Used 2015 Chevrolet Sonic Review

Edmunds expert review

The 2015 Chevrolet Sonic is one of our top picks for a subcompact sedan or hatchback thanks to its blend of safety, comfort and feature availability.




What's new for 2015

For 2015, all Chevrolet Sonic LTZ models come standard with the turbocharged engine, and 4G WiFi hotspot capability is standard across the lineup.

Vehicle overview

When considering the 2015 Chevrolet Sonic for your driveway, a bit of amnesia will help. Specifically, you'll want to forget the many subpar small cars (we're looking at you, Aveo) that have worn Chevy's bowtie logo over the years. The good news is that the 2015 Sonic makes your job easy. Score one for the home team, because this endearing American-built subcompact is fully competitive against the imports that have traditionally dominated the segment.

Offered as a sedan or four-door hatchback, the Sonic feels more refined and substantial than its size would suggest. Its well-tuned suspension provides both steady handling and respectable ride comfort, giving the Sonic the character of a miniature Volkswagen Golf. The standard four-cylinder engine will neither impress you at the pump nor win you many drag races, but the optional turbocharged four-cylinder ratchets up this runabout's performance potential. The turbo-4 also claims an impressive combined EPA rating of 33 mpg with the manual transmission, although we've found it difficult to achieve that number in real-world driving.

Inside, the Sonic has impressed us with its sensible, user-friendly control layout and standard 4G WiFi hotspot capability. The Sonic offers alluring options, too, including an up-to-date touchscreen interface, a rearview camera and advanced safety features like forward collision alert and lane-departure warning. On the flipside, interior materials quality is subpar, and the hatchback model suffers a cargo capacity deficit compared to its competitors. You take the bad with the good in this class, and in the Sonic's case, there's certainly more of the latter than the former.

The 2015 Chevy Sonic isn't the only subcompact worth considering, of course. We drove the sporty Sonic RS model and liked it enough to give it a "B" rating, but we also like the 2015 Ford Fiesta for its refined road manners and impressive fuel economy across the board. The 2015 Hyundai Accent and related 2015 Kia Rio are noteworthy alternatives on account of their spunky style and strong value. The Honda Fit hatchback, redesigned for 2015, is another strong candidate due to its unmatched passenger and cargo flexibility. Even in this talented group, though, the 2015 Chevy Sonic stands out for its impressive combination of performance, safety and value.




Trim levels & features

The 2015 Chevrolet Sonic is available in sedan and four-door hatchback body styles. Both can seat five passengers. Four trim levels are available: LS, LT, LTZ and RS.

LS models offer 15-inch wheels, automatic headlights, manual mirrors with integrated blind-spot coverage, power locks, remote keyless entry, manual windows, air-conditioning, cloth upholstery, a height-adjustable driver seat, 60/40-split-folding rear seatbacks, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a trip computer, Bluetooth phone connectivity, OnStar telematics (with 4G LTE WiFi) and a four-speaker sound system with an auxiliary input jack.

The LT adds 15-inch alloy wheels, chrome exterior accents, heated power mirrors, upgraded cloth upholstery, cruise control, power windows, remote ignition (automatic transmission only) and a six-speaker sound system that includes satellite radio.

Moving up to the LTZ gets you the turbocharged engine, 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, simulated leather upholstery, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a rearview camera and the Chevrolet MyLink infotainment system (optional on the LT) with a 7-inch touchscreen interface, smartphone app integration, Bluetooth audio connectivity and a USB/iPod interface.

The RS adds four-wheel disc brakes, a sport body kit with a rear spoiler, a sport-tuned suspension, unique 17-inch wheels, sportier exterior trim, leather and simulated suede upholstery and a sport steering wheel.

A sunroof is optional for LT, LTZ and RS, as is an Advanced Safety package that adds lane-departure warning and forward collision alert. The LTZ sedan also offers a "Dusk" package that includes 18-inch wheels, four-wheel disc brakes, unique exterior styling and leather and simulated suede upholstery.



Performance & mpg

The standard engine on 2015 Chevy Sonic LS and LT models is a 1.8-liter four-cylinder that produces 138 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission with a hill-hold feature is standard, and a six-speed automatic is available as an option. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 30 mpg combined (26 city/35 highway) with the manual transmission and 28 mpg combined (25 city/35 highway) with the automatic -- below-average results for the subcompact segment.

A turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder is standard on the LTZ and RS (and optional for the LT). Although its 138-hp output mirrors 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. Fuel economy in the LTZ and LT trim is rated at 33 mpg combined (29 city/40 highway) with the manual and 31 mpg combined (27 city/37 highway) with the automatic. The RS trim's sportier gearing results in lower estimates of 30 mpg combined (27/34) with the manual and 28 combined (25/33) with the automatic.

In Edmunds performance testing, a turbocharged Sonic LTZ hatchback with the manual accelerated from zero to 60 in 8.8 seconds, quick for this segment. During a yearlong Edmunds test of a turbocharged manual LTZ hatchback, however, we found it difficult to match the EPA's fuel economy estimates in real-world driving.

Safety

Every 2015 Chevrolet Sonic comes standard with traction and stability control along with antilock brakes (front disc/rear drum on the LS, LT and LTZ trim levels and four-wheel discs on the RS and Dusk-package models). There are knee airbags for front seat occupants, front seat side-impact airbags and side curtain airbags. Also standard is OnStar, which includes automatic crash notification, stolen vehicle assistance and remote door unlocking.

A rearview camera is standard on LTZ and RS models and available as an option on the LT. The Advanced Safety package includes forward collision warning (alerting the driver to an imminent impact) and lane-departure warning; it's optional on all but the entry-level LS.

In Edmunds brake testing, a turbocharged Sonic LTZ stopped from 60 mph in 123 feet, an average distance for this segment.

In government crash tests, the Sonic received a perfect five stars overall, including five stars for total frontal impact safety and five stars for total side impact safety. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Sonic its top score of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength crash tests, though the Sonic was deemed "Marginal" (second-worst) in the small-overlap frontal-offset crash test. The Sonic's seat and head restraint design was rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.

Driving

On the road, the 2015 Chevrolet Sonic feels more solid and refined than other subcompact sedans and hatchbacks. Similar to European cars, the Sonic handles well around turns, with notably responsive steering, yet it also rides well enough that long road trips are not an endurance test.

Both engines offer decent performance, but the turbocharged 1.4-liter feels more lively and delivers useful power for merging and passing maneuvers. The only downside is the engine's somewhat sluggish responsiveness, which can make it difficult to accelerate smoothly from a stop in heavy traffic. In addition, efficiency-oriented gearing necessitates frequent shifting in manual-transmission models, because there isn't much power for passing in 5th and 6th gears. That's less of a problem in the sporty RS model, as its transmission is geared to provide quicker responses. The firmly tuned RS suspension also sharpens up the car's handling through turns, yet the ride remains compliant.

Interior

The interior of the 2015 Chevy Sonic is attractive enough, but the extensive use of hard plastics confirms the car's economy focus. It earns extra points for comfort, however, as even tall drivers can find a driving position that works. Smaller adults should find the rear seats similarly accommodating by segment standards, with decent amounts of head- and legroom.

The Sonic's gauges and controls are well laid out and easy to operate. Among the more intriguing features is the available MyLink touchscreen interface with voice controls (including Siri Eyes Free for iPhone users) and smartphone integration. MyLink allows you to enjoy Internet radio apps such as Pandora, and you can also add navigation capabilities via the inexpensive "BringGo" app. However, the screen sometimes frustrates with its failure to register touch inputs.

The sedan's 14-cubic-foot trunk is among the largest in the segment and can be expanded further with 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 folded down -- significantly less capacity than the Honda Fit or even the Hyundai Accent.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.