2012 Chevrolet Sonic

Talk about déjà vu. Three hundred sixty-five days ago, General Motors showed a preview of its next-generation subcompact line at the 2010 North American International Auto Show. This year, the automaker is rolling out the finished product — the 2012 Sonic hatchback and sedan — for another Detroit debut.

This isn’t the first look we’ve had at the company’s new small car, which replaces the outgoing Aveo. The European-spec model, which continues to wear the Aveo nameplate, was launched at the Paris Motor Show in September of 2010. Both models, particularly in hatchback form, bear a striking resemblance to the wild Aveo RS concept that impressed us at last year’s Detroit auto show. One new addition for North America, however, is a notchback sedan, which blends the Sonic/Aveo’s front fascia with a chiseled four-door body that bears familial resemblance to the larger Cruze sedan.

Styling isn’t the only characteristic shared with the Cruze — North American Sonic models also share two different inline-four-cylinder engines with the subcompact offering. Base models will be fitted with a 1.8-liter I-4 capable of producing 135 horsepower and 123 pound-feet of torque, and can be paired with either a five-speed manual or a six-speed automatic gearbox. A turbocharged 1.4-liter I-4, available after the model’s initial launch, offers only three additional horsepower, but a solid 148 pound-feet of torque from 1850 to 4900 rpm. Billed as the sport-tuned offering, the turbo engine will only be offered with a six-speed manual transmission.

Like its B-segment competition, including the Honda Fit, Ford Fiesta, and Nissan Versa, the Sonic makes use of a MacPherson strut suspension up front, and a cost-effective torsion beam axle setup in back. GM claims certain features, including 59.4-inch front and rear tracks, a stiffened front cradle, and optional 17-inch wheels and sport tires, lend the Sonic a sporty feel on the road. Braking duties are performed by power-assisted discs in front and drum brakes in back, but ABS, stability control, and electronic brake force distribution are all fitted as standard equipment.

Of course, GM had to upgrade the Sonic’s interior to go along with the new looks, chassis, and powertrains. The interior of the Sonic, like the exterior, is very similar to that of the Aveo RS. The same motorcycle-style gauge cluster, with a large tachometer set next to a digital speedometer, gives the car a sporty look. The center console features a flowing design, with wraparound accents — available in either black or brick — that seamlessly connect the console, dashboard, and door panels. Materials and amenities (heated, leather front-seats are available!) are greatly improved over the Aveo.

In keeping with the jump to the 21st Century, Chevy has added a whole host of technology to the Sonic. The Sonic will be available with XM Satellite Radio capabilities, USB and Bluetooth for connecting MP3 players and mobile phones, and MyChevrolet with OnStar MyLink, which allows iPhone owners to view where they parked their car, dial roadside assistance, schedule service appointments, locate a dealer, view the health of the vehicle and more all from an iPhone.

Look for our full, live coverage of the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic from the 2011 Detroit auto show later today. The Sonic goes into production at GM’s Orion Township Assembly Center later this year and will arrive at dealerships before the end of the year.

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