June 27, 2012
A couple of weeks ago, Apple announced several planned updates to its Siri personal assistant service that is available on iPhone and iPad. During the same presentation, Apple also mentioned that it was working with nine automakers to install Siri hands-free in their vehicles. General Motors was one of them!
Yup, looks like the two GM vehicles that will be the first to get Siri Eyes-Free integration are the Chevrolet Spark and the Sonic.
GM Authority Blog writes: "Here's the way we imagine eyes-free would work in the Sonic and Spark: the driver will use a button on the steering wheel (likely the push-to-talk button) to initialize Siri, which will then open the car's Bluetooth microphone and feed the audio to Siri on the iPhone or iPad."
Sounds like it's supposed to make for a more intuitive hands-free system. At least that's the hope. As an iPhone user myself, I hardly use my Siri function. She never can seem to understand what I'm asking of her. Maybe her hearing will improve in the car's system.
Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor
May 30, 2012
Why do all GMs make me do this? Is this some kind of digital nostalgia for the tape/disc eject button? Are we still on Windows XP here? Why do I need to command-disconnect my portable device?
Is OnStar compiling my musical tastes and preferences and sending to Bob Lutz's desk? Or Facebook's Skynet? Is Mark Zuckerberg going to resurrect Joe Strummer and serve me ads for the Ultimate Clash Reunion Tour? Like!
Ah, well. Despite its fish-oil funk (still present) and boggy throttle, the Sonic still charms. Once you get into boost, it's plenty of fun. And it looks like enthusiast tuners are starting to open the ECU and flash new mappings that improve throttle response. Not the preferred fix for a new car, but worth a look if you're sold on the rest of the Sonic.
As I sit and plan my future mogul-dom of some obscure cottage industry, I think about what small car I'd like to putt around the expensive coastal village I'll call home. The Sonic makes the list, although probably behind the Mazda2, which is lively, easy to park and careen down hills, and packs good power for the package. Although if I'm feeling belligerent, a well-kept R32 might be the better call.
Can't a rich man just get a subcompact Bentley?
Dan Frio, Automotive Editor
May 14, 2012
At 6:20 a.m., I'd just finished fueling up the Sonic and was headed into the office when the radio muted and the car chimed at me. I didn't even have time to ask myself if I'd left a door open or a gas cap off. An ethereal pre-recorded female voice filled the car: "This is OnStar with an important message. Please press your blue button."
I half-thought it was a safety issue (even though Ms. OnStar did sound pretty blasé), so I pulled over and hit the button as instructed.
OnStar connected me with a live human this time. The customer-service rep said the ping was a reminder that our OnStar service was expiring June 1, and if I wanted to renew, OnStar could offer me a special promotional rate. I thanked her and told her we'd think about it. And then I went back to the business of driving the car.
For me, OnStar's use of its gadgetry to entice me with a subscription deal was too intrusive. The system is supposed to be there for my safety and convenience, not to sell me stuff. What's next? A deal on ShamWows?
What do you think? Should OnStar use its in-car capabilities to market its service?
Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @8,575 miles
May 01, 2012
Does anyone in the world pay attention to the silly up-shift light that Chevy installs in the Sonic's instrument panel?
I mean, I know it's there to promote fuel efficiency and all, but come on: It's actually suggesting that I upshift to a higher gear when it's already only pulling like 1,700 rpm, which is lugging for this little four-cylinder.
Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 7,936 miles.
April 13, 2012
Looks like the free ride is over. Our Sonic's three month trial subscription for XM satellite radio recently expired. I've let the keepers of the keys know, and they'll be renewing it. Funny how you can get hooked on luxuries like this. I remember when satellite radio first came out like 10 years ago and thinking "why the heck would anyone pay for radio?" Now I wouldn't think twice about doing so -- it's so worth it just to avoid regular radio's annoying commercials and yammering DJs.
Yes, with most new cars that come through here having an iPod hookup, I can just play my iPod. Or, heaven forbid, I could even pop in a CD! But I enjoy the wide variety of music and other programming on satellite radio that's delivered without the aforementioned hassles.
What do y'all think? Is satellite radio worth it or not?
John DiPietro, Automotive Editor @ 6,423 miles
April 05, 2012
No, the mirror pictured above is not from our Sonic, and no, I do not have a French tip manicure.
I hopped in the Sonic last night and started my usual routine of adjusting the seat, wheel and mirrors. When I went to flip the day/night lever on the rearview mirror, I was greeted by something rather unexpected.
Bing bing bing! OnStar.
Whoops. I accidentally hit the OnStar button. I quickly cancelled the connection by tapping the phone icon button. But that led me to the guts of this post.
That OnStar button is right where I rest my thumb to flick the mirror dimming lever with my index finger. That seems like a design oversight. Sure, you could just flick it with resting your thumb, and perhaps there are some drivers out there who operate it in that fashion. But I contend that there are probably plenty of people who have accidentally hit this button when they were reaching for the lever.
I know, I know I'm nitpicking. But in a car that I'm generally pleased with, I think I'm allowed. After all, if we don't point things like this out, they may never change.
Mark Takahashi, Automotive Editor @ 5,970 miles
April 02, 2012
Although it's getting better as automakers selectively embrace the "downsizer" trend, B-segment cars and subcompacts are still not known for offering a ton of amenities or conveniences. And that is why the quality of the approach lighting on our 2012 Chevrolet Sonic LTZ is shocking.
Click the remote and this thing turns on the headlights, taillights and reverse lights to help you find your way to the car. I've driven cars that cost three times as much that aren't as nicely lit at night. This is definitely on my top 10 list of favorite Sonic features.
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 5,778 miles
March 02, 2012
We've all commented on those oddly-shaped storage slots on each side of the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic's center stack. Turns out they're perfectly sized to grab onto an iPhone if the case is squishy enough.
It's like having a built-in hands-free windshield mount, and the map screen sits right in my line of sight. I essentially have traffic and navigation in a car that didn't come with it, and I don't have to dicker with it any more than any factory-installed touch-screen navigation head unit.
As for the phone function of this setup, the Sonic's Bluetooth connection and steering wheel voice commands take care of that. And the Sonic's radio head unit is reasonably adept at controlling the iPod album and song menus, too.
Too bad the USB jack isn't located inside this compartment so the cord isn't an eyesore.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 3,521 miles
February 28, 2012
The three-second rule is alive and well in the automobile industry, where all of you car's warning lights must perform a "bulb check" each time you fire up your machine.
If, as they should, the lights briefly come on then go out, you've learned two things. First, the bulb hasn't burnt out and the warning circuit is working; And second, as we all know, lights that go out after the bulb check period indicate the lack of a problem with that system. Or you haven't yet put your seatbelt on, or you forgot to release the parking brake, or your high beams are on, or the cruise control is armed, or whatever.
That's the easy part, but who is going to notice lights that don't come on? To do that you must first know which ones you're supposed to have. You know, the RTFM part.
In the case of our 2012 Chevrolet Sonic, the three apparent dark circles in the upper right corner are not the sign of a problem. There are no lights there, is all. They're blanks, room for future expansion or a mere styling cue to make eveything look even.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 3,494 miles
February 24, 2012
Yes, I stole this title from Mark Takahashi. In July he wrote a blog on our 2011 Kia Optima that said, "This isn't a new problem, nor is it exclusive to the Optima. But when I listen to my iPod/iPhone in some cars, the first half-second or so of a song gets cut off. It bugs me, but certainly not as much as throttle tip-in or rough shifts."
Remove the "rough shifts" part of that and you have the Chevy Sonic. It cuts off the first second/half-second of every song when played through an iPod/USB device. It's maddening, especially on albums where one song's end is the next song's intro.
Mark finished his blog well, too. I'm going to steal that. "Whatever the case, here's my open letter to car manufacturers: Please stop doing this. Thanks."
Mike Magrath, Features Editor, Edmunds.com
February 02, 2012
This is our long-term 2012 Chevrolet Sonic's manual day/night mirror. I use the night function a lot when I'm driving small cars in the dark, and I'll usually toggle between the two frequently, depending on traffic density.
Notice how close the OnStar buttons are to the lever. When we first got the Sonic, I spent a long weekend with it... I really enjoy driving it -- good ride, good shifter, good torque. During that time, I accidentally called OnStar four times. After the second incident, I learned to use the cancel function that comes up on the car's head unit.
OnStar buttons on a manual day/night mirror... not a good combination.
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 2,481 miles
February 01, 2012
In our last episode alert readers noticed my iPod cord coming out of the glove box of our 2012 Chevrolet Sonic LTZ and defiling the cabin with its noodly whiteness.
It was, in fact, exiting the uppermost of the Sonic's two glove boxes. And while I agree the glove box is not my favorite USB socket location, and the empty center bin below the A/C knobs looks invitingly empty and available, at least Chevy burned the calories required to make this location work as good as possible.
Exhibit A is that small notch that allows the cord to pass freely under the door while it is fully closed.
February 01, 2012
Despite its small size, the 2012 Chevrolet Sonic LTZ fits my 6-foot 2-inch tall frame very well. It has more than enough of every adjustment I could need or want. Its telescopic wheel pulls back far enough, the seat height adjuster drops low enough and the seat goes back more than far enough.
I also like those large bins on either side of the center AC vents, the simplicity of the manual climate control buttons and knobs, and the folding driver's seat armrest.
And then there's the gauge cluster.