2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS
  • 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS
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  • 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS
  • 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS rear 3/4 view

  • 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS
  • 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS front 3/4 view

  • 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS
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  • 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS
  • 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS front view

  • 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS
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  • 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS
  • 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS front 3/4 view

  • 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS
  • 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS front 3/4 view

  • 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS
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  • 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS
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  • 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS
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  • 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS
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  • 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS
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  • 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS
  • 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS side mirror

  • 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS
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  • 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS
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  • 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS
  • 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS badge

  • 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS
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  • 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS
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  • 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS
  • 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS engine

  • 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS
  • 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS interior

  • 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS
  • 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS interior

  • 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS
  • 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS interior

  • 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS
  • 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS front seats

  • 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS
  • 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS seat detail

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  • 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS
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  • 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS rear cargo area

  • 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS
  • 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS rear cargo area

Vital Stats

Engine:
Turbo 1.4L I4
Power:
138 HP / 148 LB-FT
Transmission:
6-Speed Manual
0-60 Time:
8.0 Seconds (est.)
Top Speed:
125 mph (est.)
Drivetrain:
Front-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
2,810 LBS
Seating:
2+3
MPG:
29 City / 39 HWY (est.)
After spending a week with the Chevrolet Sonic LTZ five-door, and realizing how much better it was than its Aveo predecessor, we were excited to get behind the wheel of the all-new 2013 Sonic RS – the gussied-up hatchback seemed to smartly address all of the standard model's minor shortcomings of appearance and driving dynamics.

To test our assumptions in the flesh, we braved a crowded airport and jetted to San Francisco to spend the better part of an afternoon with the impressive Chevrolet B-segment five-door.

The hour-long flight gave us plenty of time to do our homework, pore over its specifications and set realistic expectations based on its price and performance. When it arrives later this year, it will have a base price of $20,995, meaning it will compete with loaded versions of the Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit and Hyundai Accent. More importantly, Chevrolet's RS (Rally Sport) badge means it gains an appearance package with minor mechanical upgrades – thus it should not to be lumped into the hot hatch category with more focused adversaries (we'd have to see an "SS" badge and hardware for that to happen).

Armed with the insight, we eagerly jumped behind the wheel of a bright-red RS and zipped around real estate north of the Bay Area for a few hours.

We arrived. We drove. We enjoyed.
2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS side view2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS front view2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS rear view

The gearing in the manual has been modified and the final drive ratio in the automatic is shorter – both will deliver sportier acceleration.

The standard Chevrolet Sonic is offered in four-door sedan and five-door hatchback bodystyles in three different trim levels (LS, LT and LTZ). Under the hood is a naturally aspirated (NA) 1.8-liter four-cylinder developing 138 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque. It provides sufficient power, but optional on the higher-grade LT and LTZ is a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder making 138 horsepower (identical to the NA engine) but a more significant 148 pound-feet of torque. Both engines are offered with your choice of either a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission. Base prices start at $14,995 (including destination) for a Sonic Sedan LS manual transmission and top out at $19,975 (including destination) for a Sonic Hatchback LTZ automatic.

New for 2013 is this Sonic RS, a range-topping sportier derivative differentiated by a slew of upgrades all meant to increase its fun-to-drive potential.

While the standard Sonic is available in sedan or hatchback, the Sonic RS is only sold as a five-door. Under its hood, as standard equipment, is the optional turbocharged 1.4-liter engine with 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. Transmission choices remain the same (six-speed manual or six- speed automatic), but the gearing in the manual has been modified and the final drive ratio in the automatic is shorter – both will deliver sportier acceleration despite the lack of engine upgrades.

2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS grille2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS wheel detail2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS door handle2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS exhaust tip

Rounding out the mechanical tweaks, Chevrolet has lowered the vehicle a bit (10 mm) and stiffened its suspension with firmer dampers. In addition, four-wheel disc brakes have been fitted, making it the only Sonic with rotors at all four corners. The electromechanically assisted steering has been left untouched. Also standard are 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped in grand-touring all-season Hankook Optimo H428 tires (sized 205/50-17 on all four corners).

Four-wheel disc brakes have been fitted, thus making it the only Sonic with rotors at all four corners.

The exterior of the Sonic RS wears a new front fascia with a more aggressive front grille. There are new rocker moldings on each side and the mirrors have been gussied-up with special caps. The rear fascia is also enhanced with a roof-mounted spoiler, and it boasts a bright trapezoidal exhaust outlet.

Inside the cabin are unique sport bucket seats (synthetic suede and leather with an "RS" emblazoned on the back rest), a leather-wrapped sport steering wheel with red stitching, a new shift knob (6MT only), aluminum sport pedals and unique instruments in the motorcycle-inspired gauge cluster. In addition to the standard MyLink audio system, there are also a few obligatory decals and badges, but we didn't find them to be excessive or in poor taste. Overall, the RS package looks pretty darn good in any of its offered colors (Victory Red, Summit White, Cyber Gray Metallic and Black Granite Metallic).

2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS interior2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS front seats2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS rear seats2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS rear cargo area

We spent time in a blazing Victory Red Sonic RS 6MT. As there were no options, its price was a reasonable $20,995 (the Sonic RS 6AT starts at $22,280). As a recap, standard equipment on the RS includes all of the power accessories and convenience features found on the LTZ (air conditioning, power windows, power locks, power mirrors, cruise control, etc.). The RS package is also bundled with MyLink, adding a touchscreen infotainment interface and Bluetooth along with Stitcher and Pandora radio capability. However, with the arrival of MyLink, the CD player disappears (no worries, as fewer people seem to be listening to polycarbonate discs these days anyway).

Don't expect an exhaust note, as it doesn't exist.

The cabin of the Sonic RS is more pleasing than its sticker would suggest. We found the upgraded sport seats comfortable and the rest of the cabin was nicely configured with decent switchgear and intuitive ergonomics. The motorcycle-style primary gauge cluster is odd at first, but we acclimated quickly and found the large digital speedometer quite handy. Outward visibility wasn't a problem either, thanks to the tall greenhouse and well-positioned exterior mirrors (with integrated blind spot discs on each).

With a twist of the key in its column-mounted slot, the petite four spun to life and settled to a comfortable idle buzzing contently on the other side of the front firewall – don't expect an exhaust note, as it doesn't exist. The clutch is light but not numb, and we didn't have any issues making a clean launch on our first attempt (the 6MT is equipped with electronic hill hold feature that will keep the RS stationary for about three seconds on inclines).

2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS engine

It takes a shift to third gear to hit the benchmark of 60 mph, and by that time about eight full seconds will have passed.

Horsepower is something of a moot point, but 148 pound-feet of motivating torque is more than adequate to move the 2,800-pound Sonic RS off the line. Run it through the gears quickly and most will inadvertently hit the electronic limiter the first few times (redline is about 6,250 rpm), reeling in the fun. Keep in mind that gearing on the manual box is short. First gear is only good to about 25 mph and second is extinguished before 50 mph. It takes a shift to third gear to hit the benchmark of 60 mph, and by that time about eight full seconds will have passed. That's enough to make it is quick for its segment as long you resist lumping it in with larger and more focused hot hatches.

Playing around with the engine's throttle response at a standstill, primarily interested to hear how it sounded running around the tachometer without road noise, we noticed that the engineers have artificially limited the engine speed to less than 4,000 rpm unless the vehicle is moving. Finding it a bit odd, we asked several people at Chevrolet why. Nobody knew the specific reason, but protecting the engine (and clutch) from the occasional overzealous owner seemed to be the common thread.

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It was the all-season tires that threw in the towel first as the open tread block lost grip and moaned in protest.

While quite a bit of energy is expended rowing the gears (not necessarily a bad thing), the turbocharged torque ensures the engine is flexible and able when a naturally aspirated powerplant would fall flat on its face. While it needs to get spinning to become most effective, we lugged, short-shifted and tortured it, and it just kept pulling.

The lowered chassis and upgraded sport dampers did prove their worth. We flung the little red hatchback into a few corners just to see what would happen. Even though the Sonic's center of gravity is about a foot too tall for ideal canyon carving, the suspension tuning and minor chassis lowering helped keep body roll in check, and so it never felt unstable. Interestingly enough, it was the all-season tires that threw in the towel first as the open tread block lost grip and moaned in protest – that's an easy fix in the aftermarket.

2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS rear 3/4 view

Most of the time, upgraded brakes significantly improve stopping capability. Yet exchanging the Sonic's standard rear drums for single-piston sliding-caliper rear discs (the same design of brake is on the front, but slightly larger) only brings it on par with nearly every other vehicle on the road. The four-wheel discs on the RS feel just fine, and stop well even in spirited driving, but they aren't going to take more than above average abuse.

Chevrolet's hot little econo-hatch was not only frugal, but it kept us very entertained.

Chevrolet and the EPA have yet to release fuel economy figures for the 2013 Sonic RS, but they should match or fall just slightly lower than those of the standard LTZ with the optional 1.4-liter engine. We'd estimate high-20s in the city, and maybe high-30s on the highway. With a 12.2-gallon fuel tank, cruising range should be close to 400 miles (keep in mind that those numbers will drop rather quickly with a heavy right foot goosing the turbocharged engine).

Overall, we had a lot of fun with the 2013 Sonic RS. It's the perfect example of what happens when an automaker fits a solid subcompact with a more powerful turbocharged engine and then properly tweaks the whole package. While this hatchback is far from a track or autocross star and it won't be winning many stoplight sprints against more expensive adversaries, Chevrolet's hot little econo-hatch kept us very entertained – and that's exactly the point.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 111 Comments
      Matthew Dawson
      • 2 Years Ago
      I just wish this had at least a token hp-bump. 5-10 hp would be noticeable in a car this size, and would still leave plenty of room for a SS version. It's not like the lack of that ruins the car, but it'd just be easier to justify the increased price. That said, I still really like this car and would seriously be considering it if I were in the market for a vehicle right now.
      M Lange
      • 2 Years Ago
      Just watched an ad for the Equinox that was about as long as the Autoblog video itself :x
      Avinash Machado
      • 2 Years Ago
      What about a SS model with power upgrades?
      JB Kolod
      • 2 Years Ago
      Pretty impressive performance for the specs
      Azazel
      • 2 Years Ago
      I tip my hat to Chevy. This sounds and looks like a nice little car.
      wrxfrk16
      • 2 Years Ago
      Where was this GM four years ago? This is actually something you'd have to consider if you're in the small car market. While a true hot hatch version would be very nice, twenty one grand for a new warm hatch is pretty good value, put it against a standard Mini with a couple options and you're up into the mid to high twenties really fast, and it's nice to see they focused on gearing, suspension, and brakes in this case, as opposed to their fallback of ramming something full of V8 power.
      Ben Lee
      • 2 Years Ago
      that front end is a joke. who sticks the logo on the bumper? total amateur. now the interior. the storage bin things on the sides looks like they changed their minds on where to put the vents and just left it alone. the IP could of been cool with a proper housing. it looks like the designers just stuck a satellite radio on there.
        GN
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Ben Lee
        Exactly. The grill and logo scream CHEAP. This looks like a school project.
        design eye
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Ben Lee
        Can't agree with the "joke" and "total amateur" comments, Ben, and what's a proper housing? All your points here sound like fear-of-"the different" complaints
      gary
      • 2 Years Ago
      Wonder what that little ecotec could do with a little more boost.. A ~$500 upgrade from GM Performance on the turbo 2.0 yields a whole boat load more mid-range torque without voiding the warranty. Will they eventually offer something similar for this little beasty?
        foxtrot685
        • 2 Years Ago
        @gary
        Theres a tune out for it called the Trifecta tune. Its $350 and it boots output to 153 HP and 194 Lb-Ft of torque at 3,700 RPM.
          NightFlight
          • 2 Years Ago
          @foxtrot685
          ..... and what happens to your factory warranty? Thought so.
          carguy1701
          • 2 Years Ago
          @foxtrot685
          GM has been mulling selling upgrades to teh ECU through Chevy Performance Parts (formerly GMPP). No idea if it will happen, though.
      foxtrot685
      • 2 Years Ago
      I like it but I dont like it at the same time. Likes: - Chevy avoids making it "exclusive" or limited run, meaning dealers should resist mark ups on it. - Chevy kept it simple and sometimes less is certainly more. They worked with what they had and improved upon it - It's still relatively affordable and like the Hyundai Veloster, its a fun way to get near 40MPG Dislikes: - Chevy avoids making it "exclusive," which begs the question of if its worth the premium over a nicely equipped LT with the 1.4T and 6 M/T - $20,995 seems kind of steep and ~8 0-60 seems kind of slow. 0-60 doesn't tell the whole story, I know, but should Ford release the Fiesta ST in the states, its starting price shouldnt be much higher than $20,995 and it might be a little faster, a little more agile... I really like the idea of this car and I'm glad to see GM commited to small cars and making them fun to drive, however I guess I was expecting a bit more with the launch of this trim level. Its not a Hot Hatch, just one that they put in the microwave for a few seconds to make it warmer and that makes me wonder if thats enough?
        rem
        • 2 Years Ago
        @foxtrot685
        Yeah, problem with 0-60 is that the shorter gearing requires 2 shifts. 1/8th and 1/4 mile times should be more interesting. 21k does seem pricey (I'd probably take a 500 Abarth or even a low spec Juke over it), but go try building out a ford fiesta to similar specs. Titanium hatch with the sport exterior and 'style' package interior built out to 20.7k, and while it includes sync, there's no screen and you only get a 5 speed manual. The Fiesta ST will be more desirable than the Sonic RS thanks to the extra hp, but they'll either have to use a lower quality interior or price it closer to 25k.
          rem
          • 2 Years Ago
          @rem
          @SVX pearlie - the point at which you decide you don't need a real backseat or very good gas mileage (don't forget the BRZ and Genesis).
          • 2 Years Ago
          @rem
          [blocked]
          • 2 Years Ago
          @rem
          [blocked]
      Drakkon
      • 2 Years Ago
      They need a 200HP dealer add on kit that keeps the warranty. Think Neon SRT. Intercooler, intake, flash, maybe injectors.
        Rotation
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Drakkon
        You mean think Cobalt SS I guess. It had a stage 1 hit that kept the warranty. Added 29HP (to 290HP).
          Drakkon
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Rotation
          I didn't mean the SS, but if you like that idea, you can run with it. Sonic still needs one. Didn't the SRT have button for under the radio marked 'C16?'
      Eric Helton
      • 2 Years Ago
      GM has gotten into the game. Gone are the times of GM cars being sold just on price. Lets face it, the only reason to buy a Cobalt or Cavalier vs the competition was that it was cheaper. With the Cruze ,Sonic and Buick Verano, GM is building quality small cars. No, they aren't $15,000 anymore, but you get what you pay for.
      jack
      • 2 Months Ago

      Have had mine for 1k miles..It could use more horses, but it's still so much fun to drive.

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