2015 Sonic New Car Test Drive
Chevrolet Sonic is a subcompact offering refinement and sporty handling. Sonic comes in four-door sedan and five-door hatchback body styles, with a choice of four-cylinder engines. Sonic was launched as a 2012 model. The 2014 Sonic comes in LS, LT, LTZ, and RS models.
A new Dusk package is available for the 2014 Chevrolet Sonic LTZ sedan, with unique exterior features, a Jet Back/Mojave leather-appointed interior, 1.4-liter turbocharged engine and four-wheel disc brakes. A rearview camera now is standard on LTZ and RS models, and available for the LT. An available safety package includes Forward Collision Alert and Lane Departure Warning.
Sonic RS delivers sportier handling and performance than the other models. Sonic RS comes with a 1.4-liter turbocharged engine, along with a sports suspension, four-wheel disc brakes, 17-inch alloy wheels, leather seating surfaces, and special exterior and interior trim. Unique gear ratios for the 6-speed manual gearbox and a unique final drive ratio for the automatic transmission give the Sonic RS more responsive acceleration, but at the price of meager fuel economy.
Chevrolet Sonic models come standard with manual shift and a 1.8-liter engine, rated at 26/35 miles per gallon City/Highway. The 1.8-liter delivers 138 horsepower at 6300 rpm and 125 pound-feet of torque at 3800 rpm. Those numbers are worth noting in comparisons with the optional turbocharged engine. We found the 1.8-liter engine offers sprightly performance and a wide powerband.
The optional 1.4-liter turbocharged engine is both more powerful and more fuel-efficient. The 1.4-liter turbo delivers 138 horsepower at 4900 rpm and puts out 148 pound-feet of torque, starting way down at 1850 rpm (2500 rpm with manual shift). Fuel economy is 29/40 mpg City/Highway with the standard 6-speed manual gearbox. Note that the turbocharged engine develops its identical horsepower at lower revs than does the 1.8-liter engine. Drivers are likely to consider the Sonic zippier and more fun with the 1.4-liter turbo, while getting better gas mileage. So we think the turbo is worth the extra money.
The 1.8-liter engine is available with a 5-speed manual or 6-speed automatic; the 1.4-liter turbo mates with a 6-speed manual or the 6-speed automatic. A standard hill-hold feature is especially welcome for the manual gearbox on hilly terrain. When the driver is stopped and releases the brake pedal, the brakes electronically hold the car in place for two seconds, thanks to a sensor that detects body tilt.
Looking fresh and new, the Sonic has an urban vibe, particularly in five-door hatchback form. Sharp creases, exposed headlamps and motorcycle-inspired design cues set it apart from other compacts, while good fit and finish and available forged alloy wheels keep it from looking cheap.
Sonics contain 10 airbags, including seat-mounted thorax side-impact, head curtain and knee airbags. Other nice touches not often found standard on a sub-$15,000 car include a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and 60/40 split folding rear seats.
We found the Sonic's handling to be good in general, not just for a low-priced subcompact. The body structure is quite stiff, which aids both handling and ride comfort. Corvette engineers helped tune the MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension for the U.S. market to strike a balance between fun and comfort. All but the RS model use front disc brakes and rear drums.
While most interior materials are hard plastic, that's expected at these prices. Fit and finish is better than most; but some materials, such as the headliner, appear low grade.
We think the Chevrolet Sonic has an edge over the Toyota Yaris, Nissan Versa, and Honda Fit when it comes to sportiness and refinement, though the Ford Fiesta and Mazda2 offer similar strengths at comparable prices.
The 2014 Chevrolet Sonic is available as either a four-door sedan or five-door hatchback. A 1.8-liter engine comes standard on all models except Sonic RS. A 5-speed manual transmission is standard, a 6-speed automatic is optional with the 1.8-liter engine. The 1.4-liter turbocharged engine is available for LT and LTZ models and standard on the RS. The 1.4-liter turbo comes with a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic.
Sonic LS sedan ($14,170) and Sonic LS hatchback ($14,770) have cloth upholstery, air conditioning, interior air filter, manually-adjustable seats, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, 60/40 split folding rear seat, OnStar telematics service, AM/FM stereo with auxiliary jack and four speakers, Bluetooth cell phone connectivity, front floor mats, remote keyless entry, power door locks, automatic headlights, and P195/65R15 tires on steel wheels with wheel covers. All hatchback models come with a rear washer/wiper and a rear spoiler. Chevrolet's MyLink infotainment system is optional ($595), as is a 6-speed automatic transmission ($1,250).
Sonic LT sedan ($15,780) and Sonic LT hatchback ($16,380) get upgraded cloth upholstery, cruise control, USB port, heated outside power mirrors, power windows, rear floor mats, a six-speaker premium sound system with CD player and satellite radio capability, Bluetooth audio streaming, and alloy wheels. LTs with the automatic transmission also get remote starting and the hatchback adds a rear cargo cover. LT buyers can get the MyLink infotainment system ($200), the 1.4-liter turbocharged engine ($700), and 6-speed automatic transmission ($1,285). A Wheels and Fog Lamps package for sedan ($495) or hatchback ($445) includes fog lamps, P205/55R16 tires and, for the sedan, a rear spoiler.
Sonic LTZ sedan ($17,390) and LTZ hatchback ($17,990) upgrade with leatherette upholstery, heated front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, wheel-mounted audio controls, Chevy's MyLink infotainment system, rear-vision camera, fog lights, and P205/50R17 tires. A 6-speed automatic transmission is available ($1,335). The new Dusk package for LTZ includes the turbo engine, all-disc brakes, unique exterior features, and Jet Black/Mojave leather-appointed interior.
Sonic RS sedan and RS hatchback ($20,325) come standard with the 1.4-liter turbocharged engine, more aggressive gearing, leatherette/synthetic-suede upholstery, a flat-bottom steering wheel, aluminum pedals, sports suspension, and unique 17-inch wheels. A 6-speed automatic transmission ($1,285) can replaced the standard manual gearbox. A sunroof ($850) is offered for all models except the LS.
Safety features on all models include antilock brakes (ABS), electronic brake force distribution (EBD) and panic brake assist; electronic stability control with rollover sensor; traction control; tire-pressure monitor; hill-hold feature; and 10 airbags: front driver and passenger, seat-mounted thorax side-impact, head curtain, rear side-impact and front knee airbags. An available safety package ($395) includes Forward Collision Alert and Lane Departure Warning.