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
August 13, 2012
We got the call Saturday morning that Harbor Chevrolet had completed the swap-out of seats in our Sonic. By 10 a.m., the car was vacuumed, washed and ready for pickup. The service folks and I went back to a bay for some photos of the old seats before they were boxed up for return to GM (where a team will doubtless apply "CSI"-like forensics tests to find the source of olfactory unpleasantness.)
As I shot, we talked about what the problem might have been and a service advisor described his own smell nightmare: He once had truck tires that, as he put it, "smelled like plumber's crack" when they'd sat in the sun for a while. So I guess things with the Sonic could have been worse.
But now came the moment of truth.
August 10, 2012
We finally got the call we'd been waiting for: The replacement seats for the Sonic arrived at Harbor Chevrolet. The Sonic was on holiday and then on assignment with Erin for a few days. When Erin returned, we took the car in. The installation should be finished today.
The service advisor let Erin take some photos of the seats, still in their boxes.
August 06, 2012
Our 2012 Chevrolet Sonic LTZ now has nearly 8 months of long-term service under its belt. It is short of the mileage accumulation goal we set for test cars, so we have some ground to make up. Still, we've been through a fair amount with the Chevy to date.
A quick summary of the notable items:
(1) The shifter boot fell off, then snapped right back into place.
(2) Its first service set us back $45.
(3) There was a missing brake recall issued. Thankfully it did not apply to our car.
(4) We got a flat tire, and then a new tire for $178.
(5) We tried numerous remedies for a smelly cabin. None of them worked. GM offered to replace the seats altogether as a solution. The seats just arrived. We'll have them installed this week.
We're at the halfway point. Only 10,000 miles to go.
Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 10,019 miles
July 04, 2012
Shortly after posting that we ordered a new tire for our 2012 Chevrolet Sonic, the shop called. Stokes Tire Pros found the Hankook and their cost came in ever-so-slightly less than their local competition. We drove the Sonic over.
We did not wait long. Frankly, the experience was uneventful. And we're okay with that. Stokes took care of the basics. The correct spec tire was mounted. Lugnuts were tight. The spare was returned to its storage perch. It worked for us. Now the Sonic is back on the road.
Total Cost: $177.65
Days out of Service: None
Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 9,787 miles
July 03, 2012
Yesterday I received an email regarding our 2012 Chevrolet Sonic. It read something like this:
"Just a heads up that the tire pressure monitoring light came on in the Sonic this morning. The right rear was indeed low (20 psi versus the required 35 psi). I put air in it and the rest of the tires were OK. I didn't see any obvious puncutres or damage, but wanted to let you know."
We stopped by the tire shop to confirm our fears. There was a screw on the inside shoulder of the tire. It was not repairable. And nobody in town carried a replacement Hankook Optimo H428 in stock. We asked the shop to install the donut while we wait for the new tire.
Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager @ 9,787 miles
June 12, 2012
When driving home last night, I noticed that the Sonic's clutch pedal felt sticky at its furthest point of motion as I approached and departed its stopping point. This happened every time I used the clutch pedal, and as traffic inhaled robustly small spherical objects last night, I was using the clutch a lot. It got annoying.
This morning, the stickyness had lessened, but was still there. I wasn't using the pedal as much, however. I'll try and monitor the situation. And despite my illustration above, this isn't a matter of there being gum or pedal glue on the pedal pad itself (or syrup). It seems to be the mechanism; I was just following the old journalism adage "use Mrs. Butterworth whenever possible to illustrate your point. Aunt Jemima is acceptable in a pinch."
And now I want waffles.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 9,294 miles
June 05, 2012
The scent of the Chevrolet Sonic's interior does not exactly recall the rich aroma of a Connolley leather interior from a classic Jaguar.
But neither does it recall a bad day in Houston.
As a guy who lived through the 1970s, when the vinyl interior of cheap cars would coat the inside of your windows with a film of chemicals for about the first year of ownership or so, probably I'd just crack the windows of the Chevy whenever it's parked outside on a warm day and leave it at that.
The truth is, I've been in new cars that smelled much worse than this.
And no, I don't miss those 1970s Isuzus at all.
Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com @ 9,046 miles.
May 16, 2012
It seems that GM/Chevrolet might have been reading the saga of our malodorous Sonic. A Chevy rep contacted us and said the company would like to replace the upholstery in the car. We're in the process of setting up the appointment with a dealership now, and we'll let you know what happens.
Meanwhile, we could try driving around with this Takahashi-crafted mega-freshener. Old car couldn't be worse than fish car. Could it?
Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor
May 07, 2012
A couple days after we brought the Sonic in for a (failed) stink eradication, we realized it was time for its 7,500-mile service. So on Friday, back the Sonic went. In addition to an oil and filter change, safety inspection and tire rotation, there were three technical service bulletins for the car: an airbag inspection, a check on a recall for a possible missing front brake pad -- something we'd had looked at previously -- and a fuel-pipe quick connect replacement.
This was necessary, according to the TSB, to deal with "an inaccurately installed fuel filler hose clamp." Because the clamp is improperly connected to the inlet check valve, gas vapors can be released into the air. Our local Chevrolet dealer had to order a part; we'll bring the car back for installation once it arrives.
The service took about three hours--which was fine with me. I'd gone off to drive Jaguars at Dodger Stadium. And despite the fact that the Sonic has a perfectly adequate oil-life monitoring system, the service department put this sticker on the windshield:
May 02, 2012
I took our Sonic to a nearby Chevrolet dealership on Tuesday and summed up the problem for the young, bright-eyed service representative: "Our car stinks."
Not what he expected to hear at 7:05 a.m., I suspect. He leaned into the car and said -- right on cue -- "I don't smell anything."
"Trust me," I said. "It smells." I explained that it's a fishy odor, noted by several people, and that we'd read at least one online description of a strong adhesive smell emanating from another Sonic's seats.
He handed me off to Marco, a more seasoned service adviser. Marco listened, nodded and said that sometimes new cars do have a distinct smell, and that it should dissipate over time.
He said that he'd put the car through a PitStop, which is GM's term for a multi-point inspection: AC, battery, brakes, fluid levels, tire pressure and wiper blades. And then he'd send the car to the service departmennt's detailing shop for ministrations.
Less than two hours later, Marco called: "Your vehicle is ready. You can pick it up at any time." Clearly, I would not be getting new seats today.
Before I got into the car, I asked Marco what the detailers had done to address the problem. "They put some chemicals on the seats," he said.
Chemicals. Isn't that how we got here in the first place?
On the short drive home, it seemed that maybe, possibly, the smell wasn't as intense as it had been. It was hard to be sure. The human nose can lose its capacity to be horrified after repeated inhalations. Ask any cat owner.
But I figured that if the cure was a real one, I shouldn't smell anything the next time I took the Sonic out. Four hours later, I was back in the car to go to a lunch appointment. And the smell was waiting for me, unabated. More like fully baited.
Thinking that maybe I was too focused on any scent in the car, I asked my lunch partner to double-check. "There's a smell all right," she said. "New car, with a dash of fish."
We'll take the car back to the dealership for another try at making the smell go away -- probably at its next scheduled service. But before then, we're going to try some home remedies in an effort to make our driving less aromatic. Send us your suggestions.
Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @8,000 miles
February 03, 2012
We received this recall notice for our 2012 Chevrolet Sonic. Click the picture to enlarge. The first lines read, "Why is your vehicle being recalled? The front brake inner or outer pad may be missing." Oops.
Mike Schmidt, Vehicle Testing Manager