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4-Door Sedan LSGas I4, 1.8L
Front Wheel Drive
|$ 13,815||$ 14,170|
4-Door Sedan LTGas I4, 1.8L
Front Wheel Drive
|$ 15,148||$ 15,780|
4-Door Sedan LTZGas I4, 1.8L
Front Wheel Drive
|$ 16,520||$ 17,390|
5-Door HB LSGas I4, 1.8L
Front Wheel Drive
|$ 14,400||$ 14,770|
The subcompact 2014 Chevrolet Sonic benefits from the "bracket creep" that has lately affected almost every segment of cars. Ten years ago, it would have been deemed a compact car, based on its footprint and probably also its features and options list. But it sits between the minicar Spark and the compact Cruze sedans, and its extra size gives it an edge over some of the smaller competitors in the field--including the Ford Fiesta and the Hyundai Accent.
The 2014 Sonic, now in its third model year, faces off against those cars--and also the Nissan Versa four-door sedan and the new-for-2014 Versa Note hatchback, the Toyota Yaris, and an all-new Honda Fit for 2015 that will arrive in dealerships this spring. The Sonic is a better car than many of those competitors, though we suspect the all-new Fit may reset the bar again.
With a handful of updates to its infotainment and safety systems for 2014, the Sonic comes as a five-door hatchback or a four-door sedan. Both models share the same wheelbase, front styling, and front doors, but differ considerably behind the center pillar. The rear doors of the hatchback have their handles hidden in a black trim panel--purportedly to give it more of a coupe look--while those of the sedan are conventional.
Inside the cabin, the twin-cockpit design echoes other Chevrolet models but sports edgier design--including a "motorcycle inspired" instrument cluster. Still, the controls and passenger accommodations offer a high quality of materials and finishes.
Two adults can fit comfortably in the front, and the rear seats are surprisingly spacious for a subcompact--though four adults will still have to negotiate a bit to give rear-seat riders enough leg room. The rear seatbacks flip forward, turning the hatchback into a moving van and making the sedan, with its surprisingly long trunk, almost into a sort of mini-pickup truck. While neither is quite as versatile in its interior configurations as the near-magical Honda Fit, neither model has any serious packaging flaws.
The base engine is a conventional 1.8-liter four, but we greatly prefer the optional turbocharged 1.4-liter four--the same pair of engines offered in the Cruze compact. The turbo four gives stronger acceleration, it's more fun to drive, and it gets better gas-mileage ratings too. Only the 1.8 is offered in the base LS trim level, to keep costs down, but in our view, it's worth it to step up to the LT to get the better engine. Either engine can be ordered with a six-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed automatic transmission.
On the road, the Sonic is enjoyable to drive considering its modest price, and the electric power steering in particular is nicely weighted. It feels strong and sturdy, not tinny, and refinement is better than many competitors, with engine and road noise well suppressed. Plus, the Sonic gets outstanding safety ratings: five stars from the NHTSA, and IIHS Top Safety Pick status (although with 'marginal' small overlap ratings). All models have 10 standard airbags, and blind-spot mirrors, and Chevy's added an optional crash-avoidance system for 2014 as well.
And compliments to Chevy for making alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity, and steering-wheel audio controls standard on every trim level--even the base LS--along with air conditioning and remote keyless entry. Remote start comes standard on automatic LT models, and a Connectivity & Cruise package adds a USB port and cruise control to the LT as well.
There's also a sporty-looking Sonic RS model, offered only as a hatchback. It doesn't actually offer any more power, but its appearance has been upgraded with changes to the front fascia, unique wheels, a retuned exhaust, and a variety of interior trim items (sport seats, special steering wheel, aluminum pedals).
With its focus on young buyers, infotainment is a strong point for the Sonic. The available Chevrolet MyLink system, new last year, includes a 7-inch color touchscreen display, hands-free connectivity, streaming audio (along with Pandora and Stitcher apps) and voice recognition. MyLink can be added to any Sonic, and is standard on the top LTZ model as well as the RS.
For 2014, Chevy offers the Bringgo navigation app for the Sonic as well as the Spark minicar, where it launched last year. For a one-time $50 fee, drivers can run Bringgo on their smartphones, which plug into the dash and display both maps and routing on the MyLink display. It's an inexpensive way to add navigation at a much lower cost, and we think the "smartphone, dumb screen" model will spread rapidly among tech-savvy consumers.
- Refined, smooth ride
- Nicely weighted steering
- Comfortable, well-sized seats
- Power and efficiency from turbo four
- Aggressive, non-econobox design
Next: Interior / Exterior »
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