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2012 Chevrolet Sonic, part 2: A cheap Chevy I don't hate

Posted by Craig Fitzgerald  March 6, 2012 04:06 PM

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(All photos: General Motors). Click photo for larger version.

This is the 2011 Chevrolet Aveo, the last of the awful American subcompacts. Overseas, the Aveo name lives on as our US-market Sonic.

American manufacturers used to make horrible subcompact cars. Finally, that time came to an end when the last Chevy Aveo slithered off the assembly line. Chevy, in particular, had fundamental issues turning out a usable small car. From the Vega through the revived Nova years, and right on up to the Aveo (a rebadged Daewoo Lanos), Chevrolet seemed to treat subcompact consumers with outright hostility. That all changes with the Sonic. I spent a six-hour ride to Vermont and back in a Sonic LTZ Turbo. In the old days, when you drove an inexpensive Chevrolet, you felt as if the entire car was giving you the finger. Cardboard door panels, wind noise at 30 mph, lousy radio, flaccid handling. This uprated Sonic, on the other hand, features truly comfortable seats, a solid audio system with XM Satellite Radio and connections for every electronic device in your arsenal, a usable instrument panel, an extremely quiet interior and surprisingly good exterior aesthetics outside.

It's as if Chevrolet was attempting to build an actual car.

You won’t climb long hills in sixth gear – a subcompact Chevy with a six-speed? Will wonders never cease? – but downshifting past fifth is unnecessary under most conditions. Fuel mileage is outstanding, and filling a 10-gallon tank makes you look down your nose at drivers filling SUVs at the pump.

Complaints are exceedingly minor. I like the idea of the fold-down armrest for the driver, but it needs to offer a little bit more of a downward angle, especially in Sonics with a manual transmission. A leftward head-check over the shoulder when changing lanes results in a B-pillar that almost completely blocks your view. The cargo area is good for not much more than a knapsack and a pair of running shoes.

That’s it, though. In total, it was an honestly enjoyable car to drive on a long trip, which is a lot more than I can say for cars like the truly awful Geo Metro. Well done.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
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AAA's Car Doctor, John Paul John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
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Craig Fitzgerald has been writing about cars, motorcycles, and the automotive industry since 1999. He is the former editor of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
In the garage: 1968 Buick Riviera, 1996 Buick Roadmaster, 1974 Honda CB450
Keith Griffin is president of the New England Motor Press Association and edits the used car section on He also writes for the Hartford Business Journal and various weekly newspapers in Connecticut.
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