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2012 Chevrolet Sonic vs. 2012 Hyundai Accent

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C&G Preview: 2012 Chevrolet Sonic vs 2012 Hyundai Accent

2012chevroletsonicfront.gif

With just about every new vehicle introduction this auto show season (save for the Camaro ZL1 and SRT-8 Mopars), it took no longer than 30 seconds to hear the words "fuel economy" come out of the mouths of the speaker once each press conference started. This being mainly a GM site, I figured it might be a good idea to look at the car curerntly slated to carry the fuel economy torch for the company - the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic - and compare it to another new-for-2012 B segment car that made its debut this season - the Hyundai Accent. Why the Accent, and not the old standards Fit and Yaris? Because Hyundai says so. Hyundai's vastly improves lineup is only trumped by the company's borderline cutthroat marketing department. Hyundai's aggressive PR tactics will no doubt lift perception of the Accent, likely propelling it to the top of the segment shortly after reviewers start getting their hands on them. At the New York Auto Show I got the opportunity to spend some significant time with both vehicles, and decided to write this preview in order to whet your appetites until they arrive in showrooms.

Overview

The Sonic is Chevy's replacement for the largely unsuccessful Aveo. Launched in 2004, the Aveo suffered from inumpressive fuel economy numbers, unacceptable given the other compromises that came with the car, namely tinny construction, unrefined powertrains, and quirky styling that didn't appeal to anyone born with halfway decent vision. The Aveo sedan got a new body for 2007 but carried on with the same powertrains and their associated deficiencies. The Aveo made little sense to most Chevy shoppers when a superior Cobalt could be driven home for just a few hundred more. Simply put, the Sonic is everything the Aveo is not. Exterior styling is much more aggressive, and that alone should get prospective customers to give the car a passing glance. Motorcycle-inspired lighting, sharply creased sheetmetal, and an athletic stance should resonate well with younger buyers looking for their first car.

The Hyundai Accent first appeared in North America in model year 1994, replacing the Excel. Over the course of three generations - spanning seventeen years - Hyundai has steadily improved the Accent, transforming it from an embarrassing penalty box to a competent little car. The fourth generation Accent looks to move up from bit part to major player in the subcompact segment. Bigger than its predecessor, the car's exterior features a sharp beltline crease and a swept-back front fascia, consistent with current Hyundai styling themes. I'll go so far to say that of the Sonata, the Elantra, and this new Accent, it's the Accent that's the looker of the bunch. Upgraded materials and fit and finish help make the interior a much more pleasing place to spend time than in past generations.

Exterior

Both the Sonic and Aveo are offered in both 4dr sedan and 5dr hatchback models. In most exterior dimensions the Hyundai and the Chevy are nearly identical, with no more than two and a half inches separating the two. The Accent wins the longest wheelbase contest (101.2 to 99.4), while the Sonic wins on width (68.3 to 66.9, and height(59.7 to 57.1). Both cars' exterior designs take a different approach to "trendy". The Sonic in person is sharp-edged, in your face, and ostentatious. The Accent, in contrast, is more fluid and attempts to mimic cars a few classes above its own. In this writer's opinion, neither design figures to age particularly well, but that's the price to pay for trying to appeal to young buyers who place premiums on current trends and fashion statements.

Edge: Draw

Interior

The interiors of both the Sonic and Accent represent significant improvements over their respective predecessors. On both cars, build quality, materials, and fit and finish are pertty good for the segment, and comparable to each other. Knobs and switchgear have a substantial feel to them, and controls are logiclly placed. As with the exterior, interior dimensions and capacities are nearly identical. The Accent offers more front/rear headroom, and the Sonic offers more hip and shoulder room, but every other dimension is pretty much a wash. The Sonic's interior continues the bold, in-your-face theme that's stamped into the sheetmetal. The dashboard is dominated by a large tachometer connected to a protruding large multifunction display, similar to what's found in the smaller Spark. Honestly, the piece evokes memories of the old XM Roady player. It's without a doubt different but its to early to tell how much, if any, function was sacrificed for form. The center stack offers somewhat convenient shallow storage spots flanking the radlo on both sides. They're not much, but should be sufficient to hold a cell phone or MP3 player. Although they appear to be an afterthought - the surrounding trim gives the impression that earlier on in the design process the center stack HVAC vents were to go there - it's probably a good thing that they are there, as not much storage capacity was built in to the center console. The Accent's dashboard layout is actually fairly similar to the Sonic's, though Hyundai uses conventional gauges instead of the multifunction display. The Accent's center console storage is far superior to that of the Sonic, as it's equipped with a full storage bin underneath the console armrest.

Edge: Accent. While both are roughly equal in terms of build quality and interior space, you can't argue with the Accent's time conventional gauges and better storage options.

Engines

Both vehicles receive new powertrains to go with their nice new clothes. In the case of the Sonic, buyers will be able to choose between two Ecotec four cylinder engines shared with the recently introduced Cruze. The base Sonic powerplant is a 1.8 liter producing 135 horsepower and 125 lb. ft. of torque. For those who want a little more grunt, Chevy offers an optional 1.4 liter turbocharged four-pot, producing 138 horsepower and 148 lb. ft. of torque. With most reviewers giving the Cruze engines good marks for NVH, such improvements will no doubt be a welcome change from the buzzy, underpowered boat anchor offered in the Aveo. The 1.8 liter can be paired with either a 5 speed manual or a 6 speed automatic. The 1.4 liter's only transmission option is a 6 speed row-your-own. Under the Accent's hood lies the most technologically advanced,, most refined engine ever offered in any Hyundai subcompact. The company's all-new 1.6L 4cyl gives the Accent 135 horsepower and 125 lb. ft. of torque to play with, and can be paired with either a 6 speed manual or a 6 speed auto.

Edge: Sonic, if only for giving buyers more engine choices.

Fuel Economy

Fuel economy numbers aren't available yet for the Sonic, though GM has stated that it will be able to hit 40mpg highway standard. Given that Chevy can eek out 42mpg highway out of the Cruze Eco (and 36mpg highway out of non-Eco Cruzes), they should be able to hit their goal with the smaller, lighter Sonic. Hyundai has stated that the Accent should be good for 30mpg City and 40mpg highway, making it the fourth Hyundai vehicle with 40mpg standard.

Edge: Accent - for now, since Chevy has yet to reelase official fuel economy numbers for the Sonic.

Features/Amenities

Gone are the days when buying a car in this price class meant driving a spartan penalty box with no creature comforts whatsoever. Both the Sonic and Accent come packed with features and amenities, burying for good the notion that buyers have to compromise to get a car with good fuel economy. The Sonic could be had with heated front seats, a remote-start system, XM satellite radio, the MyChevrolet mobile application, sunroof, and a USB/Bluetooth hookup. Safety features include 10 standard air bags, antilock brakes, Stabilitrak stability control, electronic brake force distribution, brake assist and OnStar with Automatic Crash Response. Not to be outdone, Hyundai also loaded the Accent with rare-for-the-class features such as CD/MP3 audio system with USB/iPod connectvity, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, XM, and power heated outside mirrors. For safety, Hyundai throws in 10 airbags (8 standard), four wheel disc brakes with ABS and electronic brake force distribution, stability control, and Hyundai's new Telematics system, dubbed BlueLink.

Edge: Draw

Conclusion

On paper, the Hyundai Accent and Chevrolet Sonic are both very close. Both vehicles use different means to achieve the same end, so it really comes down to styling and personal preferences when deciding which one is better. That's not a bad thing to say about either car. Pricing hasn't yet been finalized for either model, but both are expected to receive slight jumps in price over than the models they replace. For reference, the 2011 Aveo starts at just over $12,500 while the 2011 Accent sedan checks in at about a thousand higher (of note, Hyundai dropped the bargain-priced 3dr Accent in the redesign). It's honestly difficult to pick a clear winner based on photos and spec sheets, so we look forward to getting our hands on a 2012 Sonic (and possibly an Accent) to put through its paces.

NYIAS Photo Gallery: 2012 Chevrolet Sonic

NYIAS Photo Gallery: 2012 Hyundai Accent

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excellent feature article.

price and warranty may turn out to be crucial in this class but in reality i don't think if you like one of the two I am not so sure you will like the other. I actually think in this case with the product seeming at this point to be fairly equal, it may just come down to styling / design / attitude and brand image. i think many on this site also already would call the new Rio more appealing than the Accent.

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A very thorough article, well done, although it appears something happened in your "Fuel Economy" paragraph, at least as it appears on my screen.

I must be in a seriously small minority who wishes for 3-door versions of these cars.

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A very thorough article, well done, although it appears something happened in your "Fuel Economy" paragraph, at least as it appears on my screen.

I must be in a seriously small minority who wishes for 3-door versions of these cars.

That was just my bluetooth keyboard apparently throwing a fit. It's fixed now.

I'm with you - I think 3dr versions of both the Sonic and Accent would be quite attractive. If Mini does so well with its 2dr Cooper, I don't see why a decently built, attractive Hyundai or Chevy 3dr subcompact can't do well too.

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A very good read....I'm quite interested to see the new sonic.

Also agree with Ocn on the 3 door....:thumbsup:

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Good write.

I have a couple of comments:

For those who want a little more grunt, Chevy offers an optional 1.8 liter turbocharged four-pot, producing 138 horsepower and 148 lb. ft. of torque.

It is a 1.4.

The 1.4 liter can be paired with either a 5 speed manual or a 6 speed automatic. The 1.8 liter's only transmission option is a 6 speed row-your-own.

The engine and transmission pairing is other way around.

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Thanks - duly noted. Funny thing is, I knew that :retard:

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A very thorough article, well done, although it appears something happened in your "Fuel Economy" paragraph, at least as it appears on my screen.

I must be in a seriously small minority who wishes for 3-door versions of these cars.

That was just my bluetooth keyboard apparently throwing a fit. It's fixed now.

I'm with you - I think 3dr versions of both the Sonic and Accent would be quite attractive. If Mini does so well with its 2dr Cooper, I don't see why a decently built, attractive Hyundai or Chevy 3dr subcompact can't do well too.

Didn't the current generation of Accent offer a 3dr in the US? And the current generation of the Aveo has one outside NA...no idea if the '12 versions of both will have 3dr bodies outside NA. I guess the Yaris will be have the only 3dr subcompact in NA next year..

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Didn't the current generation of Accent offer a 3dr in the US? And the current generation of the Aveo has one outside NA...no idea if the '12 versions of both will have 3dr bodies outside NA. I guess the Yaris will be have the only 3dr subcompact in NA next year..

I believe the current gen Accept did have a 3 door, but it was kinda awkward looking and I haven't seen many of them.

I wish these all came with 3 doors, as its the only way I can think of trying one out. I can't get in the door on these as sedans. The Metro used to be very popular as a 3 door... and relatively good looking, IMHO.

Edit: typo.

Edited by SAmadei

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Yes, the current/outgoing Accent is available as a 3dr

KMHCM3AC2BU186398_1.jpg

It was pretty much Hyundai's bottom feeder and allowed them to claim that they offer the lowest priced car in America.

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I suppose they are dropping the 3dr version of the new Accent because the Velocstr will sort of fill that niche.

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Great Article Z. For me I'd be looking at the Aveo or the Elantra's Mechanical twin, the extremely handsome new Rio.

Yes, the current/outgoing Accent is available as a 3dr

KMHCM3AC2BU186398_1.jpg

It was pretty much Hyundai's bottom feeder and allowed them to claim that they offer the lowest priced car in America.

IIRC the Vera has been holding that title for a few years now.

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Well it seems the Sonic compares well...at least on paper.

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The subcompact market in the US is getting crowded...8 models in the mainstream niche by my count..will interesting to see which end up on top in sales in a year or so..

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The subcompact market in the US is getting crowded...8 models in the mainstream niche by my count..will interesting to see which end up on top in sales in a year or so..

Yaris, Versa, Fit, Fiesta, Sonic, Accent, xD, Rio... what am I missing

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The subcompact market in the US is getting crowded...8 models in the mainstream niche by my count..will interesting to see which end up on top in sales in a year or so..

Yaris, Versa, Fit, Fiesta, Sonic, Accent, XD, Rio... what am I missing

Mazda 2.

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The subcompact market in the US is getting crowded...8 models in the mainstream niche by my count..will interesting to see which end up on top in sales in a year or so..

Yaris, Versa, Fit, Fiesta, Sonic, Accent, XD, Rio... what am I missing

Mazda 2.

I didn't think of the x_D, but it's in there also...I didn't count the speciality 3dr models like the Mini, Fiat 500, or Smart..

And wasn't VW going to bring the Polo here also? So the mainstream brands currently out of the B-seg action in the US currently are VW, Dodge, Mitsubishi, Subaru and Suzuki (though Canada gets the Swift and SX4)..

Edited by Cubical-aka-Moltar

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As soon as Toyota kills the XD it will be fixed. It's not our fault that Toyota named a car after an emoticon.

  • Upvote 1

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I'm personally not a big fan of this class. However, I suppose I'd be for the Sonic since it looks nicer to me.

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As soon as Toyota kills the XD it will be fixed. It's not our fault that Toyota named a car after an emoticon.

Or better yet, just rename the emoticon since this is a car forum and Scions are likely to be mentioned from time to time. Seriously, this is pretty stupid. Why doesn't this emoticon code require colons? :XD:

Edited by Croc
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Perhaps the emoticon board needs a colonoscopy.

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I wouldn't buy a compact, but if I had to, it would be the Accent, because it looks like an Elantra, which looks like a Sonata. And the Sonata is the greatest mid-sizer of all time. And the Accent has big warranty. And the Sonic is ugly.

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I can't imagine a scenario where I'd buy a subcompact, but I'd probably get a Mini over any of the more pedestrian models..at least it has style.

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I can't imagine a scenario where I'd buy a subcompact, but I'd probably get a Mini over any of the more pedestrian models..at least it has style.

Hey, if it's fun-to-drive, gets great mpg, fits people comfortably and can haul my stuff I wouldn't rule one out, but honestly something Cruze-sized would be more my cup of tea. The idea of having something so small that I can park along the tiniest lengths of curb is very tempting in a place like Los Angeles, but the safety implications of the laws of physics would always be in the back of my mind.

Edited by Croc

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