shock could scare people into the arms of a different brand. Hell, I wasn't even thinking about it because the Elantra GT is theoretically the same price.

      • thomasmac

        When I went to look at the Sonic a couple weeks ago they also alluded to a Cruze being very close in price and getting one of those instead, a car I am not very interested in. I really like the sporting intentions of the Sonic over the Cruze. The financing and incentives certainly do help with the price of this car. Thanks for the insight on the 1.8, really looking forward to driving one when we are closer to buying.

        • Devin

          I think the only thing I didn't like about the Sonic is the size, I'm used to something bigger and on occasion have to carry big things, so I keep thinking I'm already at the bare minimum in size. The space is well used, but I might already be in the smallest vehicle that is practical for my own needs.

          The Cruze, of course, is not available in hatchback. I told the salesman I'd be open to a Cruze if it was in hatchback form, but I don't think he has that power.

          • Wait until you see the Spark then…

            • Devin

              I have seen the Spark, someone in town even bought a pink one. It is as tiny as you say, and even if I could probably live with a Sonic I'm pretty sure I couldn't pull off living with a Spark.

              Also that pink is a pretty terrible color but I was actually wearing a bright pink shirt yesterday so maybe I'm not one to judge.

      • Mr. SMee

        Yikes, near $20K! Every time I go to a car manufacturer's web site and price a small car out, I am immediately aware of some of the far more impressive used cars I could buy for the price of a new one like this. How about a BMW, Infiniti or Lexus? If it's one of the less sporty models it's likely been well-maintained by a dealer. And, if a CPO warranty isn't available, newer cars are generally very reliable anyway.

        • Devin

          I actually prefer something like this over a luxury brand for a daily driver. Cheap to run, easy to service – BMW parts aren't thick on the ground in my town – and still a bit of fun for when I want it to be. Plus my daily driver must be a hatchback with a manual – that combo of practicality and fun is perfect when you can't really run more than one thing – and that means I'd probably have to step into an X1 or something else which I don't want.

          Everyone has different priorities.

          • C³-Cool Cadillac Cat

            Agreed, Devin!

            I like used luxury, 'cause I spend a lot of time in my vehicles, commuting.

            Though, this last time, a used Fit was in the running with a 2006 Jaaaaaag XJ Super V8 I never stopped searching for and the 2005 STS V8 I eventually purchased.

  • failboat

    This is one of the few cars I like the looks of the sedan better than the hatchback. The ass end of the hatchback still looks too Aveo to me.

  • Scandinavian Flick

    A hundred and thirty eight hp were challenged by Chevy to vie
    For the money that you have on compact cars you want to buy
    Any man that will not buy a crossover
    But if you want to compete you'd better fly
    And the end of this endeavor was surely nigh
    Hey Chevrolet we're killing your sales numbers below
    That men wherever they go will remember the Aveo

    Edit in case the reference source is too vague…

  • Dean Bigglesworth

    Here in Uurop, the engines range from 70hp 1.2l to 115hp 1.6l, including a 75hp 1.3l turbodiesel. It is one of the better looking cars in this segment but sadly no 1.4T. And it's still called AVEO.

    • I thought it was spelled Yurp.

      <img src=";

      • Dean Bigglesworth

        <img src="; img>

      • Number_Six

        Bigglesworth is using the Finnish spelling but he missed an umlaut for even more furrin effect: Uürop.

    • BAMacPherson

      I can't understand why we don't get the diesel options in these little cars in NA. I was looking at an iQ recently with the 1.3L (94 hp and 91 torques). But elsewhere, they get a 1.4 diesel with 89 horsepowers, but 140 torques. ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY!! I'd trade a 5% loss of hp for a 55% bump in torque. That thing would be blast to rip around in… *sigh* I guess I'll have to move.

  • TurboBrick

    That instrument cluster looks interesting. Quite an upgrade over the "Giant speedo(meter) and some idiot lights" motif of old econoboxes.

  • Like your opening paragraph, Jeff. You're channeling Clarkson.

    • Jeff Glucker

      Thanks, I felt my reviews have been boring lately so I wanted to make it up to you guys and gals.

      • BAMacPherson

        You're a real Jeremy Clarkshoon.

    • Tiller188

      Glad I'm not the only one who read that "…and it's quite good" in full-on Clarkson drama.

  • MVEilenstein

    Please tell me the No Dumping sign was intentional. Please.

    • chrystlubitshi

      my thoughts exactly.

  • lilpoindexter

    KOOL! Now I know what I will be driving in 2022.

  • ptmeyer84

    Drove this and the Mazda2 back to back and bought the Mazda. The Mazda was so much more fun to drive even though it was slower. The steering felt numb and bland in the Chevy and the throws were so much longer. Great car though, love that GM made a quality small car for once!

  • Another viewpoint:

    Basically, CR thought it was a solid if slightly heavy car, and handling on the LTZ hatchback version was good. Their complaints re: the Turbo version are that the 6-speed trans has lousy shifter and too-tall gearing, and there are sportier options for price.