New & Used Chevrolet Sonic: In Depth
2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS, Catskill Mountains, NY, July 2013Enlarge Photo
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The Chevrolet Sonic takes the place of the Aveo as Chevrolet’s affordable subcompact hatchback and sedan. Following in the footsteps of GM redesigns, the Sonic is an improvement from the previous generation.
For more information on the current model, including pricing with options, see our full review of the 2014 Chevrolet Sonic. And be sure to check out The Car Connection's coverage of the 2013 Chevrolet Sonic.The car we know as the Sonic is still sold as the Aveo elsewhere in the world. Only in North America did that label acquire its reputation for unimpressive fuel economy, lackluster safety ratings, and poor resale value. Many U.S. drivers, in fact, only found the Aveo in its role as the cheapest daily offering in rental-car fleets across the country. We're not sure a model name mostly associated with hamburgers and hedgehogs is inherently better, but for Chevy, one thing is key: It's no longer the Aveo.
The new Sonic is comfortable, refined, and tight, with less road noise than most other small cars. We've found ride comfort to be good too. In most respects, Chevy has jumped from the back of the subcompact segment to the front. Chevy Sonic has far superior refinement, safety, and performance compared to the Aveo, and it's built in the U.S. to boot.
Base versions of the Sonic come with a normally aspirated 1.8-liter four-cylinder, but it's the turbocharged, 1.4-liter four that's you'll want, for its smoother, more refined demeanor, its fatter torque curve, and the better fuel-economy ratings that come with it. You can choose from a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission with either engine, and nicely weighted steering gives the Sonic a nimble but confident feel.
Gas mileage for the Sonic is also much better than the Aveo. With EPA highway ratings that hit the 40-mpg sweet spot (with the 1.4T; other models get slightly lower ratings), the Sonic rivals the best in this class, while performing somewhat better.
The Chevy Sonic is now one of the larger "subcompacts" in a class that's suffered quite a lot of bracket creep in its dimensions, but it leaves room below the Sonic range for a new nameplate: the Spark minicar, the smallest car sold with a Chevrolet badge in decades. Given modern safety standards and feature requirements, it's not surprising that the Sonic is a bigger and heavier car than the Aveo. But it's more substantial, and considerably more entertaining to spend time in.
While the Sonic still doesn't have a package that's as intensely space-efficient for cargo versatility as that of the Honda Fit, the interior comfort is good Between those two body styles, sedans are about a foot longer—at 173 inches, the length of a compact, really—and in our opinion their styling doesn't look like an afterthought. Trunk space for the sedans is surprisingly vast (19 cubic feet), although the versatility of the hatchbacks is hard to beat. Our only letdown, where the hatchback is concerned, is that its load floor is quite high—making it somewhat less useful and versatile than the Fit.
The Sonic is also one of the safest--if not the safest--small-car picks, especially among value-leading subcompacts. With top five-star federal safety ratings, and IIHS Top Safety Pick status, the Sonic currently earns a perfect 10 in our Safety category (comparing it to other vehicles in its size and price class).
Standard equipment in the Sonic includes keyless entry, air conditioning, and alloy wheels, even on base models. At the middle of the lineup, the Sonic LT gets an upgrade to satellite radio and six-speaker sound, plus power windows and power heated mirrors. To get some tech essentials, like a USB audio input and Bluetooth, you'll need to reach up to the LT or LTZ, but prices remain affordable, at less than $20k even for a loaded LTZ.
In late 2012, Chevy also unveiled a new, production-ready version of the Sonic sedan, dubbed the Chevrolet Sonic Dusk which had previously appeared as a concept model in 2011. The idea behind the Dusk is to add luxury touches to the Sonic.
For 2013, Chevrolet introduced a sporty Sonic RS variant, offered only in five-door form, that keeps the same 138-hp 1.4T engine but has a number of visual cues to give it more of a 'hot hatch' look. On the outside, there are different front and rear fascias, rocker-panel extensions, and special fog lamps, plus 17-inch wheels and a retuned exhaust. Inside, vinyl-and-faux-suede sport seats with red stitching, special trim, and piano-black accents, and the Chevrolet MyLink touch-screen interface is standard.
Other Sonic models also got MyLink for 2013; it's now standard on the LTZ and available on Sonic LS and LT. Six-speaker premium audio and blind-spot mirrors were new features, and remote start was included in all automatic-transmission models. A smartphone-based navigation app is on the way.