With the exception of many high-end sports cars, it is fairly unusual for an automaker to let one of its cars go mostly unchanged for five full model years. It's typical to see some sort of refresh at least once during that span of time to reinvigorate interest in the vehicle, or at least give people coming off their leases something new to jump into. So far, the Chevrolet Sonic has received only mild updates since it debuted in 2012. That changes for 2017, however.
Though it's still the same car underneath, the 2017 Chevrolet Sonic gets a proverbial fresh coat of paint. Most notable is the Sonic's revised styling; it now looks more like a small-scale version of the Malibu and SS sedans. Inside there's a mildly redesigned center stack, and the gauge cluster has a more traditional layout than before. Several features that were optional on last year's Sonic are now standard equipment, too, including the 7-inch central touchscreen, Bluetooth, a USB port, a rearview camera and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto functionality. The price increases a bit to go along with all the extra stuff, but we think the additional tech is worth it.
Pleasingly, the Sonic's more inherent qualities are still intact, including a relatively spacious interior, top-notch crash safety scores and a strong turbocharged engine (available on the Sonic LT and standard on the Premier) that gives this little car some unexpected pep. That said, there's no shortage of worthy competitors in the subcompact segment. With two body styles and three engines to choose from (including the sporty ST's 197-horsepower motor), the Ford Fiesta is certainly one of the most diverse and fun to drive. If it's versatility you're after, the Honda Fit hatchback has a unique design for its folding rear seat and more maximum cargo capacity. Other options might include the roomy Kia Rio and Hyundai Accent siblings; they are less expensive, but their base trim levels are lighter on features compared to the Sonic LS.
Certainly, you've got some solid choices here. But even in this esteemed company, the revitalized 2017 Sonic is an easy recommendation.
Every 2017 Chevrolet Sonic comes standard with traction and stability control along with antilock brakes (front discs/rear drums) and a rearview camera. There are knee airbags for front seat occupants, side-impact airbags and side curtain airbags. Also standard is OnStar, which includes automatic crash notification, stolen vehicle assistance and remote door unlocking.
Optional on the LT and Premier is the Driver Confidence package, which includes forward collision warning (alerting the driver to an imminent impact) and lane departure warning.
In government crash tests, the Sonic sedan received a perfect five-star rating 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 and small-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength crash tests. The Sonic's seat and head restraint design was rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
trim levels & features
The 2017 Chevrolet Sonic is available in sedan and four-door hatchback body styles. Both can seat five passengers. Three trim levels are available: LS (sedan only), LT and Premier.
The base LS sedan offers 15-inch steel wheels, automatic headlights, LED daytime running lights, manual mirrors, power locks, remote locking/unlocking, a rearview camera, manual windows, air-conditioning, cloth upholstery, a height-adjustable driver seat, 60/40-split-folding rear seatbacks, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a driver information screen, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a 7-inch touchscreen interface, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functionality, OnStar telematics (includes 4G LTE Wi-Fi hot-spot capability) and a four-speaker sound system with a USB port and an auxiliary audio jack.
The LT includes all of the above, plus alloy wheels, chrome exterior accents, heated power mirrors, upgraded cloth upholstery, cruise control, power windows, front and rear floor mats, remote ignition (automatic transmission only), a six-speaker sound system, satellite radio and a second USB port. The turbocharged 1.4-liter engine is standard on models with the manual transmission and optional with the automatic.
You can get an optional Convenience package for the LT that adds keyless entry and ignition, a leather-wrapped and heated steering wheel, a six-way power-adjustable driver seat, heated front seats and an upgraded driver information center.
Moving up to the Premier gets you the turbocharged engine, 17-inch alloy wheels, the contents of the Convenience package and leatherette (premium vinyl) upholstery.
The RS package is available on LT and Premier models (it is standard on the Premier with the manual transmission). For LT models, it includes 16-inch alloy wheels, a sport body kit, a rear spoiler, foglights, glossy black interior accents, a leather-wrapped sport steering wheel and upgraded floor mats. The Premier version or the RS doesn't have the heated steering wheel but adds black-painted 17-inch wheels, a sport-tuned suspension and simulated suede seat inserts.
A sunroof is optional for the LT and Premier, as is a Driver Confidence package that adds lane departure warning, forward collision alert and rear parking sensors.
The hatchback is equipped very similarly to its sedan counterpart. The most notable difference is that the features included in the sedan's RS package are standard here.
The standard engine on 2017 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.
Optional on the LT and standard on the Premier is a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder. 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, and a six-speed automatic is optional.
Although EPA-estimated fuel economy was not available at the time of publication, we don't expect the numbers to change much from last year. The EPA rated the 2016 Sonic with the 1.8-liter engine and manual transmission at 30 mpg combined (26 mpg city/35 mpg highway), while the automatic rang in at 28 mpg combined (24 city /35 highway). The turbocharged 1.4-liter fared slightly better, with 33 mpg combined (29 city/40 highway) for the manual and 31 mpg combined (27 city/37 highway) with the automatic.
In Edmunds performance testing, a turbocharged Sonic hatchback with the manual transmission accelerated from zero to 60 in 8.4 seconds, quick for this segment.
On the road, the 2017 Chevrolet Sonic feels more solid and refined than other subcompact sedans and hatchbacks. Similar to the Volkswagen Golf, 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. Unfortunately, that isn't true for the Premier trim level equipped with the RS package. While the sport-tuned suspension and bigger wheels sharpen up the car's handling through turns, it comes at the expense of ride quality. Take it over any pavement rougher than glass and you might momentarily think you're riding on a wooden roller coaster.
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 fifth and sixth gears.
The interior of the Sonic is attractive enough, but its low price is justified in part by the use of hard plastics throughout. 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. Standard on all trims is a 7-inch touchscreen with the newest version of Chevy's superb MyLink interface, which also includes smartphone integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. MyLink's menus are intuitive enough that it doesn't take long for a first-time user to master its functions and controls. Our only gripe is that it sometimes takes a few beats for inputs to be recognized.
The sedan's 14.9-cubic-foot trunk is among the largest in the segment and can be expanded further with the standard 60/40-folding rear seatbacks. The Sonic hatchback offers 19 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 47.7 cubic feet with them folded down. That's very good, but bested slightly by the Honda Fit (52.7 cubic feet) and the Kia Rio (49.8 cubic feet).
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.