Joe Duarte

Turbo makes Sonic super

2013 Chevrolet Sonic LTZ

Turbo makes Sonic super

Car Review

Overall rating:

7/10

Strengths and weaknesses:

  • manoeuvrability
  • power to pass
  • modern looks inside and out
  • comfortable rear seat
  • susceptibility to crosswinds and turbulence

Editor's Ratings:

  • Price: 6/10

  • Performance: 6/10

  • Comfort (front): 6/10

  • Consumption: 7/10

  • Look: 7/10

2013 Chevrolet Sonic LTZ

Maybe it’s because I grew up in Europe, but teeny tiny cars like the Chevrolet Sonic just make so much sense to me, and their appeal gets bigger as congestion grows in seeming relation to pump prices.

I drove a Sonic in 2012, so the 2013 iteration on which I’m reporting here is not much different in terms of how it fits my needs and driving style. It’s still cute as a baby hedgehog and features one of the most easily accessible rear seats in the biz.

The Sonic cabin is probably as close to a cube as you will find in any automotive segment, and designers took full advantage to include large square rear doors that allow better access to rear seating than most mid-sized sedans. Once back there, there is acceptable room for two and non-existent room for three, despite the inclusion of centre restraints. Comfort is enhanced by a high seating position and plenty of knee room the front seats.

There’s still plenty of room to take along a couple overnight bags (maybe a set of golf clubs) and the seats go down nearly flat in a 60/40 split. And, there’s some hidden storage under the cargo room floor.

Storage has been done really well in Sonic, with plenty of little cubbies strewn about the cabin in which to drop cell-phones, sunglasses and pocket change. In front of the front passenger, two glove boxes hold the necessary paperwork and there’s still a place to hide away some valuables.

The upholstery seems durable enough for the long-run, and the smoothness of the material makes it easy to quickly sweep up crumbs. The driver’s seat has an armrest, for those who really need it. I like one on larger vehicles but find it basically gets in the way on smaller ones.

So that’s what’s basically the same between Sonics. The difference between our test LTZ and other Sonics is under the hood.

Whereas my previous test car came with a rather anemic 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine, the LTZ comes with a 1.4-litre turbo “four” that makes the same number of horses as the 1.8, but serves up 23 more pound-feet of torque sooner in the power band.

The turbo engine is standard in the LTZ and the more sporting RS. It’s also available on the LT (which was the version I tested last year). It makes the same 138 hp, but it peaks at 4900 rpm on the LTZ (whereas the LT engine peaks at 6300), but it makes 148 lb.-ft. of torque at just 1850 rpm – with the six-speed (!) automatic transmission; the six-speed manual does it at 2500 – which is nearly 2000 rpm lower in the power band than on the 1.8.

It transforms the Sonic from a sleepy little city car into a sleeper of an econobox. All of a sudden, you have the power to zip around those cabs and buses switching lanes as they help commuters get to their destinations ... considerably slower than the pocket rocket in which you’re not strapped.

And once you get out on the highway or country roads, there’s plenty underfoot to get you up to speed when merging into highway traffic or to zip around that tandem transport on a two lane rural road.

The LTZ also gets wider wheels and tires (205/50s on 17-inch rims vs. the standard 195/65s on 15s for the LT), meaning it can get a better grip on the pavement as the wheels are dealing with the increased power.

It all changes the dynamics of the little car for the better, if you’re one of those who doesn’t like to give up power just to get fuel economy and manoeuvrability, but it still has to deal with being buffeted around by cross winds and the turbulence generated by those trucks you’re trying to pass.

But that’s a small price to pay when you’re going super Sonic.

Fact file

2013 Chevrolet Sonic LTZ

Price as tested (before taxes): $23,105

Options on test vehicle: automatic transmission ($1,350); MyLink Sound Pkg. ($265) inc.: touchscreen, Bluetooth, USB port; Inferno Orange metallic ($195).

Freight: $1,500

Configuration: front engine/ front-wheel drive

Engine/transmission: 1.4L turbo 4-cyl./ 6-spd automatic

Power/torque: 138 hp/ 148 lb.-ft.

Fuel (capacity): Regular (46L)

Fuel economy ratings: 7.7 L/100km city; 5.5 L/100km hwy

Observed fuel economy: 7.6 L/100km over 748 km

Warranties: 3 years/ 60,000 km (basic); 5 years/ 160,000 km (powertrain)

Competitors: Ford Fiesta; Honda Fit; Mazda2; Mitsubishi Mirage; Toyota Yaris