Chevy has built a new small car, and for once they got it right.
When it comes to cars with names that make us first think of hamburgers, the new Chevy Sonic is very best. This isn't a difficult category to be best in though, and when Chevy decided to sell the second-generation Aveo with the name Sonic in North America, we assumed at first that it was a gimmick. After all, Chevy has been notorious for producing disappointing small cars for decades, a trend which was continuing as recently as, well, the Aveo.
The fact is, although the Sonic will share a name with the Aveo outside of North America, it doesn't share a single component with the old car. Chevy changed everything for the Sonic, and they really put the kind of effort into the car that the competition had been for some time. A name change just made sense. One of Chevy's main goals for the Sonic was to make it fun to drive, and for this they drew inspiration from those other small vehicles that are fun to drive: motorcycles. From the driver's seat, this is apparent even when the car isn't moving.
The gauge cluster appears to have lifted straight from a sport bike, with a big tach on the left and a digital display for other pertinent information. When moving, the Sonic is actually great fun, with a very well-sorted suspension setup and surprisingly responsive steering. There is a choice of two different engines, a naturally-aspirated 1.8-liter and a turbocharged 1.4-liter. Horsepower is the same 138 on both, but the turbo packs more torque, with 148lb-ft compared to the 125lb-ft offered up by the NA engine.
In addition to the extra torque, when mated to the six-speed manual (highly recommended), the turbo engine will also deliver better fuel economy. This comes to an impressive 29mpg in the city and that all-important 40mpg on the highway, and it will even run on 87 octane. The 1.8 is still adequate, with 26/35mpg, although it hardly sets any records. Both of these engines have been borrowed from the Cruze, but in the smaller Sonic they give much more get-up-and-go. As surprising as all of this is on a small Chevy, even more surprising is the interior.
Yes, this is a cheap car (base price is $14,495 and it tops out at about $18,000), and the interior isn't exactly luxurious, but for the first time in a small Chevy, it doesn't feel as though you're being punished for spending less money. The Sonic has an interior which is at least as good as those offered by the competition. On a similar note, the exterior styling is a massive improvement over the Aveo. I personally think the Fiesta looks better, but at least now that is simply my opinion, rather than something which everybody will agree with.
On the subject of the Fiesta, the Sonic is up against some serious competition. In addition to the Fiesta, there is the Honda Fit and the Mazda2, all of which are very good at what they do. The Sonic is actually competitive though, something we are both surprised and pleased to learn. Lastly, the Sonic has one thing that all too few cars boast these days, it was built in America.