The Sonic shows that Chevrolet is serious about small cars. The styling is clean and crisp, and the well-executed interior has a surprising amount of room considering the car’s size. Most of all, it is made at GM’s Orion Assembly Center in metropolitan Detroit, and that makes it the only subcompact built in the United States.
By TOM STRONGMAN
The Sonic is available as a hatchback or a sedan in four trim levels with either a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder or a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine. I drove the 2013 performance-oriented RS available only as a hatchback with the turbocharged engine. The base price was $21,470.
The Sonic is Chevrolet’s replacement for the Aveo in Mexico, Canada and the United States. It will be sold as the Aveo in some 50 other countries.
Consumers have a renewed interest in small cars, due in large measure to rising gasoline prices. Attractive design and improved quality, both of which are evident in the Sonic, play an important role, too.
The sprightly personality of the RS is an indicator that Chevrolet can make small cars that are both fun and thrifty. The Sonic RS has the refinement of a larger car and it comes with Bluetooth connectivity, 10 airbags, steering-wheel audio controls, cruise control and an available navigation system.
For 2014, a rearview camera will be standard on the LTZ and RS, and options will include forward collision alert and lane departure warning.
The RS turbo engine, with 138 horsepower, is not exactly a powerhouse, but it delivers performance that is certainly adequate for most city driving. It feels a little breathless when you give it full throttle to merge onto the freeway.
The handling has a tight, almost German feel at moderate speeds, and the ride is surprisingly smooth considering that the wheelbase is less than 100 inches long,
The asymmetrically designed gauge pod looks as if it could have come from a motorcycle. A large tachometer sits on the left. To the right, in a silver bezel, is a window with a digital speedometer and readouts for things such as average miles per gallon and average speeds. The design works, but I prefer a more traditional layout.
The cabin has a surprising amount of headroom. The front seats were nicely contoured and comfortable although the cabin is fairly narrow. The driver’s seat has an armrest, but not the passenger.
Rear-seat legroom is not great, but adults can ride there tolerably. The luggage space is not overly generous, but the back seat folds down to create a sizable cargo area. The wide rear hatch makes it easy to load large items.
The Sonic has front, side and side-curtain airbags. The driver and passenger also have knee airbags. Anti-lock brakes, traction control and vehicle stability control are also standard. The National Highway Traffic Administration has given it a five-star overall rating.
J.D. Power and Associates recognized the Sonic as the highest-ranked subcompact in its 2012 APEAL study.
Three years or 36,000 miles, with a five-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.
The base price of the test car was $21,470. Destination charges brought the sticker price to $22,280.
Tom Strongman’s e-mail is email@example.com