For a long time, buying a subcompact car from a domestic automaker was either completely impossible or an unfortunate circumstance. Now, however, homegrown models are at the segment's forefront both in terms of sales and overall quality. The Chevrolet Sonic is one such example of local talent, a very well-rounded subcompact that stands as one of the top choices in its segment.
The Chevy Sonic represents a quantum leap forward from the Aveo it replaced. High points include sharp styling, nimble handling, a composed ride, generous interior space, ample feature content and quick acceleration. The optional turbocharged four-cylinder, in particular, is a standout in this class. Perhaps most importantly, the Sonic feels like a more premium, substantial car from behind the wheel than its modest price and dimensions would suggest. Buyers would be wise to check it out.
Current Chevrolet Sonic
The Chevrolet Sonic is available as a sedan or a four-door hatchback. Even the base LS trim level comes with air-conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth phone connectivity, OnStar and an auxiliary audio jack. Moving up through the LT and LTZ trims adds more comfort and convenience features such as leatherette premium vinyl upholstery, heated seats, an iPod interface and Chevrolet's MyLink infotainment system that includes a touchscreen, Bluetooth audio and additional smartphone-compatible services. There's also the sporty RS trim (hatchback only) that features four-wheel disc brakes, a sport-tuned suspension, 17-inch wheels and leather/faux-suede upholstery.
Every Sonic except for the RS comes standard with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder that makes 138 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque. Standard on the RS and optional for the LT and LTZ trims is a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. It also produces 138 hp, but more importantly, 148 lb-ft of torque. So equipped, the Sonic feels significantly quicker than other subcompact cars. Manual transmissions are standard (five-speed with the 1.8-liter, six-speed with the turbo), and a six-speed automatic is optional for both. Fuel economy is actually better with the turbo engine.
In reviews, we've been very impressed with the Chevrolet Sonic. It offers engaging handling that doesn't come at the expense of a comfortable ride, and the controls operate with a consistency of effort that you rarely see in cars in this price range. As long as you're OK shifting your own gears, the punchy and efficient turbocharged engine is definitely worth the extra dough. In total, the Sonic drives like a bigger, more composed car than you would expect.
Inside, materials quality is merely acceptable. The motorcycle-style gauge cluster is gimmicky, but the analog tachometer and digital speedometer are large and legible -- hard to argue with form plus function. In terms of space, the Chevy Sonic provides ample head- and shoulder room for front passengers -- even for those taller than 6 feet, which is rare for subcompacts. The second row is also quite spacious provided one of those 6-footers isn't driving. Cargo capacity with the hatchback is average for the class, but the sedan's trunk space is quite generous.
Used Chevrolet Sonic Models
The Chevrolet Sonic was an all-new model for 2012. Although the current Sonic offers a few more available perks, such as the sporty RS trim level and the MyLink infotainment system, these Sonics are otherwise similar to today's car.