Detroit 2011: Chevrolet Sonic Sedan and Hatchback Break Cover

Chevrolet made small changes to its Aveo subcompact offering over the years, but didn’t bless the model with any major revisions during its eight-year run in North America. However, the 2012 model year promises an upgraded design inside and out, improved mechanicals, and a new name: Sonic.

General Motors pulled the wraps off the 2012 Sonic at a press conference held Monday evening, but the seeds for its new model were seemingly planted at last year’s Detroit show. In 2010, the automaker showed off the Aveo RS concept to preview its new subcompact range, and true to designers’ promises, the Sonic — particularly in hatchback form — is almost a dead ringer for the show car.

Like Chevrolet’s other small cars, the Sonic is a global vehicle, although the name isn’t. We first saw the production hatchback (as an Aveo) at last year’s Paris show, but the Detroit venue was the first debut of the new four-door sedan bodystyle. Despite the involvement of GM’s global engineering staff, plenty of development work was performed here in the U.S. — in fact, GM vice president Mark Reuss says the Corvette chassis engineers helped fine-tune ride and handling to ensure the U.S.-spec car is enjoyable to drive.

We’ll reserve judgment until we actually receive some time behind the wheel, but it certainly seems GM has tried to inject some livelihood into what was previously a boring econobox. A 1.8-liter I-4 is standard, but the Sonic will be offered with a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-banger later on, which pumps out 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet from 1850-4900 rpm. Although the 1.8-liter is offered with a five-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission, the turbo engine is only paired with a six-speed manual transaxle.

We’re impressed with what we see — designers have managed to bless the Sonic with a commendable amount of style (particularly in hatchback form), and the interior is a huge improvement over what was offered in the Aveo. Hot hatch freaks may also enjoy the Z-Spec concept, which GM rolled out as a means to showcase how owners could eventually personalize the Sonic.

Unlike the last Aveo — and, for that matter, a number of its B-segment competitors — the Sonic will actually be manufactured within the United States. Production is set to commence at GM’s plant in Orion, Michigan, later this year, and early cars are expected to arrive in the fall. Will it resonate with buyers, particularly the tech-driven youngsters GM had on stage for the launch? Send us your thoughts in the comments section below.

Source: GM

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