January 22, 2013
The 2012 Chevrolet Sonic's tenure in our long-term fleet has come to an end. We took it to Carmax as part of our usual sale-evaluation procedure. The Sonic had a little less than 17,000 miles on it and according to Edmunds trade-in TMV, its value was about $12,955. But did Carmax offer us anything close to that?
January 10, 2013
I'm usually not a fan of customized economy cars. Civics with exaggerated ground effects, oversized double-tiered wings and 20-inch wheels strike me as silly. Don't get me wrong, I've got a soft spot for the '99-'00 Civic Si, but that's a factory hot rod that was tastefully done. When fitted with the feisty turbo 1.4 however, the little Chevy Sonic has enough personality (and performance) to get away with an attention-grabbing paint scheme and some tasteful styling tweaks.
This souped-up (there's an old-time expression for you) Sonic sedan was done by Design Rides and Gurnade for the '11 SEMA show (this is the first time I saw it). The candy yellow paint — a hue I would normally deem too much — works well as do the handsome double-spoke wheels and discrete rear spoiler. I'd probably go without the hood stripes, but otherwise think this is a sharp little pocket rocket.
John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 16,945 miles
January 8, 2013
Sure, you can tow any car behind a motorhome if you have a trailer, but that's not the preferred method. The ideal situation is pictured above: a so-called "dinghy" vehicle rolls behind on its own four wheels, ready to be disconnected and driven around on side trips while the motorhome sits parked with its awning unfurled and its sliders popped out in full relaxation mode. The extra towed weight and storage hassle of a trailer puts an unwelcome damper on such proceedings.
This activity goes by many names: dinghy towing, flat towing and four-down towing to name a few. As you can imagine there are mechanical implications for the car involved.
Some transmissions depend on a rotating input shaft driven by a running engine for lubrication, others don't. Some all-wheel drive systems can deal with it, others can't. Manual transmissions are generally less troubled by this activity than automatics, to the extent that such use in many cars is restricted to manuals only. Others warn against dinghy towing altogether. The owner's manual usually has the details.
Where does this all leave the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic? Can you tow it behind a motorhome?
The short answer is yes. And it doesn't matter if your Sonic has an automatic or a stick-shift gearbox.
This is good news because the Sonic has a few other things going for it that are appreciated by dinghy towing folk. It's inexpensive, costing between $15,000 and $20,000. You can get it as a hatchback or a sedan. It's fuel efficient to the tune of 33 mpg combined and as high as 40 mpg on the highway. And it doesn't weigh much. Our 2012 Sonic LTZ turbo weighs 2,743 pounds, well under the 3,000-pound threshold that triggers the need for a remote motorhome-to-car braking system in some places.
Of course Chevrolet does want you to follow a few specific procedures before you head out.
January 2, 2013
Usually, when you hear Ford versus Chevy, it relates to the long-fought battle between the Mustang and the Camaro. Or maybe F-Series versus Silverado. Today, however, I'm talking about the econoboxes fielded by these two long-time foes — Fiesta versus Sonic.
First off, I really like the Ford Fiesta, mostly because of its enjoyable, involving handling and its sharp styling. But for me, the Sonic tops it for several key reasons. The Chevy has more intuitive controls, a lot more cargo/passenger space, and with the spunky turbo 1.4, considerably swifter acceleration.
Yes, the Fiesta may beat it in the MPG derby, but I'll take the Sonic's still-respectable fuel economy and the fun of its added kick, thank you. I've signed out our Sonic quite a few times, and even as it nears the end of its tour of duty with us, I still enjoy its spirited performance, slick-shifting 6-speed, quiet highway ride and comfortable cabin.
John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 16,920 miles
December 21, 2012
You know that solid door thunk that car journos are always going on about? The one that German luxury sedans have mastered to perfection, that lauded "bank vault" shudder that writers and salesmen always gush over? Here's the switchgear equivalent: the Sonic's turn signal indicator. I'm not kidding. First off, this is a typically thick GM stalk. And the detent action pleases in both sound and feel, fostering a perception of quality and solidity you never expect at this subcompact level.
Considering the problems we had with the upholstery (which seem largely abated), this small detail makes clear how a car, particularly its interior, is the sum of multiple suppliers, some better than others.
Dan Frio, Automotive Editor @ 16,600 miles
December 19, 2012
The weather recently changed in sunny Southern California. I know, I know. I can hear the littlest violin playing for us. The first morning after a good rain with outside temperature in the low 50-degree range, I started the Sonic and drove down the street. A glance at the instrument panel showed a tire-pressure monitor system (TPMS) alert. Continuing down the road, the car didn't pull in one direction indicating a drastic difference in pressures. The steering felt normal.
Just in case, I pulled into the nearest gas station and pulled out my pressure gauge. Sure enough, the first tire I checked was five psi under. The next was the same story. It turned out, all four were exactly 5psi low and the lower-than-normal ambient temperature caused the tires to dip below the TPMS threshold. I set them all to the recommended "cold" pressure.
Funny thing is, I've talked to a number less-than-car-literate friends recently who have all told me that their TPMS lights have recently turned on after months of being dark.
Chris Walton, Chief Road Test Editor @ 16,634 miles
December 6, 2012
It's no secret that our staff generally likes the Sonic, a lot. And it seems that savvy consumers have also taken notice of Chevy's fun yet practical little runabout. Year-to-date sales (through November, so for nearly the whole year) show that the Sonic has simply spanked its rivals, big time.
The hard numbers:
John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 16,092 miles
December 2, 2012
I found a good use for one of the Sonic's rather unorthodox, dash-mounted cubbies. The one on the left has become a perfect place for my garage door opener. The cubby keeps the control within easy view and reach, and holds it securely as the compartment is angled downward towards the front of the car, has a rubberized surface and has a small lip. I doubt even the acceleration of a Veyron would be enough to dislodge it.
Along with the handy garage access card holder fitted to the center stack, it's one of those little things that eliminates needless hassles.
John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 15,996 miles
November 27, 2012
My family and I spent Thanksgiving weekend running around in our 2012 Chevrolet Sonic LTZ. Along the way I was able to confirm a couple of things about the seats.
As JDP pointed out recently, the seat heaters work great, but it takes three presses of the button to get the relay to trip and shut them off again. It's very like having a one-way bulb screwed into a three-way socket. The effect is consistent and repeatable, too, which makes me think that our alert readers are right about it having something to do with the programming (or lack thereof) of the control module in our Sonic's replacement seats.
Because of the special nature of our situation, I'm convinced that this isn't likely to be a widespread Sonic issue and it's certainly no hazard of the faulty circuit variety. It can wait until the next time we need service.
On the seat smell front, I am pleased to report these new buckets are not stinking up the place; I detected nothing, in fact. But at one point my wife -- who is a neutral observer that isn't aware of this car's seat saga -- did scrunch up her nose a bit and say that she smelled something funny.
This is a scenario I've encountered before, and I trotted out my standard response: it was the dog.
Kobe, our Labrador puppy, is currently shedding something fierce, and he rode in the car a couple of times before my wife did. It's possible that she picked up a faint whiff of something else, but it's pretty safe to say the scent situation in here is much, much closer to normal than it has been in the past. Especially after I vacuumed out the dog hair.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 15,678 miles
November 24, 2012
A couple of weeks back NHTSA announced a small targeted recall involving about 3,000 Chevrolet Sonics, Chevrolet Cruzes and Buick Veranos due a potential short in the driver's side airbag that could prevent it from deploying when it should. After a check of our 2012 Chevy Sonic's VIN number and build date, we can report that our vehicle is not affected and will need no further attention.
That's great, but as long as we're on the subject, let's take a quick tour of the 10 standard airbags that have been arrayed inside this B-segment sub-compact car.
Number 1, of course, is the driver's side airbag shown above.
November 22, 2012
Our 2012 Chevrolet Sonic LTZ Turbo passed the 15,000-mile mark sometime in the last couple of weeks. A quick glance at the maintenance schedule indicates it's time for our second oil change.
Or does it?
Read carefully and you see this is not necessarily the case. The schedule does not require an oil change at this point, it merely reminds us to check the oil level and oil life percentage and make the change if the oil life monitor so indicates.
This, of course, is the normal service schedule, but a quick look at the severe service schedule reveals the exact same language and interval. In other words, if your driving amounts to severe service, the oil life monitor reading will read low, accordingly.
With that in mind, I performed the checks indicated by the check mark.
November 19, 2012
If I were considering a subcompact 4-door car that offered the choice between a sedan and hatchback, I'd go hatchback every time. Sure, I like the more upscale look that a sedan body style typically provides. But when you're talking about a vehicle segment where practicality is paramount (and it's usually the buyer's only car), I'll forgo that and take the hatch. With the rear seats in use, the Sonic hatch offers 19 cubic feet of cargo space to the sedan's 14.9 cubes.
The big advantage of course is when you flop those rear seats down. Although specs are not available for what the sedan provides in that mode, it certainly couldn't touch the hatch's generous 47.7 cubes nor its ability to transport much bulkier objects thanks to that squared-off, wagon-like roofline.
John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 15,615 miles