One trend I like (that seems to be most pervasive at the extremes of the car market) is wacky colour choices. It seems like if the car is either absurdly expensive or inexpensive it’s okay to paint it neon-metallic-vomit. The Sonic I was given for testing wasn’t neon metallic vomit colour (unfortunately). It was, however, metallic orange, which suited the bold styling of the Sonic (and me) just fine. From tip to tail, the Sonic’s styling is chunky and strong, basically the polar opposite of most of its present competition, the Honda Fit, Mazda2, Ford Fiesta, and Toyota Yaris to name a few.
Inside, the Sonic is well-appointed. The materials are a little cheap in places. There’s some parts-sharing and cost saving going on, but with a starting price of $14,495 that shouldn’t be too surprising. Not cheap, however, were my top-of-the-heap LTZ tester’s leather seats. Surprisingly, this wound up being disappointing because the attempt to fancy up the Sonic with leather seats made other parts of the interior seem even cheaper. The same way a Coach purse doesn’t dress up sweatpants and a tube top, leather seats don’t make the Sonic a luxury car.
Materials aside, the interior is nicely designed, borrowing from the design of its bigger brother, the Cruze, but with some model-specific flare like the sport-bike flavoured gauge pod. Things are really well laid out except for the traffic jam around the driver’s side seatbelt clip. There’s an armrest, seatbelt, and emergency brake all about two inches apart. I also discovered that there was no armrest on the passenger’s seat when I found my wife Alexandria’s arm had drifted over the cup holders and taken up residence on my armrest. When asked, she told me the seats were somehow comfortable enough that it didn’t matter, which says a lot about the Sonic’s seats because a lack of armrest was one of her biggest complaints about Chevy’s Orlando.
While some of the materials may seem cheap, everything else about the Sonic does not. The ride is firm and solid. It feels substantial, not tinny. This gives the Sonic a very confident ride, especially on the highway. For most people, I think, this will be a real selling feature, because the Sonic rides better than it ought to.
One thing you likely won’t notice is the Sonic’s road noise. That’s because there’s hardly any to notice. The Sonic is very quiet, especially on the highway, which is awesome for holding road trip conversations, or unwinding at the end of the day.
Power! Sonic has it. My tester came with GM’s fantastic 1.4L turbo motor. What’s great about the motor is the torque. There’s much more of it in this little engine than in the base engine, a 1.8L non-turbo. There’s an old ‘car guy’ saying that “people buy horsepower and drive torque” and in a lot of ways that’s true. Torque is the force that pushes you into your seat and allows you to pull out on the highway with ease. The Sonic feels great off the line and on the highway, which isn’t often something you say about a small car.
Torque-talk aside, the turbo Sonic is properly fun to drive. I think the scientific word for it is “zippy.”
The Sonic’s fun-to-drive nature is really all that stands between you and great gas mileage. During my week with the Sonic I was able to achieve 5.4L/100km on highway runs. This is the lowest fuel consumption I have ever recorded in a conventional gas engine. However, I had such a blast driving it for fun instead of fuel economy that I paid the price, literally. Even flogging it, though, the Sonic turned out respectfully good fuel economy.
So, by now, you’ve probably gathered that I liked the Sonic. And you’d be right. I would recommend the Sonic to people, but it would come with a significant caveat.
While I haven’t driven a Sonic with the base motor, the turbo is so much fun, I’m not sure I want to. The problem is, and here’s where the caveat comes in, the turbo motor only comes on the top-spec LTZ, which starts at $20,995. Sure, you get the leather seats, (which I wasn’t a big fan of), but I suppose it justifies some of the price. Let loose with the options: automatic transmission, sunroof, and metallic orange paint, and the price can climb up to $23,470, which is really too much to pay for what’s supposed to be a cheap and cheerful car. So, unless you just gotta have the funky Sonic styling, I would suggest getting the Cruze LT, which offers more space, better interior appointments, and the turbo motor for just $18,755 (sans leather).
In the end, Chevrolet should be proud that the Sonic’s biggest competition is it’s own big brother.