Chevy takes a bigger stake in the small-car market
A sportier Sonic and two small-car concepts unveiled in Detroit let everyone know it means business.
2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS
Chevrolet has been expanding and revamping its presence in the small-car market for the past couple of years with impressive vehicles such as the Cruze and the Sonic. Here at the 2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Chevy is furthering its small-car agenda with a sportier version of the already-sporty Sonic, as well as two concept cars aimed at meeting the needs of "Millennials," a young generation of car buyers whom Chevy defines as 18- to 30-year-olds. Research shows these potential customers want to be treated with respect, and they want cars with design passion, room for friends and affordable pricing.
TOP STORIES FROM THE DETROIT AUTO SHOW:
2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS
What is it? A sport-tuned version of GM's new entry-level hatchback.
What's hot? The Sonic RS adds some performance goodies to the likable Sonic. Stiffer suspension settings and a 10-millimeter lower stance will make this already-sporty car even more agile. Rear disc brakes replace drums, which could add stopping power. On the outside, it gets unique 17-inch smoke-finish wheels, more aggressive front and rear fascias, rocker moldings and carbon-fiber-look mirror caps. Inside, it adds leather front sport seats, a race-inspired flat-bottom steering wheel and aluminum pedals. Chevrolet's MyLink radio comes standard with a 7-inch touch-screen that can act as an interface for smartphones.
What's not? Despite its status as a sport model, the Sonic RS gets no more power. The 1.4-liter 138-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder is the only engine, and it is offered with a choice of 6-speed transmissions, manual or automatic. The car may be a bit quicker thanks to revised gearing ratios, but we'd like to see a direct-injected version of this engine with a bigger turbo. That could add 20 to 30 horsepower without hurting fuel economy.
How much and when? About $18,000. Due at the end of 2012.
MSN Autos' verdict: The Sonic is surprisingly sporty, and the overall level of quality raises the bar in the subcompact class. More aggressive looks and even sportier handling can make this appealing car even more fun. We're looking forward to it, provided the price isn't too high.
Tru 140S and Code 130R Concepts
What are they? Youth-oriented 2-door concept cars.
What's hot? They are high on style and low on price. The Tru140S is a 2-door lift-back coupe that looks like a combination of a Mitsubishi Eclipse and a Scion. The Code130R is a 2-door coupe with definite Camaro influences. Both cars use General Motors' 1.4-liter turbocharged engine, but the addition of GM's eAssist mild hybrid technology aids fuel economy and increases horsepower to about 150. Chevy quotes 40 mpg on the highway for both cars. The Code 130R rides the same rear-drive platform as the new Cadillac ATS, while the Tru 140S is based on the front-drive Chevy Cruze platform. Chevrolet says both cars, aimed at buyers without a lot of spending power, would offer passion in the form of looks and sporty handling. Both also would have useful space for the driver and three friends, and would likely offer the latest in connectivity features.
What's not? General Motors' research shows that only 64 percent of Millennials buy cars and that 90 percent in the 18- to 24-year-old range opt for used cars. With the Sonic and Cruze performing well and the Spark due in late 2012, is there really room for a couple more small cars? Not for a while, at least.
How much and when? These cars could represent the next generation of Chevy small cars. Both would start at about $20,000.
MSN Autos' verdict: A next generation of small cars with style and attitude could indeed attract younger buyers. We doubt these concepts will see production for at least four or five years, but it doesn't hurt to reach out to the next generation of buyers now to help develop products for a market largely uninterested in cars in general.
Kirk Bell has served as the associate publisher for Consumer Guide Automotive and editor of Scale Auto Enthusiast magazine. A Midwest native, Bell brings 18 years of automotive journalism experience to MSN, and currently contributes to JDPower.com and Kelley Blue Book's kbb.com.
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Mr Magic 2.
Cruze's are not made in Korea. The Aveo was. I just bought a 2012 Cruze and it is assembled in Ohio with, if I recall, 60% N. American parts. However I did notice that the airbag/seatbelt warning sticker on the front visors were printed in Korea. And it's been a great car so far.
I like the fact that American Auto Makers are getting more serious about the small car market. It's where we as consumers are headed mostly because of Gas costs and environmental impact.
This seems to be the area where we are very far behind compared to overseas cars as far as consumer confidence.
Although i'm more of a fan of the Focus and Fiesta in the US small car market because of there design and Rally history, The Chevy tru 140S Is a Great Looking Car! I would like to see a Rear Wheel and all wheel Drive version (which for cost effectiveness we will unfortunately never see).
Just think how much better the vehicles would be if we got back to Rear Wheel Drive. The Asian market is very comparable to ours. The styling is more of a difference than mechanics. Both American and Asian cars will do well over 200K with proper maintenance.
Consumer confidence is the Key! Marketing! Marketing Marketing!
I have been a professional mechanic for over 35 years. ALL cars break. Yes,even Hondas..matter of fact,I just replaced the transmission in a 2003 Honda Civic last week,with only 98k miles. Toyotas break as well.
My favorite small car is the Ford Focus with the DOHC engines and a manual transmission. I have seen them pass 200k miles with zero problems dozens and dozens of times..and I actually have two that I road race,with minimal breakage!They are just as dependable as a Honda,and much cheaper to own.
Most of the breakage I see on todays cars is mainly from owner neglect. Todays cars travel much further without incident,so owners tend to "forget" about routine maintenance. Just because it is still moving does NOT mean you should ignore your car,any more than a healthy person should skip yearly checkups. Alas..the media would have everyone believe if they buy a Honda/Toyota/Subaru their car worries are over. Those customers are the most difficult to call and explain their "wonder" cars need repairs.
Reality is ALL machines break and wear out.
GM is cutting too many corners today for me to ever buy another.They are great for my business..but hard on customers wallets.