The 2014 Chevrolet Sonic isn't the least-expensive Chevy any longer; that position is now occupied by the much smaller Spark minicar. That makes a good justification for Chevy's smart decision not to offer a truly grim, stripped-down, bare-bones model of the Sonic subcompact.
Every Sonic, even the base LS that's offered only with the less desirable 1.8-liter engine, comes with alloy wheels, air conditioning, steering-wheel audio controls, remote keyless entry, and Bluetooth connectivity. Really the only thing we see missing from that list is a USB port.
Last year, the Sonic added the optional Chevrolet MyLink system. It includes not only a color 7-inch touchscreen but also voice recognition, streaming audio capability and the apps that permit that (Stitcher and Pandora), along with hands-free connectivity. MyLink can be ordered on the LS and LT models, and is standard on the top-of-the-line LTZ model and the sporty RS.
This year, Chevy has upped the ante by offering both a smartphone navigation system, called Bringgo, TuneIn global radio, and Siri voice recognition (for customers with compatible iPhones).
Of these, Bringgo is most interesting: for a one-time fee of $50, the Bringgo app lives on a smartphone and offers the entire North American mapping and routing database, updated every time the phone syncs to the app store. Driving instructions and maps are displayed on the large color MyLink display, a system Chevy has called "smartphone, dumb screen." It's a clever way to add an inexpensive navigation option for entry-level younger owners who use their cell phones for directions anyway--while removing the distraction of actually using the handheld device itself.
As for trim levels, the LT is the next step up from the base LS. It adds a six-speaker audio system, including SiriusXM satellite radio, plus an auto-up/auto-down power window for the driver and power heated mirrors. Models with automatic transmissions also come with remote starting capability. A Connectivity & Cruise package adds cruise control and a USB port. New for 2014, Chevy has added an "LT Promotional Package" that bundles a power sunroof and front fog lamps with Chevrolet MyLink radio--although it says availability will be limited.
The top-of-the-line LTZ gets cruise control and fog lamps as standard, larger 17-inch alloy wheels, and heated front seats upholstered in leatherette. The sporty RS model gets slightly lower gear ratios and a retuned exhaust, along unique alloy wheels, a more aggressive front fascia, and a variety of interior upgrades. Of those, the sport seats are most important, along with a flat-bottomed steering wheel and pedals made of aluminum.