Full 2014 Chevrolet Sonic Review
What's New for 2014
For 2014, the Chevy Sonic gets a few meaningful additions, including a rearview camera and lane departure and forward collision warning systems. An RS version of the Sonic sedan debuts late in the model year.
When it comes to the subcompact 2014 Chevrolet Sonic, a bit of memory loss will serve you well. This American-built small sedan and hatchback are every bit as appealing as anything from the import brands that have dominated this segment for years. In fact, the Sonic is good enough to make you forget all of the small Chevy models (like the seriously subpar Aveo) that came before it.
Offered as a four-door sedan or four-door hatchback, the Chevy Sonic feels more refined and substantial than many other subcompact offerings. An optional 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine delivers strong acceleration and very good fuel economy. The well-tuned suspension provides steady handling without a noticeable sacrifice in ride comfort -- call it a junior-size Volkswagen Golf and you won't be far off. And with its firmer suspension and slick six-speed manual gearbox, the sportier Sonic RS model can be downright fun to drive.
Inside, the interior offers comfortable accommodations, with a backseat that's more adult-friendly than you might expect in a car this size. The Sonic can be equipped with a wide array of options, too, including an up-to-date touchscreen electronics interface and, for 2014, new lane departure and collision warning systems that bolster the car's already impressive safety credentials.
Of course, the 2014 Chevy Sonic isn't the only appealing subcompact on the market. We also like the Ford Fiesta for its refined road manners and the Hyundai Accent (and related Kia Rio) for its strong value. The Honda Fit hatchback remains a strong candidate if you regularly haul bulky items due to its unmatched interior flexibility. Even in this group, though, the 2014 Chevy Sonic stands out for its impressive combination of performance, safety and value.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Chevrolet Sonic is offered in sedan and four-door hatchback body styles, both of which can seat five passengers. The sedan and hatchback can be had in LS, LT, LTZ and RS trim levels.
Standard equipment on the LS includes 15-inch steel wheels, automatic headlights, integrated blind-spot mirrors, keyless entry, air-conditioning, cloth upholstery, a height-adjustable driver seat, 60/40-split rear seats, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a trip computer, Bluetooth phone connectivity, OnStar emergency communications and a four-speaker stereo with an auxiliary audio input jack and steering wheel controls.
The LT adds 15-inch alloy wheels, heated power mirrors, upgraded cloth upholstery, cruise control, power windows, remote ignition (automatic transmission only) and a six-speaker audio system (optional on the LS) that includes a CD player, Bluetooth audio connectivity, satellite radio and an iPod/USB audio interface. The hatchback also gets a rear cargo shelf. The Wheels and Foglamp option package adds 16-inch alloys and foglights, while the LT Promotional package bundles foglights, a sunroof and Chevrolet's MyLink touchscreen audio system.
Moving up to the top-of-the-line LTZ gets you 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, chrome exterior trim, leatherette (premium vinyl) upholstery, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a rearview camera and the Chevrolet MyLink system (optional on the LS and LT) that deletes the CD player and adds a 7-inch touchscreen interface and smartphone app integration.
The RS gets all of the LTZ equipment and comes standard with the turbocharged 1.4-liter engine, four-wheel disc brakes, a sport-tuned suspension, unique 17-inch wheels, sportier exterior trim, leather and simulated-suede upholstery and a sport steering wheel.
The sunroof is also optional for the LTZ and RS. These two trim levels are also available with the Advanced Safety package, which includes forward collision and lane departure warning systems.
Powertrains and Performance
The standard engine on most 2014 Chevy Sonic models is a 1.8-liter four-cylinder that produces 138 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission, which includes a hill holder feature, is standard, and a six-speed automatic is available as an option. EPA fuel economy estimates are 30 mpg combined (26 city/35 highway) with the manual and 28 mpg combined (25 city/35 highway) with the automatic. Both sets are below average for the subcompact segment.
A turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder is optional for the LT and LTZ. Though its 138-hp output is the same as the base engine, it feels more potent, thanks to its 148 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, while a six-speed automatic transmission is optional.
In Edmunds performance testing, a Sonic LTZ hatchback with the turbo engine and manual transmission went from zero to 60 in 8.8 seconds, a quick time for a car in the segment. EPA fuel economy estimates are also better than those of the base engine at 33 combined (29 city/40 highway) with the manual and 31 combined (27 city/37 highway) with the automatic. However, during a yearlong Edmunds test of a Sonic with the turbo engine, we found it difficult to match those fuel economy estimates in real-world driving.
The Sonic RS comes standard with the turbocharged engine. It also has the same six-speed transmission choices as the LT and the LTZ, though the gearing is slightly different to provide quicker acceleration. As a result, though, fuel economy drops to 30 mpg combined (27 city/34 highway) with the manual and 28 combined (25 city/33 highway) with the auto.
Every 2014 Chevrolet Sonic comes standard with traction/stability control and antilock brakes (front disc/rear drum on the LS, LT and LTZ trim levels and four-wheel discs on the RS models). There are also knee airbags for front seat occupants, front seat side-impact airbags and side curtain airbags.
A rearview camera is standard on LTZ and RS models and available as an option on the LT. The Advanced Safety package option, which includes forward collision warning (alerting the driver about impending head-on collisions) and lane departure warning systems, is also offered on all but the entry-level LS. Also standard is OnStar, which includes automatic crash notification, on-demand roadside assistance, an emergency button, stolen vehicle locator and active intervention, and remote door unlock.
Edmunds brake testing found a Sonic LTZ turbo came to a stop from 60 mph in 123 feet, an average distance for this segment. In government crash tests the Sonic received a perfect five stars for overall protection, with five stars for overall frontal protection and five stars for overall side protection. The Sonic received a top score of "Good" in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength crash tests.
Interior Design and Special Features
The interior of the 2014 Chevy Sonic is attractive enough, though extensive use of hard plastics takes away from the overall effect. It earns extra points in the comfort category, however, as even tall drivers will be able to find a workable driving position. Smaller adults will find the rear seats just as accommodating, with decent amounts of head- and legroom.
Gauges and controls are well laid out and easy to operate. Among the Sonic's more intriguing features is the available MyLink system, which replaces the traditional stereo head unit with a customizable 7-inch touchscreen interface and voice controls that are designed to integrate with the driver's smartphone via Bluetooth. This arrangement makes it possible to use radio apps such as Pandora and Stitcher, as well as add navigation capabilities via an inexpensive app known as BringGo. Still, like a lot of similar systems, it's not compatible with all smartphones, and the screen sometimes fails to register touch inputs, which can be frustrating.
When it comes to good old-fashioned cargo capacity, the sedan's 14-cubic-foot trunk is among the largest in the segment and can be expanded further by way of the standard 60/40-split-folding rear seatbacks. The Sonic hatchback offers 19 cubic feet with the rear seats up, but just 30.9 cubic feet with them folded down -- that's significantly less capacity than you get in the Honda Fit and Hyundai Accent.
On the road the 2014 Chevrolet Sonic feels more solid and refined than other subcompact sedans and hatchbacks. Similar to European cars like the VW Golf, it handles well around turns, yet it also rides well enough that long road trips are a viable proposition. Nicely weighted steering completes the package.
While both of the available engines offer decent performance, the turbocharged 1.4-liter feels more lively and provides useful power for merging and passing maneuvers. The fact that it also delivers better fuel economy makes it even easier to justify the extra up-front expense. The only downside is the engine's somewhat sluggish throttle response, which can make it difficult to accelerate smoothly from a stop in heavy traffic. In addition, efficiency-oriented gearing often necessitates frequent shifting in manual transmission models because there isn't much power for passing in 5th and 6th gears.
This shouldn't be a problem in the sporty RS model, as its transmissions are geared to provide quicker responses. The more firmly tuned suspension on the RS also sharpens up the car's handling through turns, while the ride quality remains compliant.