Chevrolet's entry in the 40 mpg class is the Sonic, slated in just above the Spark. It sells directly against cars like the Nissan Versa, Ford Fiesta and Toyota Yaris, it offers up a different style and character all its own.
It's available with both a 1.8 liter four-cylinder engine as well as an optional 1.4 liter turbocharged engine. The latter while smaller achieves the same 138 horsepower as the 1.8 liter engine, but has more torque at 148 lb-ft versus 125.
Best of all the turbocharged engine offers up a good deal more gas mileage with the ability to get 29 mpg city and 40 mpg highway. Thus, we chose the 1.4 Turbo for our review, and as always sought to see if it can meet or beat these numbers.
From top to bottom it just has an aggressive cute sort of style that we almost found to be animalistic. While the average Sonic LT Turbo would be around $18,000 our tester was loaded up with a host of dealer installed appearance accessories and packages which brought the price well over $21,000.
These included fog lights, blacked out grille and mirror caps, a rear spoiler, and mean looking black 16” alloy wheels. It also had a cat-back Borla exhaust which gave it some extra punch in the sound department as well as a nice piece of bling out back.
The interior of the Sonic is an impressive design which goes a few steps further in style than many competitors. The seats have a nice patterned cloth and provide good comfort, something we appreciated on our long trip.
The dash is well laid out with a motorcycle style instrument cluster and a simple center stack which has easy to understand controls. The only question mark was the large storage holes on either side of the radio that seem afterthought.
The steering wheel tilts and telescopes and the manual shifter while feeling disconnected was slick and easy to use at all times. The switch gear feel and quality is far and above basic Chevrolets of the past, making this car feel like a better value merely by touch.
The only area I really was let down by the interior was the audio system’s lack of a CD player. Chevrolet has made the executive decision that people don’t seem to need them anymore, well I disagree.
The optioned touch screen audio system while missing a CD player offers up excellent sound as well as Chevrolet MyLink which gives voice recognition for phone, Pandora & Stitcher and all manner of Bluetooth functionality.
Rear seat room was cavernous for a car of this size, offering good height for leg comfort. The rear cargo area was not so big but if you want a trunk you can order up the Sonic sedan instead.
Handling is somewhere between econo-car basic and sport hatch. Spring rates and steering weight seemed about medium in strength which was just enough to make the car engaging around town and on windy roads.
Yeah nimble is the word. Much of the time on our road-trip was spent on windy roads and city streets where the Sonic was indeed fun to drive, carving through traffic and pushing into the occasional curve.
Power comes from the optional 1.4 liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine which produces 138 horsepower and 148 lb-ft. of torque. It seems to be perfectly mated to the 6-speed manual transmission and the gear ratios are spot on for both acceleration and highway cruising.
Acceleration is brisk of not sporting, but overly fast. It’s just enough to be fun and has a playful power curve at all times. On the highway in sixth gear it will roll along at 2,000 rpm at 65 mph which is the sweet spot for maximum fuel economy. Now, about how we did on our road trip.
Our actual mileage observed was as high as 41 mpg on some highway stints, with an average 38 mpg over a tank average on a road trip which included some stops and city streets. In our week with the Sonic we averaged 33.5 mpg combined with a 50/50 mix of city and highway driving, still more than the EPA combined estimate.
The 2014 Chevrolet Sonic proved to be a good friend for the long trip and showed that it makes both an easy to drive and willing city car as well as a comfortable road trip cruiser. This is a a set of traits which many of its competitors don’t do both well at the same time.