The Chevy Sonic gets so little coverage from car magazines that it is easy to forget it even exists. Even the Chevrolet team does not seem too excited about the subcompact’s prospects with American buyers. Maybe that is why most of the official images are just renderings of the car inserted into picturesque backdrops via Photoshop…
If Chevrolet can’t be bothered to actually take its mini car to the desert for a photo shoot, why should buyers care?
There are a few reasons that the Chevrolet Sonic is storming up the sales charts recently to become the top-selling supermini in the U.S. for the last few months. Offered in five-door hatchback or four-door sedan body styles, the Sonic line is well-positioned in style, price and interior tech to overcome rivals, like the Hyundai Accent , Kia Rio and Ford Fiesta .
A new-for-2013 RS trim added lower gear ratios to help improve acceleration in the top 1.4-liter turbo engine guise. While relatively exciting versus the bread-and-butter LS, LT and LTZ trims, the 2014 RS deserves a review of its own – published in the near future so check back for more details.
The focus here is on the volume model sedan and hatchback Chevrolet Sonics with highlights of the new-for-2014 features and options.
Click past the jump for the full review of the 2014 Chevrolet Sonic.
The Sonic twins share their interesting nose graphics up to the A-pillar of the car. The style is marked out by a low-mounted, full-frame Chevrolet bowtie grille and flanked by quad round lamps on either side. The headlights are probably the Sonic’s most unique feature, as they hark back to the older BMW style, but are an open design instead of shrinking the lamp cylinders under a sheet of smooth plastic. It’s a distinctive touch that will resonate with younger buyers.
The look is only let down by the cheapness of the halogen reflectors that actually do the lighting and have a yellow-ish hue that screams econo-car in cities dominated by white-LED-wearing Audis and BMWs .
The low grille avoids looking like a pig snout from most angles and the front overhang is not excessive. As the Sonic rotates into profile, there is a clear similarity in style between the hatch and sedan via the rising swage line and the lower door sculpting, both aimed at impacting sportiness in a practical shape. Where the sedan’s rising shoulder-line continues to shape the rear three-quarter and trunk, the hatchback flips the swage line upward to form the rear window outline.
Chevrolet is supporting OEM vehicle wraps for the Sonic via a web configurator called Chevrolet Graphics. About a dozen different partial and full vehicle wraps are available for both the sedan and hatch. Multiplied by the handful of standard exterior colors, the combinations are enough to make sure your Sonic is unique on the road. The graphics don’t revolutionize the appearance, but it’s refreshing to see a manufacturer so involved in aftermarket trends. Check out the big photo gallery below for some sample Sonic graphics.
Overall, the four-door’s style in profile is relatively fresh. Things fall apart out back for the sedan, which is cursed with a high roof and very high trunk lines. While not exactly cover-worthy, the Sonic sedan looks far for planted and sportier than the Ford Fiesta sedan. The Fiesta sedan from the back is simply grotesque with tiny taillight blobs atop a trunk lid so narrow it could be from a soapbox car.
The five-door Sonic, as Chevrolet likes to call it instead of hatchback, looks less fresh from the back, due to some shared design cues with the universally loathed and discontinued Chevrolet Aveo . You know a Chevy is a total flop when the name lasts only one generation.
2014 Chevrolet Sonic Exterior Features:
- tinted solar-heat-absorbing glass
- automatic on/off halogen headlights with DRL
- color-coded manual outside mirrors; powered and heated mirrors available
- color-coded door handles
- available chrome-trimmed color-coded door handles
- available chrome trunk handle
- available chrome belt-line trim
- integrated decklid spoiler (LTZ)
- 15" steel wheels (LS)
- 15" painted aluminum wheels (LT)
- 17" painted aluminum wheels (LTZ)
2014 Chevrolet Sonic Exterior Dimensions:
|Overall length||173.1 in. (159 in. For Five-Door)|
|Overall width||68.3 in.|
|Overall height||59.7 in.|
|Track||59.4 in.(front) / 59.4 in. (rear)|
The Sonic’s interior is excellent for this class of car. It combines digital instruments for the primary speedo display with an analog tachometer just beside it in a round binnacle. The result looks like a mix between a track-day Racelogic display and the digital displays in the Chevrolet Volt . The look is current, appealing and a good compromise versus fully digital gauges, whose tachometer is always the weakest link. Digital speed readouts are generally more precise and offer one-glance information that needles don’t always provide.
Among the three trim levels, the interior equipment is where the real differences between a $15,000 base LS and the $19,000 loaded LTZ are visible.
The stereos are a good example:
- LS: AM/FM Stereo with Aux-in and Equalizer
- LT: AM/FM Stereo with USB input, Bluetooth audio streaming and free trial XM subscription
- LTZ: Chevrolet MyLink touchscreen stereo with apps and all the above features
The cloth quality also takes a step up with each trim level, from Sport Cloth to Deluxe Cloth and finally Leatherette on the LTZ. The LTZ also features a nice-looking leatherette-wrapped dashboard. So, the interior specification level is highly dependent on the trim packages but is the same across the sedan and hatch.
The five-door model has exceptional cargo capacity for a car that is more than a foot shorter than the sedan. The hatch offers 19 cubic-feet of space with the seats up and nearly 48 cubic-feet with them down. This compares well with the sedan’s maximum trunk capacity of nearly 15 cubic-feet. Both numbers are very good for this size of vehicle and they match what’s offered by compact crossovers, like the Buick Encore .
For 2014, there are a few new options, like the optional rear-view camera on the LTZ and the LT Promotional Package that includes a Chevrolet MyLink radio, power sunroof and front fog lamps that were previously LTZ exclusives or individual options on lesser trims. Bluetooth voice calls, and steering-wheel phone and audio controls are standard on all Sonics.
Chevrolet’s MyLink is the marquee system for web-savvy younger buyers. For 2014, all Sonics with MyLink integrate a number of innovative features, like Siri-based voice control and the BringGo app-linked navigation setup that uses the smartphone’s brain paired with the Sonic’s display screen and controls.
MyLink’s 2014 updates include: compatibility with Apple’s Siri Eyes Free for customers with a compatible iPhone running iOS6; TuneIn, which provides access to 70,000 global radio stations; and apps for Pandora internet radio and Stitcher Smart Radio.
In MyLink-equipped Sonics, owners can use Siri in Eyes Free mode to:
- Make voice-activated, hands-free calls to Contacts on their iPhone
- Play songs in the iTunes library, and even switch music sources automatically from AM/FM/XM radio to iPod mode
- Listen to, compose and send an iMessage or text message to a phone number or anyone in saved Contacts
- Access Calendar and add appointments
- Minimize distraction even more by keeping the screen of the iPhone from lighting up, even when Siri answers simple questions such as game scores or the dates of national holidays
MyLink’s integration of the BringGo Navigation app for iPhone and Android provides full-function, in-dash navigation via the central screen.
BringGo in-dash nav costs $60 via app stores and also includes:
- GPS-linked Emergency information such as police, fire and the nearest hospital
- Thousands of points of interest
- Local Search via Google
- Where am I? Locator functionality
- Live traffic functionality provides crash reports and lane closures, and with alternative routes
- 3-D maps
- Ability to store native maps to the customer’s compatible smartphone, giving them access to locations and turn-by-turn directions even when phone signal quality is poor
2014 Chevrolet Sonic Interior Dimensions:
|Headroom (Front/Rear)||38.7/37.8 in.|
|Headroom With Sunroof (Front/Rear)||37.6/37.8 in.|
|Legroom (Front/Rear)||41.8/34.6 in.|
|Hip Room (Front/Rear)||51.4/51.6 in|
|Shoulder Room (Front/Rear)||53.4/53 in.|
|EPA Passenger Volume (Sedan)||90.3 cu. Ft.|
|EPA Cargo Volume (Sedan)||14.9 cu. Ft.|
|EPA Passenger Volume (Five-door)||90.6 cu. Ft.|
|EPA Cargo Volume (Five-door)||19 cu. Ft.|
|EPA Cargo Volume (Five-door, Rear Seats Folded)||47.7 cu. Ft.|
Drivetrain, Suspension and Brakes
Sonics come in two powertrain flavors across both body styles. The base engine is a 1.8-liter DOHC four-banger with VVT to produce 138 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque. The 1.8-liter is attached to a five-speed manual or six-speed torque-converter automatic for an estimated 9.7-second 0-to-60 mph sprint.
The optional turbocharged 1.4-liter is much quicker and more responsive. It is a modestly priced option that comes in below $700. This is well worth is for the additional pace and mpg the smaller engine delivers. Additionally, the turbo opens the door to custom boost mapping and other aftermarket enhancements once the warranty expires.
The 1.4-liter scoots the manual-trans Sonic to 60 mph in just 7.9 seconds and the automatic following closely behind. Top speed is an estimated 108 mph for both cars on account of their eco tires.
Both engines are available with real automatics that are more sophisticated than the cheap CVTs that typically dominate the mini-car segment.
2014 Chevrolet Sonic Mechanical Specs:
|Engine Size and Type||1.8-liter VVT DOHC I-4||1.4-liter Turbocharged VVT DOHC I-4|
|Peak power||138 horsepower||138 horsepower|
|Peak torque||125 pound-feet||148 pound-feet|
|Transmission||5-speed manual, 6-speed automatic available||6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic available|
|0-to-60 mph||9.7 seconds, est||7.8 seconds, est|
|Top Speed||108 mph, limited||108 mph, limited|
|EPA Fuel Economy (City/Highway/Combined)||26/35/30||29/40/33|
People buying small economy cars are justifiably worried about safety in road crashes with larger vehicles. Chevrolet really over-designed the Sonic’s crash structures and safety systems to make this by far their safest-ever small car. The Sonic sedan and hatch are both five-star cars from the NHTSA and Top Safety Picks from IIHS. The only sections of the tests where the Sonic did not score the highest rating were in rollovers from the NHTSA and head/neck protection from the IIHS offset test.
The Chevrolet Sonic packs a segment-leading suite of 10 airbags that even includes knee bags to prevent leg injuries and prevent bodies to slide into the foot well, despite wearing seatbelts. These additional measures are strong evidence that the Sonic is among the safest small cars on the road.
For 2014, the safety of the Sonic improves via the available advanced safety package, which includes Forward Collision Alert and Lane Departure Waning, a rare inclusion in the under-$20,000 segment.
OnStar is also standard on the Sonic with six-months of free directions provided audibly by the non-nav stereos in lesser models. OnStar has also broadened its offering to include vehicle monitoring and app-based remote start, among other features of the subscription-based service.
In addition to federally-mandated ABS, EBD, Brake Assist and stability control, the Sonic offers:
- 10 standard air bags include side curtain air bags, which provide head protection for outboard passengers in the event of a side-impact or rollover crash
- Rollover sensor: designed to deploy the side curtain airbags in the event of an impending rollover
- Driver and front passenger knee airbags: separate airbags in the lower instrument panel designed to minimize knee injuries in frontal crashes
- StabiliTrak electronic stability control system helps reduce the risk of rollover crashes by keeping the vehicle in the driver’s intended path by applying throttle, braking or a combination of both
- Power-assisted front disc and rear drum brakes are standard
- Four-channel anti-lock braking is standard and incorporates electronic brake force distribution, which balances braking performance based on such factors as road conditions and the weight of passengers and/or cargo
- Pre-tensioners minimize forward movement during a collision, and are standard on the front safety belts. Load-limiting retractors cinch the belt more tightly
- LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren) child seat attachment system, which is included in all second-row seating positions
- Tire pressure monitoring system on all models
- Standard OnStar
The Sonic is very reasonably priced from $14,000 up to $19,000 for the desirable LTZ spec. While not as cheap as the cheapest Nissan Versa model, the Sonic is still one of the best-equipped value-oriented cars on the market. Dropping below the Sonic is the new Chevy Spark that starts just above $11,000 but is less sophisticated on big highways outside its natural urban habitat.
2014 Chevrolet Sonic Pricing:
The Ford Fiesta is one of the best-driving small cars in America, thanks to its sporty but refined dynamics and efficient engines. The U.S. market gets the Fiesta five-door and a four-door sedan. Both are narrower than the Sonic and feel tight inside on the hip and shoulder-room measurements. They also feel tiny on the road where they are upset by expansion joints and other bumps that big cars don’t feel.
Gallery Ford Fiesta
The Accent is one of those Hyundai’s whose name conjures up the absolute worst car from the 1990s. The new Accent is actually far more sophisticated than ever before and is a credible competitor for the Sonic. Fuel economy ratings - once promised at 40-plus mpg highway - were recently revised down significantly in both city and highway tests.
Gallery Hyundai Accent
The Chevrolet Sonic is a tidy drive and packs a decent interior design even in base models. The comfort and convenience of the LT and LTZ’s features are more than worth the initial outlay of $4,000 to get them. They basically move the Sonic out of econobox misery with MyLink’s app-linked systems.
It is very smart of Chevrolet to pursue this path to putting nav in low-cost models that otherwise wouldn’t justify the investment. Additionally, by supporting iPhones and Android phones, the Sonic’s infotainment is instantly personalized to that driver based on his phone settings.
MyLink basically outsources some functions to the processing power, data connectivity and voice-recognition of the latest smartphones. It then uses its 7-inch radio display as an enlarged iPhone touchscreen.
Obviously the lower-level LS and LT trims were designed down to a price. The advantages of the LTZ pack are so critical to this car’s value proposition that LS shoppers would be well-advised to buy a nearly-new LTZ that was a demo car. The hatchback is probably the best choice because it delivers much better fuel economy and has a huge cargo area.
LTZ drivers have the best-possible interior and engine helping to make them less miserable in daily driving. At its core, the Sonic is still a boomy economy car with a jutting ride and little NVH refinement. While these demerits continue for 2014, they apply to the other compacts mentioned as well.
Overall, the 2014 Sonic’s tech and mechanical pack is tough enough to battle the segment leaders for long-term subcompact supremacy.
|Driving||C||Suspension Settings in LTZ Nicely Balance Ride Quality With Handling|
|Performance||B||Impressive Sprint Stats From 1.4-liter Turbo|
|Look||C-||Still Some Aveo Influences But Overall More Distinctive Than Fiesta|
|Value||B+||Low LS Base Price Hides Big Gaps In Equipment Versus LT and LTZ trims; Great MPG|
|Overall||B||A Credible Small Car; Test Drive A Sonic LTZ If Considering Kia Rio Or Hyundai Accent|
- Interesting headlight design
- Innovative MyLink integrations with Siri Eyes-Free and BringGo nav apps
- Big cargo capacity, especially in the five-door
- Some Aveo styling cues still present
- Entry-level LS trim level for masochists only
- Upgrade to 1.4-liter engine a must
New for 2014
- Rear vision camera standard on LTZ and RS; available on LT
- Available advanced safety package includes Forward Collision Alert and Lane Departure Waning
- LT Promotional Package includes Chevrolet MyLink radio, power sunroof and front fog lamps
- Exterior colors: Ashen Gray Metallic, Red Hot and Cool Blue
Chevrolet Sonic Enhances Crash-avoidance Tech for 2014
The Chevrolet Sonic has made a big impact on Chevrolet’s successful small-car lineup. For 2014, the only subcompact assembled in America adds available advanced crash-avoidance technologies and enjoys the first full model year of enhanced connectivity including access to Siri Eyes Free voice recognition (for customers with compatible iPhones), BringGo in-dash navigation and TuneIn global radio.
Sonic’s youthful design, fuel efficiency, spirited driving experience and unexpected features for the segment are bringing new, younger customers to the Chevrolet brand, along with industry and government awards for value, design and safety. Thirty percent of Sonic buyers are under 35, and nearly half of buyers trade in a non-GM brand.
A new, advanced safety package including Forward Collision Alert and Lane Departure Warning – crash-avoidance technologies typically found on cars costing more – is available on all but base Sonic models, as well as a rear vision camera.
Ten standard air bags and Bluetooth phone connectivity across the Sonic lineup, as well as standard remote vehicle start on automatic transmission-equipped LT, LTZ and RS models, further enhance Sonic’s value. A new-for-2014, limited availability LT Promotional Package includes Chevrolet MyLink radio, a power sunroof and front fog lamps.
Sonic is the first and only car in its class to receive a 5-Star Overall Vehicle Score for safety from the National Highway Traffic Administration, and the 2013 model was named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).