Even with gas prices dropping, fuel economy remains a good selling point. With this in mind, we got three economical cars from Chevrolet. First was the new Sonic. I must confess I was not expecting much; the Chevy guys have burned us many times before in the compact car field, from the 1971 Vega, to that horrible Aveo. So I was really stunned to find that this was one of the best, tiny rigs I have driven this year. Under the hood is a 1.8 liter engine rated at 138 horsepower and hooked to a 5-speed manual tranny. Gas mileage is listed at 26-35 mpg. I say pass, and get the optional 1.4 liter turbo as we got. Horsepower is the same at 138, but there is far more torque for pulling power, and we get a slick 6-speed manual, or 6-speed automatic. Gas mileage is better at 29-40. I drove very hard, which you want to do with this slick powerplant, and the mileage never dropped below 29.
The steering was quick and had good feedback. Cornering ability was very good, with nice firm brake feel. Ride comfort was very good for a small car and soaked up the bumps. The interior was nothing fancy, but the controls were easy to use.
There is enough room for four adults, front and rear. Base price starts at about $14,000. Loaded up, expect a $21,000 sticker, but remember Chevy offers good rebates and discounts. Overall, the Sonic is a very good car and the turbo version excellent. Certainly worth a look!
The top engine is a 2.0 liter turbo, rated at 259 horses and hooked to a 6-speed automatic, which is what I got. It's quick enough and rated at 21-30 mpg. A 2.4 182 horse or 197 horse is also offered. The suspension is set for comfort--those wanting sporty driving should look elsewhere. Base price starts at about $22K, but mine was loaded up at $33,820!
The interior quality is very nice with good materials and workmanship. However, interior room is limited in the rear. All controls are easy to understand and use. The glove and console storage containers are way too small--this should have been corrected before production. Also, the auto-dimming mirrors have no disconnect button--another thing that should have been corrected before production. A nice car that could use some minor improvements.
Next up was the Volt. No, this is not an electric car as claimed by the media, nor a hybrid. It works by running on electric for the first 40 miles, then gas until the tank runs empty, about 300 miles later at about 35 mpg. So if you use electric only 40 miles a day, you use no gas. Drive 40 miles electric to work and 40 gas back home, and your mileage might reach a combo of 70 mpg. But drive from L.A. to New York, and the electric feature isn't very useful.
On the positive side, the transition from electric to gas isn't noticeable. The car is very quiet. Nice ride and handling. Interior quality is very good. All controls are easy to understand and use. On the negative side, the cabin is cramped due to battery space and acceleration is not very quick due to the 4,400 weight it is shoving.
Price of the Volt is $39 to $43 grand, but with federal tax rebates of $7,500, this drops. Retard states like California were offering thousands in tax rebates too (which helps explain their billions in debt) although I was not able to find out what it is today. And don't forget -- as long as you are running on electric, you pay no gas tax either. Since it costs Chevrolet about $80,000 per Volt to build, the $31,000 after taxes is a great deal for the owner. But perhaps not a good deal for taxpayers.