2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS Hatchback (1.4L 4-cyl. Turbo 6-speed Manual)
Driven On 2/12/2013
Chevrolet took the correct approach with the sporty Sonic RS. Instead of adding power to increase the car's performance, which would increase fuel consumption and diminish its ability as an economy car, Chevy focused purely on the suspension and the interior. More sporty, same eco.
PerformanceAs far as spirited economy cars, you can do worse than the Sonic RS. We were impressed with its steering and handling feel on some of our favorite back roads. The turbo engine doesn't have a lot of sauce, and drivability could be better.
This is a very small turbo-four, and yes, it does have lag. That said, it's a smooth, reasonably quiet piece. The 6-speed manual has longish throws, clunky action.
The brake pedal was nicely firm, both at the test track during panic stops and out on some back roads. Good power. Stops were fairly short, too, and that's with all-season tires.
The steering feels quicker in this RS version of the Sonic. Has great, right-now turn-in and it's nice and precise. Perfect for wicking up the pace on your favorite two-lane.
Between the lower, stiffened suspension and the quick steering, the Sonic RS is a fine little handler. Good grip and minimal understeer, it's a real hoot on a back road.
Drivability is hurt by the on-again, off-again turbo. Short 1st gear, clunky gearbox. Not easy to get the whole clutch takeup, throttle, shifter operation smooth every time.
ComfortThe front sport seats are very comfortable while providing excellent lateral support for taking corners with verve. The ride is definitely on the harsh side, and we were a bit surprised by the boomy tires.
The front seats are well stuffed with grippy bolsters for cornering. Good driver seat center armrest, but rock-hard door armrests. The rear seats were just average.
Not surprisingly, since this is a sport-oriented model, the Sonic RS has a busy ride. The thickly padded seats help, but get it on a rough road and you'll really feel the bumps.
The turbocharged four isn't loud, even at full throttle, but it also never sounds inspired. Wind noise is low, but there's a fair amount of boomy tire noise on coarse surfaces.
InteriorThis is a cheap economy that feels, well, kinda cheap, especially the controls and the yards of hard-touch surfaces. But there's a decent amount of room inside and good storage. And the cupholders actually have anti-tip.
Took awhile for the Bluetooth to figure out if our phone had been previously paired. Radio touchscreen has some oddities. Nice large HVAC knobs, but the detents are undefined.
Large front doors that open wide, easy entry/exit, no problems hitting head on roof. Rear doors also open wide, but foot box entry/exit is a bit cramped.
Elbow room is tight up front, but headroom is excellent. Driver's right knee doesn't bump center console. Rear door-side elbow room is cramped, but good head-, foot and knee room.
The long, sloping A-pillars make it difficult to look deep through turns. Average-size B-pillars, but huge C-pillars, and smallish rear window. No back-up camera.
Small front bin works for cell phone. No center console bin. Door pockets are reasonably wide. Cupholders have anti-tip. No storage in rear-seat area, but seats do fold down.
ValueInterior quality is a bit lacking, and the RS model is on the expensive side for the class. But the fuel economy we achieved was reasonable, especially considering we picked up the pace on some curvy roads.
Build Quality (vs. $)
Doors need to be slammed to close properly. Hard-touch plastic throughout cabin, dash, door panels, hand brake lever. Steering wheel and shift knob have a nice feel though.
The Sonic RS comes with cruise control, Bluetooth, satellite radio, heated mirrors, heated seats, suede-like seat inserts and a hill-hold feature all standard.
Our Sonic RS test vehicle had no options. It cost $20,995, including the $795 destination fee.
The EPA rates the Sonic RS at 27 city/34 highway/30 mpg combined. We averaged 30.6 mpg on our highly-varied Edmunds test route.
The basic warranty of 3 years/36,000 miles is average, but the 5 year/100,000 mile drivetrain coverage is slightly above average, though well below that of the Hyundai Accent.
The Sonic's 5 year/100,000-mile roadside assistance is again just slightly above cars like the Ford Fiesta. The Sonic does not have free free maintenance. The Toyota Yaris does.
Fun To DriveUnlike the majority of its small-car competitors, the Sonic RS is actually fun to drive, especially when traffic clears and the road gets curvy. We like the sharp, quick steering, stiffer suspension and ample roadholding.
The Sonic RS's driving experience is marred somewhat by its laggy turbo engine and a difficult-to-make-smooth clutch/throttle/shifter collaboration in traffic.
The turbo engine isn't inspiring in terms of its exhaust note, but at least it isn't loud. The handling of the RS package and the car's unique interior give it some sporty mojo.