America is waking up to small cars. The high cost of living, environmental issues, congested cities, and parking problems mean that a compact car — something that would have been laughed at just a few years ago — is now being welcomed with open arms.
The 2018 Chevrolet Sonic slots in just above the Chevrolet Spark as a vehicle that can easily service a family of four that doesn’t drive crazy miles. It costs just $15,295, you can lease one for spare change, and it’s a fuel efficient and lean machine for people that aren’t quite ready for the jump to the full electric Chevy Bolt.
The Sonic has been around since 2002, when Daewoo made the car on GM’s behalf. But now it has turned into a serious car as Chevy treated it to a refresh in 2017. Now, it’s a modern machine that could be all the car you actually need.
You can opt for a sedan or the more stylish hatchback that really suits the spirit of this car. After that, you have to decide between the entry level 1.8-liter naturally aspirated inline-four engine and a more powerful 1.4-liter turbo engine.
Now don’t get excited, even the hardcore engine offers 138 bhp and 148 lb/ft of torque. But this is a light car and it has enough torque to zip around town.
The Sonic comes with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, but you can upgrade to the six-speed automatic that provides smooth changes and you’re not exactly begging for more ratios.
Aside from the body shape and gearbox, you get three basic trim levels: LS, LT, and Premier. The Premier comes with leather seats as standard, power windows, aircon, bucket seats, and more.
If you want to dress your Sonic up a little, then the RS package comes with the sporting accents that will mark you apart from the herd, but won’t really achieve much. Apart from that you’re limited to optional safety features, which we’ll get to shortly.
That 1.4-liter turbo powerplant is fantastic for the fuel economy and turns this small urban transport into a real economy monster. You can get 28 mpg in the city, 37 mpg on the highway, and 32 mpg on the combined cycle.
The 1.8-liter engine is marginally less impressive, so if you do a lot of miles then you’ll lose your savings over the whole ownership period. That car does 25 mpg and 34 mpg, but you really should pay the extra and get the downsized turbocharged engine that is simply a cut above.
Safety and Entertainment Features
The Sonic might be a small car, but it punches well above its weight when it comes to the safety measures and the interior.
You get a five-star NHTSA safety rating, which is impressive for a car this size, and it scored five stars for everything apart from the rollover test. It’s loaded with standard equipment, too, that you can then boost further when you hit the options list.
There’s a standard rearview camera, 10 standard airbags, and high-strength steel frame. Opt for the $495 Driver Confidence Package on the LT and Premier trim options and you get parking assist, and a forward collision alert. While you can’t get adaptive cruise control or emergency braking yet, we’re sure it’s in the pipeline.
The infotainment is next level and it starts with a 4G LTE Wi-Fi connection, which turns the whole car into a hotspot for up to seven connections. It’s all hooked up to the seven-inch touchscreen that is a real match for anything out there in this price range and beyond. Inevitably, it’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto-enabled.
Although the Sonic simply can’t boast top-level materials at this price point, it’s well appointed, intuitive, and the ergonomics are well thought out. The rear seating space really isn’t a match for some of the newer cars in the sector, but the Sonic holds its own when it comes to comfort and the quality of the trim.
60/40 split folding seats help maximize the interior space. Plus, you get 47.7 cubic foot of storage space and 14.9 cubic foot of trunk space.
How It Stacks up against the Competition
The Chevrolet Sonic is a seriously good car and there really aren’t that many options if you want to buy American in this class. While this car that its existence to GM’s presence in Asia and Europe through the Daewoo and Opel brands, Chevy has taken decades of experience and distilled its essence into this one car.
Logical rivals you have to consider include the Honda Fit, Kia Rio, Ford Fiesta, and MINI Cooper. The Fit is more expensive, but it’s a more complete car. The Rio is cheaper, and it can match the Chevy for standard equipment, but the Sonic is more stylish and a lot more fun.
The Ford Fiesta and MINI Cooper are seriously model dependent. The more sporting models wipe the floor with the Sonic when it comes to handling, but you have to pay for the privilege. You can add the Toyota Yaris, Hyundai Accent, and more to this pile, but the Sonic stands head and shoulders above most of them.
So, the Sonic is a proper contender in the compact sector if you don’t want to spend more for the likes of a Volkswagen Golf. It’s a great car for urban transport and if you can handle downsizing, this is really all the car you need in the modern age.
- The turbocharged engine is the perfect ICE for the era.
- This is a fun car in a small package.
- The standard equipment is impressive for the price.
- Real solid crash protection.
- The sedan model’s appearance leaves a lot to be desired.
- Storage is good for the size, but it needs that caveat.
- The Honda Fit has it beat on rear seating comfort.
- Some people just aren’t ready for compact cars.