General Motors has released details and images of the new Aveo that will be unwrapped later at Detroit, just that it’s not called the Aveo, but Sonic. Like the car it replaces, the B-segment Sonic is available in two body styles – five-door hatchback and four-door sedan. Both variants deliver “class-leading rear-seat roominess and cargo space” according to GM. In the US, the subcompact Sonic takes on the Ford Fiesta, Toyota Yaris and Honda Fit.

In America, the Sonic will come with relatively powerful engines for its size. The Ecotec 1.4L turbo (138 hp/200 Nm from 1,850 to 4,900 rpm) and the 135 hp/167 Nm Ecotec 1.8L are also found in big brother Cruze. Three transmissions are available: a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic with the 1.8L and a six-speed manual for the sporty 1.4 turbo.

These modern powerplants come with features such as low-mass hollow-frame cast iron block, DOHC with VVT, chain-driven cams, roller-finger camshaft followers, piston-cooling oil jets and integrated oil cooler, variable-flow oil pump and electronically controlled thermostat. The 1.4’s turbocharger is integrated within the exhaust manifold for reduced weight and greater packaging flexibility.

GM talks about “fun to drive” in the release, mentioning that Corvette engineers tuned the Sonic’s ride and handling. The hardware is par for the class – front MacPherson struts, rear torsion beam, EPS steering, front disc brakes and rear drums are expected.

The body structure is claimed to be among the stiffest in the segment. Sonic’s unique “flat top frame” cradle, for example, assures optimal stiffness in the front chassis portion, while he rear axle is straight without contour for packaging restraints and reduced noise, vibration and harshness. Wheels are as big as 17 inches for the turbo model.

The funky cabin’s highlight is the motorcycle inspired instrument panel, which combines analog with digital displays. The centre stack is typical modern GM; it and the steering wheel will be familiar to Cruze owners. Front “bucket seats” are standard and heated front seats are available along with remote start and sunroof. Connectivity includes OnStar, XM Satellite Radio, USB/Bluetooth and MyChevrolet mobile application. On the safety front, 10 standard air bags, ABS, EBD, brake assist and OnStar with Automatic Crash Response are included.

Production of the Sonic begins later this year in Michigan. GM says that Chevy is the only company building a small car in the US and Sonic will help restore about 1,000 jobs in the metropolitan Detroit area. This could be a big selling point for a US economy that’s still facing issues with unemployment.

Gallery after the jump.

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