Sonic hedges toward economy and space solutions
"A noticeable improvement from the Aveo it replaces makes Sonic one of the best looking tiny hatchbacks on the market."
When I think of Sonic, I think of the animated running-shoe wearing hedgehog that bundles himself up in a ball in order to go really fast. His Chevrolet namesake is not that fast, no matter how you roll it up.
In fact, it’s barely animated. Although, the unique instrument panel in front of the driver kinda looks like a video game console.
It is also a lot cuter than a hedgehog (except maybe a baby hedgehog – those things are cute!) – a noticeable improvement from the Aveo it replaces and one of the best looking tiny hatchbacks on the market (which really isn’t saying all that much, since all the small hatchbacks on today’s market look a lot alike).
What Sonic does have in relation to its cartoon namesake, though, is cleverness. Just as the animated creature can come up with innovative common sense solutions to just about any problem, so the Sonic hatchback has a lot of little things that make a lot of sense.
From the outside, it has probably the largest rear doors of any car in any category. In comparison to the current mid-sized Malibu, the Sonic’s rear doors are about the same size and seem to open wider. Combined with the cut of the roof, it makes getting into Sonic a lot easier than trying to slip into the rear seats of the Malibu. The front doors are considerably smaller, however, and although full-sized men may find it easier to slip into the Sonic rear seats, they’re going to be pretty cramped once they get settled. Still, for a sub-compact, rear room is relatively good.
The rear seatbacks fold down in a 60/40 split, but they don’t go down flat to the cargo area floor. Still, unlike competitors like the Mazda2 and Ford Fiesta, there is a continuous load-floor from the back bumper to the back of the front seats. The trunk area is accommodating enough for lots of cargo, but it also hides a sub-floor in which you can stow valuables such as wallets and purses, if you find yourself at the beach.
At the other end of the cabin, you have the traditional glove box that can come down and whack front passengers’ shins and there is also a smaller covered unit above it that is perfect for wallets, house keys, a camera or two, etc. Whatever needs to be near the driver can sit in open cubbies beside the centre stack or on top of it. If you can’t find a cubby in which to drop your stuff when you’re driving Sonic, you’re taking too much stuff.
Seat comfort is what you’d expect from a subcompact, but the cloth material seems durable enough. Carpeting also looks durable and easy to clean. The driver has the extra convenience of a fold-down armrest. I never really use them, but some people will appreciate it.
Now, I’d like to say that with a little help, this Sonic could be just as fast as the cartoon one, but that would be lying. Although, I suppose that if the “little help” came in the form of a supercharged LS9 engine, it would be truthful, but wedging it into the tiny space for the stock 1.8-litre four-cylinder, which barely leaves enough space to fit in a turbocharger (available for LTZ Sonics). In order to make room for the turbo and associated gear, Chevrolet drops the displacement to 1.4 litres, meaning horsepower stays at 138 (though torque rises from 125, peaking at 3800, to 148 at 2500). That’s not enough to have the same effect as backing a hedgehog up against the plunger and having him race through the current level, but it should be a bit better.
And, the money you save on gas at the pumps could be sorta, kinda like gathering up all those golden rings …
2012 Chevrolet Sonic
Trim level: LT
Price as tested (before taxes): $20,740
Options on test vehicle: Appearance pkg. ($1,550) inc.: sunroof, aluminum wheels, fog lamps; automatic transmission ($1,500); Inferno Orange metallic paint ($195)
Configuration: front engine/ front-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 1.8L 4-cyl./ 6-spd automatic
Power/torque: 138 hp/ 125 lb.-ft.
Fuel (capacity): Regular (46L)
Fuel economy ratings: 8.3 L/100km city; 5.5 L/100km hwy
Observed fuel economy: 7.2 L/100km over 862 km
Warranties: 3 years/60,000 km (basic); 5 years/ 160,000 km (powertrain)
Competitors: Ford Fiesta; Honda Fit; Kia Rio5; Mazda2; Toyota Yaris
Strengths: space solutions; nice looks; fuel economy; relative comfort
Weaknesses: lackadaisical performance