The Price is Right

Chevy’s Sonic is a subcompact that delivers
great gas mileage without the sticker shock.
By Tom Crosby

Chevrolet replaced the Aveo subcompact this year with the Sonic, which becomes General Motors’ smallest mass-produced car. With a price under $16,000, the Sonic is an excellent starter car, with a mpg rating that doesn’t batter the wallet.

Sonic

The Sonic’s five-speed showed plenty of pep on a test drive. © Chevrolet photo

The Sonic, assembled in Lake Orion, Mich., offers four-door and hatchback models with three trim levels: the base LT with a 1.8-liter engine and our test drive; the mid-level LS; and top-of-the-line LTZ. Both the LS and LTZ can upgrade to a 1.4-liter turbocharged engine for quicker acceleration. Our LT test-drive added one option–a $350 AM/FM CD player with six speakers and three free months of Sirius XM radio. Other options might be desirable, as the LT has manual seat settings and window controls.

We averaged 33 mpg highway/city driving, compared to government estimates of 29 mpg for subcompacts. With the vehicle’s spacious cabin, good looks, solid handling, and quickness off the line, it is a worthy competitor of the Ford Fiesta, Mazda2 or Honda Fit. A five-speed manual transmission shifted easily and showed plenty of pep.

Handling was solid for a front-wheel drive subcompact, with electronic power steering, front MacPherson strut suspension, and a semi-independent link-type rear suspension with gas-charged shocks that mitigated reaction from bumps in the road. Chevrolet touts the rigidity of the Sonic’s body structure by noting 60 percent is composed of advanced steel.

Safety features include 10 air bags, a StabiliTrak control system, power-assisted brakes, and four-channel anti-lock braking, earning a “Top Safety Pick” from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The Sonic’s profile slants sharply forward with a high beltline rising rearward. The five-spoke 15-inch aluminum wheels are pushed to the corners, and a Chevrolet logo sits between two matte black honeycomb front inserts. Front and rear lights were “motorcycle inspired” by Sonic designers, who also added a large round analog tachometer in the instrument panel.

Inside, the look is clean, with large climate dials and easily reached audio controls. Rear seats fold flat for extra cargo space, but trunk space is below average. Seating is comfortable everywhere, even in the rear.

For a young professional needing that first car or someone already on the career track who’s seeking to save money commuting to the office, the Sonic is a sound choice.

Bottom line: Price is right for starter car and to combat high gasoline prices
Like: Mileage, handling, acceleration, price
Dislike: Manual windows, cargo space

Tom Crosby is vice president of communications for AAA Carolinas. He is based in Charlotte, N.C.

Sept/Oct 2012 Issue

Genesis Fact File

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