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Where Does Toyota's Full-Size Truck Contender Stand?
2 Comments

Review: A Tale of Two Sonics




Ride & Drive

Will: The Sonic that Chevrolet sent me was equipped with the base 1.8Liter four-cylinder motor producing 138 HP and 131 lb-ft or torque. Power comes out strong and is adequate for day to day driving.

Sending the power to the front wheels is the LTZ’s standard six-speed automatic, which has some glaring problems. The transmission exhibits the herky-jerky shifting between gears. Plus, there is a delay in the gear changes when trying to make a pass. It makes me wonder if some new transmission programming could fix these qualms like they did on the Cruze a year ago.

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The EPA rates the fuel economy of the 1.8L at 25 City/35 Highway/28 Combined. That falls flat when compared to the Ford Fiesta (29 City/39 Highway/33 Combined) and Hyundai Accent (30 City/40 Highway/33 Combined) EPA ratings. During the week I had the Sonic, I averaged around 25 MPG with mostly city driving. Taking the Sonic on the highway for a quick 20 mile trip saw fuel economy rise up to 30 MPG.

Thankfully, the Sonic’s ride lives up to its claim. The stiff chassis, well-tuned suspension, and nicely weighted steering make it a joy to drive. Driving along one of the rare curvy roads in southeast Michigan, the Sonic held its own, providing safe and confident handling.

Aside from the corner carving, the Sonic is a comfortable car. The suspension soaked up the bumps and craters that dot the southeast Michigan roadways.

Drew: My Sonic LTZ was the 1.4 liter turbo with 6-speed manual transmission. This engine is also rated at 138hp but gets a bump in torque to 148ft-lb. This engine, while not going to win any pink slips, gives you a boy-racer feel. Unlike Will’s slushbox Sonic, if there was any herky-jerky shifting operation in my Sonic, it was my own damn fault.
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Chevy has equipped the Sonic with one of the politest little manual transmissions I have ever driven. Shifting is soft and easy with just enough click through the gates to let you know where you are. It is also very forgiving if you select the wrong gear. The clutch is lightweight, but action is linear. Dads out there who want to teach their daughters to drive a manual would probably find the Sonic an excellent car to play professor in.

The 1.4T in the Sonic has a refinement that belies its class. It is happier when revved, but doing do will hurt your fuel economy. You can beat around town shifting when the light comes on and you won’t get irritated looks from your fellow drivers.

As with the turbo option on the Cruze, the engine upgrade is more about fuel economy than outright power. The EPA rates the Sonic with this powertrain combo at 29mpg city and 40mpg highway. In my suburban driving, I was able to keep the MPG around 34 and on the highway I nailed the 40mpg rating exactly. If there were demand, Chevy could probably equip the Sonic with the specially tuned manual transmission from the Cruze Eco and bump that highway MPG up a little further.

The ride of the Sonic is something else that is above its class. On the highway, the Sonic has the solid and comfortable ride of a mid-size sedan. I didn’t get to take this car on a long road trip, but I would have no hesitation doing so. I equally loved its agility in and around busy shopping centers where I could dart around with the deftness of a jackrabbit.

The Verdict?





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16 Comments

Got a chance to go through the hatch...gotta say, I like it.

Test drive will be up next.


Major peeve of mine-wheels. I could care less if they are steel wheels with wheel covers, just make them bigger. Bigger wheels fill out the car so much better. Really don't want a LTZ, so I'd have to throw my own wheels on....
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I had a chance to poke around a basic Sonic 5-door hatch with a decent set of rims recently. While I think it's a great, solid car and a great value for money, I realized it has a big problem, at least for me. If you removed all the badges and swapped out the Chevy grille for something a little more non-descript, you feel as if you might be sitting in something Asian. It lacks identity in my eyes, and I have a hard time overlooking that.
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If you removed all the badges and swapped out the Chevy grille for something a little more non-descript, you feel as if you might be sitting in something Asian. It lacks identity in my eyes, and I have a hard time overlooking that.
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Given it's GMDAT origin, it makes sense that it would seem Asian...
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Given it's GMDAT origin, it makes sense that it would seem Asian...


True, but who says a car's origins should dictate it's individuality? Staying within the GM fold, the F5 Camaro was raised by Australians and designed by a Korean and yet there's no mistaking its American. Then there's Chrysler with the new Dodge Dart that's largely of Italian origins and it still somehow comes across as distinctly American.

I mean, look at me. I'm mostly of Irish and Cherokee Indian origin and you don't see me constantly peeling potatoes outside of a teepee ... shaped Casino.

It's not just the Sonic that has this same issue. It's true of the Cruze, too.
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Great review, nice write up folks. Question, is it possible that the tranny in the 1.8L was trashed by earlier drivers? Cars tend to learn their shift points based on how it was driven, maybe someone was a smash the pedal driver and smash the brakes rather than a smooth driver.

Did it seem to smooth out at all over the week you had it? Usually tranny's seem to adapt, but then if it has been trashed, then it might already need some attention. Would be worthwhile to go to a dealership and drive one off the lot to compare the 1,8L with auto with no real driving done to the loaner and see the difference.

Course I would have thought they would have done a check to make sure the vehicle is perfect before loaning it out again to another reporter.
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I guess no one else thought the Tach picture was neat?
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I guess no one else thought the Tach picture was neat?


Well I thought it was neat..

Great review, nice write up folks. Question, is it possible that the tranny in the 1.8L was trashed by earlier drivers? Cars tend to learn their shift points based on how it was driven, maybe someone was a smash the pedal driver and smash the brakes rather than a smooth driver.

Did it seem to smooth out at all over the week you had it? Usually tranny's seem to adapt, but then if it has been trashed, then it might already need some attention. Would be worthwhile to go to a dealership and drive one off the lot to compare the 1,8L with auto with no real driving done to the loaner and see the difference.

Course I would have thought they would have done a check to make sure the vehicle is perfect before loaning it out again to another reporter.


I'm doubting it was thrashed. The Sonic I had for the week had 1800 miles on the odometer.

It didn't seem to smooth out when I drove it for the week I had it. But then again, it has been awhile since I drove it.
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I have often said that I like the sedan over the hatchback model, but this shot has me rethinking that statement:

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I really like that red, and the Sedan now looks frumpy to me :P

The wife fell in love with the upcoming 2013 Chevy Spark at the Philly Auto Show in February (it was shown in Techno Pink). She wants to consider leasing one this summer for work commuting. I am more of a fan of the Sonic and have been unsuccessful in swaying her mind. We'll be at the NYIAS in about two weeks, so we'll see what comes of that (she'll be able to sit in the Sonic, and it would be nice for her to be able to sit in the Spark for comparison).
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I think the Sonic would be a good compromise car for you both, but get the turbo.
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I guess no one else thought the Tach picture was neat?


I thought it was neat also, but the mechanics of the tranny caught me up more.

I wonder if the interior is the same color for all exterior colors and settings.
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You can get an interior with tan inserts also
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I just now thought about the LUW 1.8 Ecotec. They used that particular engine in the Opel/Vauxhall/Saturn Astra didn't they? It's interesting it doesn't seem to boast better mixed mpg in the Sonic than it did in the Astra.

It also seems they managed to bump the torque up from 125 in the Astra to 130-something for the Sonic. I wonder how?
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I'd need to see the power curves. The Astra only had a 4-speed auto
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I thought the Aveo RS concept was nice, and when the Sonic came out, i thought it looked cheap. I have to say though now it's growing on me. and the shape of the hatch is challenging my conventional rhetoric that Coupe > Sedan > Hatch.
GMTG's right, the hatch makes the sedan look kinda frumpy.


and forgive the dislexyia, but I keep reading this as a "A Tale of Two Scions." :P
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I followed a clean, white, uplevel Sonic sedan along winding roads back to my development the other day. I thought it looked pretty good in relation to the competition in the class. The giant LTZ wheels make the car, imo, sedan or hatch... I imagine a profile shot of a metallic red LTZ sedan could elicit some oohs and aahs of its own.

When a girl I went to school with posted on Facebook that she was looking to replace her Hyundai Elantra, I spoke up and suggested she look at Fiesta and Sonic. She and her husband checked those two, plus the new Elantra and the Focus. They came away liking the Sonic 1.4t with manual transmission the most, and are now searching for one with the equipment they want. So hopefully I've helped sell at least one Sonic, even if Blackviper appears to have ignored my advice in his thread a while back.
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I followed a clean, white, uplevel Sonic sedan along winding roads back to my development the other day. I thought it looked pretty good in relation to the competition in the class. The giant LTZ wheels make the car, imo, sedan or hatch... I imagine a profile shot of a metallic red LTZ sedan could elicit some oohs and aahs of its own.

When a girl I went to school with posted on Facebook that she was looking to replace her Hyundai Elantra, I spoke up and suggested she look at Fiesta and Sonic. She and her husband checked those two, plus the new Elantra and the Focus. They came away liking the Sonic 1.4t with manual transmission the most, and are now searching for one with the equipment they want. So hopefully I've helped sell at least one Sonic, even if Blackviper appears to have ignored my advice in his thread a while back.


Hopefully you pointed her to this review also :P
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