The Sonic is Chevrolet 's latest entry in the growing subcompact segment. Available in sedan and hatchback form, the Sonic represents a huge improvement over its predecessor, the Aveo, thanks to a refined cabin and surprisingly good driving dynamics.
The Sonic represents Chevrolet's first attempt at fielding a truly competitive subcompact car after the Aveo struggled in the market, prompting the automaker to drop the name in the U.S. market and adopt "Sonic" for the latest subcompact car to wear the Chevy bowtie. So did Chevy reinvent the car enough to warrant the new name? Let's find out.
Powertrains from above
When it comes to the Sonic, the powertrains come from above - literally - as they were all borrowed directly from the C-segment Chevy Cruze. Despite being smaller and lighter, the less desirable aerodynamics typical in the subcompact class limit highway fuel economy to 40 miles per gallon with the optional 1.4-liter Turbo engine and six-speed manual.
The aforementioned optional 1.4-liter, turbocharged engine comes at a $700 premium and boasts the same 138 horsepower as the base engine, but with a broader torque curve and a higher peak torque rating with 148 lb-ft. This engine comes mated either to a six-speed manual good for 29 city, 40 highway mpg, or an optional six-speed automatic transmission that lowers efficiency to 27/37 mpg.
The base engine is a 1.8-liter, naturally aspirated four-pot that is good for 138 horsepower and 125 lb-ft of torque. While the power ratings are similar to the optional engine, fuel economy suffers with a dip to 26 city, 35 highway for the five-speed manual or 25 city, 35 highway with the six-speed automatic.
Aside from offering engines pulled straight from a segment above, the Sonic also offers are features typically found in larger cars - such as 10 standard airbags, rollover sensing technology, hill-hold assist for manual transmissions and levels of interior quietness more reminiscent of a small luxury car than an economy car.
The Sonic Hatchback differs from the Sedan in design starting with the front doors and continuing all the way back - giving each vehicle a truly unique appearance beyond the front fascia. The Hatchback also features "hidden" rear door handles that are "lost" in a glossy black section up by the rear windows, giving the five-door the appearance of a three-door at first glance.
New to the Sonic is the MyLink infotainment system, which combines entertainment and Bluetooth-based connectivity functions into a single seven-inch touchscreen mounted on the dashboard. The setup enables hands-free phone calls, streaming audio via Pandora radio and Stitcher SmartRadio, and even navigation through a downloadable BringGo app.
The Sonic is also one of the first vehicles on the road to feature Apple's Siri Eyes Free integration, which works through MyLink. The Eyes Free system uses the vehicle's steering wheel-mounted controls to access the Siri function of any iPhone equipped with iOS 6. Once linked, drivers can use voice commands to perform actions like make phone calls, play songs from iTunes, listen and compose text messages and add appointments to their calendars.
In order to minimize distractions, the iPhone's screen remains blank while in Eyes Free mode.
The trim levels start with the base LS, followed by the LT and the LTZ. New to the Sonic hatchback lineup for the latest model year is the sporty Sonic RS, which includes a number of appearance and performance upgrades.
The Sonic Hatchback LS
The Hatchback LS comes standard with the 1.8-liter engine and a five-speed manual transmission, along with 15-inch alloy wheels, OnStar with six months of free turn-by-turn navigation, air conditioning, power locks, keyless entry and Bluetooth connectivity and a tilt and telescoping steering wheel with Bluetooth controls.
Sonic Hatchback LT
Stepping up to the LT will see the addition of a CD player with MP3 capability and six speakers, SiriusXM satellite radio, power windows with one-touch auto up/down on the driver side, premium cloth trim, rear floor mats and power-adjustable and heated exterior mirrors.
Wheels are also swapped from 15- to 16-inches and made of aluminum alloy.
Sonic Hatchback LTZ
The range-topping LTZ takes all the aforementioned equipment and either adds to or replaces it with perforated leatherette seating surfaces, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, upgraded stereo with auxiliary input jack, USB power and Bluetooth, cruise control, remote start, steering wheel-mounted audio and phone controls, fog lamps and 17-inch alloy wheels. The LTZ also features the aforementioned MyLink system as standard.
Sonic Hatchback RS
The range-topping Sonic RS features a stiffened and lowered suspension, rear disc brakes (other Sonics get rear drum brakes) and more closely-spaced manual transmission gear ratios. Sonics outfitted with the six-speed automatic benefit from a shorter final-drive ratio.
Outside, the RS is identifiable by a unique grille, a new front fascia and model-specific five-spoke 17-inch wheels. Around back, a spoiler and bright exhaust outlets complete the look. Interior upgrades include a flat-bottom steering wheel, aluminum pedals and leather front seats with sueded microfiber inserts and red RS accents.
All Sonic models come standard with an impressive array of airbags, including dual front, front knee, front side, rear side and full-length side curtain airbags. Also included are traction and stability control systems.
The Sonic Sedan faces competition from a strong set of rivals in the subcompact segment, including the Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Hyundai Accent and Toyota Yaris. Particularly price-conscious buyers can also consider the Nissan Versa.