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.
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.
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.
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