- Front seat comfort
- Sporty, smooth, efficient turbo four
- Quiet cabin
- Harsh, gutless base engine
- Back-seat space tight for the class
The 2017 Chevrolet Sonic gets some safety and feature improvements, and should continue to score big on refinement and driving fun.
The Sonic was a fresh nameplate for the Chevrolet lineup four years ago—and in the U.S. the new path made a lot of sense, as it was refined, sporty, and far more safety-minded about-face from the Aveo that it replaced.
Now, for 2017, Chevrolet is revisiting and refreshing the Sonic, with some changes to this small car’s front and rear styling, a better safety set, and some new features throughout. In light of that, the 2017 Chevrolet Sonic for the U.S. is now a lot closer to the front-end look of the international version, which is still called the Aveo in many other markets. It continues to be available as either a five-door hatchback or four-door sedan.
Chevy points to the Sonic’s changes as being right in line with those given to other global Chevrolet compact vehicles, including the Cruze, Bolt EV, and refreshed 2017 Trax. That includes what the automaker describes as a more expressive look, with a redesigned hood, a new rear fascia, projector-beam headlamps, and LED daytime running lamps. Orange Burst Metallic, Brimstone, Cajun Red Tintcoat, and Arctic Blue Metallic are four new colors introduced for 2017, and wheel designs have been refreshed (still 15-, 16-, and 17-inch).
Powertrains for the 2017 Chevrolet Sonic essentially carry over from last year. Base Sonic models will be powered by a 1.8-liter inline-4, while an optional 1.4-liter turbocharged inline-4 gives better acceleration and higher EPA fuel economy ratings. We’ve found Sonic models with this 1.4-liter engine to be smoother, quicker-responding, and simply more fun to drive. Outgoing versions of this front-wheel-drive small car can be had with either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic, and we expect this to be the same for 2017.
On the road, the Sonic feels strong and sturdy, and its ride isn’t as coarse and busy as most other entries in this class. It’s enjoyable to drive, with electric power steering that offers particularly nice feel and weighting (often a weak point on Asian competitors). Overall, it has the settled, refined feel of a car an entire class larger; GM has lately excelled in making its cars quiet, and the Sonic is solidly better than average.
It’s in packaging where the Sonic hasn’t quite measured up to some of its rivals. Front seats are quite good, and adjustable to a wide range of drivers, but back-seat accommodations are quite tight and by no means transcend this model’s subcompact status. It doesn’t offer the so-called Magic Seat arrangement of the Honda Fit, or quite as low of a load floor of other entries, but whether you choose the hatchback or sedan, its rear seatbacks do flip forward all the way to expand space.
Safety features in the 2017 Sonic are quite robust, with 10 standard airbags. A rearview camera system is now standard across the model line, while parking assist is newly available, as are forward collision alert and lane departure warning, two active-safety features that may help you keep away from trouble. The Sonic’s body structure is likely to carry over with no major changes, and that’s a good thing; up until now this model has earned excellent five stars in federal crash tests, as well as top "Good" ratings from the IIHS, including in that agency’s tough (and critical) small overlap frontal test. We expect with the inclusion of those active-safety systems that it will earn a Top Safety Pick+ rating.
Trim levels will be revamped. LS, LT, and Premier trims will be offered for the 2017 Sonic (LT and Premier only for the hatchback), replacing the LS, LT, LTZ, and RS trims of the 2016 model. The RS model is effectively replaced by an appearance package that’s offered on LT and Premier trims.
According to GM, the Sonic is the first model in its class to offer a power driver’s seat. Other new features offered in the lineup include a heated steering wheel, heated cloth seats, and a seven-inch infotainment system that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. The system also has 4G LTE connectivity and a wi-fi hotspot.
The 2017 Chevrolet Sonic reaches dealerships this fall.