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The Chevy Sonic is the replacement for the unloved Aveo. As GM's newest subcompact sedan and hatchback, it has to be impressive to blot out the memory of the subpar Aveo--and it is. With the Sonic, Chevrolet has a world-class car that's blessed with great handling, exciting turbo power, and excellent safety scores and features.The Sonic is one of the best small cars in the segment below the likes of the Chevy Cruze and Ford Focus--a better choice than many of its competitors, which include the Honda Fit, Nissan Versa, Hyundai Accent, Toyota Yaris and Ford Fiesta. Like many of those, the Sonic comes in two body styles: a sporty-looking five-door hatchback, or a somewhat longer four-door sedan. The front half of the vehicle is largely the same between both models, as is the wheelbase.
The key design differences start at the rear doors. On the kicky hatchback, the handles are tucked up high, discreetly, into the pillars, while the sedan's handles are of in a more conventional design and location. Inside, you'll find a more cockpit-like design than in other small cars, and outside of up-close materials and detailing, it's impressively upscale.
From a passenger or cargo perspective, there's also mostly good news. Seating is adult-sized in front enough, while back seats have enough space for adults in a pinch; flip the rear seatbacks forward and you get wagon-like versatility in hatchback models, or space for longer items in sedans. The hatch isn't quite as space-efficient as the reigning cargo king, the Honda Fit, but there aren't any serious flaws with either package, and the cabin is better-insulated from road and engine noise than most other small models.
Powertrains for the Chevy Sonic are pretty much the same as in the larger Cruze sedan; there's a normally aspirated 1.8-liter four, or a turbocharged 1.4-liter four. Both can be had with either a manual gearbox or an all-new six-speed automatic. Between the two, the 1.4T is by far the better choice, as it's stronger and more flexible, as well as more refined and fuel-efficient--and it makes the Sonic feel like a premium-brand vehicle, almost. Unfortunately, you do need to step above the base LS to get that engine. Otherwise the Sonic is surprisingly enjoyable to drive for an affordable, economical car, with nicely weighted steering.
A new hatchback-only Sonic RS model joined the lineup late in the 2013 model year. While the RS doesn't have any more power, it does include long list of appearance enhancements inside and out--like a flat-bottom steering wheel, sport seats, and aluminum pedals, plus a different wheel design, different front fascia insert, and retuned exhaust.Compared to the Aveo that the Sonic replaces--as well as to most other small cars--the Sonic is a safety standout, though new tests show more work is needed. Its structure feels vaultlike next to some other small-car designs, and its safety ratings have been good, with IIHS Top Safety pick status this past year plus five-star federal ratings and ten standard airbags. The IIHS' new small-overlap tests puts it at "marginal," however. All models get blind-spot mirrors this year, too.
New for 2013 is the Chevrolet MyLink system, which includes a seven-inch color touch screen, voice recognition, and connectivity for hands-free calling, streaming audio, and apps for streaming audio (Pandora or Stitcher). MyLink is standard on LTZ and RS models, and available on the Sonic LS and LT. Otherwise, even at the base LS level you get alloy wheels, plus remote keyless entry and air conditioning. Chevy has also revised the Sonic's feature set for 2013 so that Bluetooth and steering-wheel controls are included even on the base LS, and LT models with the automatic transmission include remote start. Also a new Connectivity & Cruise package brings cruise control and a USB port to the LT, and an official navigation app will be offered later in the year.