2014 Chevrolet Sonic: Fun To Drive And Fuel Efficient = Twice The Value
I spent two weeks driving two Sonic models, powered by two different engines, and two different transmissions, and I was pleasantly surprised. Turns out this little car is not only affordable, but it's also both fun to drive and fuel efficient, making it twice the value for a subcompact.
The only subcompact assembled in America, Sonic has been a successful vehicle for Chevrolet: Thirty percent of Sonic buyers are under 35, and nearly half of its buyers trade in a non-GM brand.
Chevrolet is especially proud of the car's excellent safety rating: Sonic is the first and only car in its class to receive a 5-Star Overall Vehicle Score for safety from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the 2013 model was named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
As for safety, ten standard air bags include side curtain air bags to protect passengers in the event of a side-impact or rollover crash. A rear vision camera is standard on LTZ and RS; optional on LT levels. Choosing the optional advanced safety package includes Forward Collision Alert and Lane Departure Warning systems to help warn drivers when they are approaching the vehicle in front of them too quickly, and when they venture outside of a marked roadway lane. Sonic’s strong body structure is designed to absorb crash energy and provide a protective “safety cage” around occupants. More than 60 percent of the body structure is composed of advanced steels.
Sonic customers can choose between two body styles: a four-door sedan and a five-door hatchback in LS, LT, LTZ and RS models. Outside, the sedan and five-door models are distinctively different. The five-door hatchback carries a tight, two-box shape with aggressive feature lines and exposed motorcycle-inspired rear tail lamps; the sedan’s more traditional notchback profile has a more upscale and mature presence. At first glance, the five-door model almost looks like a three-door hatch because the rear door handles are hidden within the upper “C”-pillar area.
Standard on Sonic LTZ and RS, and available on Sonic LS and LT models is Chevrolet's MyLink infotainment and connectivity system. MyLink operates by integrating the owner’s compatible smartphone and stored media – via Bluetooth, plug-in outlet or USB -- and features a seven-inch diagonal touch screen, AM/FM/SiriusXM Satellite Radio (with three months of service) stereo with seek-and-scan, digital clock, Bluetooth streaming audio for music and select phones, voice recognition for compatible smartphones, and six speakers.
When equipped with MyLink and a compatible smartphone, the Chevrolet Sonic also offers Siri Eyes Free integration to perform a number of tasks while they safely keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel.
Under the hood, the Chevrolet Sonic is powered by a standard 1.8-liter Ecotec engine making 138 horsepower and 125 lb.-ft or torque that can be paired with either a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission; those seeking more spirited driving (and, ironically, better fuel economy) will especially enjoy stepping up to the 1.4-liter turbocharged engine borrowed from the larger Cruze that produces 138-horsepower and 148 lb.-ft. of torque mated to your choice of manual or automatic six-speed transmission.
Its 1.8-liter turbocharged engine promises 26 mpg city / 35 highway (with manual transmission) or 25 city / 35 highway (with automatic); the 1.4-liter turbo claims to deliver 29 city / 40 highway (when mated to the six-speed manual transmission) or 27 city / 37 highway (with automatic).
How many different ways can I say "driving the Sonic was fun"? Little cars lend themselves to spirited driving, especially on curvy canyon roads around my home. Trips up and down twisty Topanga Canyon in the little Sonic hatchback with the 1.4-liter turbo mated to the six-speed manual transmission were nearly like riding in a roller coaster. It helps that engineers who worked on the Corvette helped tune the Sonic, giving it a confident ride and handling, with a sporty athletic feel.
Shifting on the steep and hilly roads was even more enjoyable thanks to a helpful feature called "Hill Hold" which holds the brakes for a couple seconds when shifting to prevent the subcompact car from rolling backwards on steep inclines. Experienced clutchers might not notice it much, but this is the kind of technology that will help new drivers be less afraid of driving a stick, because stopping on steep hills no longer requires unusual amounts of hand/foot coordination to get shifted before you roll into the car behind you. Hill Hold = good technology.
Inside, the hatchback's tiny 159-inch length offers 41.8 inches of front and 34.6 inches of rear legroom -- the same as the sedan, which measures about 14 inches longer. Most of those extra inches are found in the length of the sedan's trunk, which offers 14 cubic feet of storage, while the hatch offers 19 cubic feet in the cargo area behind the second row, or 47.7 with the rear seats folded down. That number may sound like more space is available in the hatch, but remember, they're measuring all the way up to the roof: It's not often that drivers will pack the wayback quite that full. It feels surprisingly roomy inside for a subcompact with such a small footprint: A long road trip to Grandma's house was deemed quite comfortable by both the shorter kidlet as well as my taller teenage passenger.
The 2014 Chevrolet Sonic competes with the Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Hyundai Accent, Nissan Versa, and the Toyota Yaris. The entry-level Sonic LS sedan starts at $14,995 (all prices are with manual transmissions and include destination) while the hatchback starts at $15,595; the up-level Sonic LTZ starts at $18,215 for the sedan, while the hatchback starts at $18,815. (Hatchbacks are priced slightly more because they receive special tail lamp treatments, spoiler, and cargo cover that are not included on the sedan.)
P.s. Did you know that MTV-reality and action sports-star Rob Dyrdek just set a Guinness World Record for the jumping a 2014 Chevrolet Sonic RS 86 feet IN REVERSE? Learn more about the stunt, and watch videos of the record-setting jump here at BlogHer.