Another Trip to NorCal - 2012 Chevrolet Sonic Long-Term Road Test

2012 Chevrolet Sonic Long Term Road Test

2012 Chevrolet Sonic Turbo: Another Trip to NorCal

August 09, 2012


I copied James and also went to Palo Alto this week (yeah, right after I got back from my Seattle trip in the BMW X3). Although James and I were bound for the same destination, in true SoCal fashion, we drove separate cars -- as you can see, I picked our 2012 Chevrolet Sonic.

I didn't plan as well, though, so I enjoyed a numbing drive on Interstate 5 there and back. This was one of my few stops -- a hole in the wall ramen place I found while trying to escape the Silicon Valley office parks. I never met a bowl of hot noodles I didn't like, but man, I wish I'd gotten the tonkatsu broth instead of the miso.

The Sonic hasn't gotten much road trip love thus far. I've taken it on a couple 200-mile drives before, but this was a half-day, 375-mile haul each way. I knew the Sonic's tall gearing might come into play on I-5, which gets contentious (angry L.A. drivers mixing it up with truckers) and hilly (the Grapevine/Tejon Pass), but it was a little more of an issue than I thought.

Nearly every single passing maneuver necessitated dropping out of 6th gear. If I happened to be in a long line of cars passing a truck (as I was on perhaps 30 occasions), I needed to drop to 4th to stay in the power. On the Tejon Pass, I often needed 3rd, and in a couple instances on California Highway 152's Pacheco Pass, I reached for 2nd gear.

I like shifting... actually, I love shifting manual-gearbox cars. Even when I know a computer could do it better. And had I been on a back road, or U.S. 101 like James, or Highway 1 near the Hearst Castle, I would have been happy to do all these gearchanges. But when you're just trying to make time on the interstate, it gets a little old. I'm all for lowering fuel consumption, but please, let me a have few more revs.

On the upside, the shifter is a precise piece and the clutch work is easy, so it certainly wasn't wholly unenjoyable. I just tried to imagine I was driving in Europe stirring the gears in a car with a diesel engine and a narrow power band.

Also, ride quality was plenty compliant for the long trip -- more so than just about any other car in the Sonic's class. And its spacious cabin makes you feel like you're taking a road trip in a larger car. Other motorists may have been seeing a red subcompact, but the Sonic rides and feels like a car built on a larger, C-segment chassis.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 10,758 miles

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