The Sonic is Chevrolet's entry into the popular subcompact segment. Available as both a sedan and a hatchback, it offers a refined cabin and surprisingly good driving dynamics.
The Sonic five-door hatchback is identical to the four-door sedan from the front bumpers to the B-pillar. Beyond that, the hatchback gains a tall and boxy silhouette and rear door handles that are concealed up by the rear windows, giving it the appearance of a three-door at first glance.
The Sonic's dashboard is noticeably inspired by the larger Cruze. It features a buttons for the climate control and the radio, square and circular air vents and a storage compartment on top of the center console. The instrument cluster consists of an analog tachometer and a digital speedometer that also includes a fuel gauge and several warning lights.
The Sonic is available with Chevrolet's 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 navigation through a downloadable BringGo app.
OnStar with 4G LTE and Wi-Fi capability comes standard.
The Sonic also offers 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 iOS6. Once linked, the driver can use voice commands to make phone calls, play songs from iTunes, listen and compose text messages and add appointments to his or her calendar. The iPhone's screen remains blank while in Eyes Free mode in order to minimize distractions.
Under the hood
The Sonic's powertrains were all borrowed directly from the larger Cruze. The base engine is a 1.8-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder that makes 138 horsepower and 125 lb-ft of torque. Sonics equipped with this engine return 26 mpg in the city and 35 mpg highway with a five-speed manual transmission, or 25 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway with a six-speed automatic.
The 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder makes 138 horsepower and 148 lb-ft. of torque. It returns 29 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway when linked to a six-speed manual transmission, or 27 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway when bolted to an optional six-speed automatic.
The 1.4-liter four-banger is standard on LTZ models and optional on most other trim levels.
Trim level breakdown
The trim levels start with the base LS, followed by the LT, the upmarket LTZ and the sporty RS.
The 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, Bluetooth connectivity and a tilt and telescoping multi-function three-spoke steering wheel.
Buyers who opt for the LT trim gain a CD/MP3 player linked to six speakers, SiriusXM satellite radio, power windows with one-touch auto up/down on the driver side, premium cloth trim, rear floor mats, power-adjustable mirrors and a rear-view camera. 16-inch alloy wheels help give the car a more premium look, and cars equipped with an automatic transmission come with a remote start.
Equipped with the 1.4-liter turbo four, the LTZ trim takes all of the aforementioned equipment and either adds to or replace it with perforated leatherette upholstery, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an upgraded stereo with an auxiliary input jack, cruise control, fog lamps and 17-inch alloy wheels. Chevrolet's MyLink infotainment system is fitted as standard.
In addition to a fuel-efficient 1.4-liter engine, 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. Sonic RS models fitted with the six-speed automatic benefit from a shorter final-drive ratio.
Outside, the RS is distinguishable thanks to a unique grille, an aerodynamic body kit and model-specific five-spoke 17-inch wheels. Around back, a spoiler and bright exhaust tip complete the look.
Interior upgrades include a flat-bottomed steering wheel, aluminum pedals and leather front seats with suede 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. Traction and stability control systems are also included.
The optional advanced safety package adds Forward Collision Alert and a Lane Departure warning system. It is available on all trim levels except the base model.
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. Price-conscious buyers can also consider the Nissan Versa.