The Sonic RS is the new performance flagship for Chevrolet’s mini-car line. Unlike the lower-range Sonics that come in sedan or hatchback bodies, the new Sonic RS is available only with five doors and comes loaded with special equipment that makes the car stand out among the crowd.
Is it any quicker than a Sonic LTZ Turbo? No, it is not. The RS upgrade is more focused on style and driving enjoyment than outright speed, via noticeable exterior, interior and mechanical changes aimed at making this the ideal Sonic for car enthusiasts. Special gear ratios launch the car slightly more rapidly but aren’t enough to move the stats into the low 7’s for 0-to-60 MPH sprints.
Style-wise, things get a lot better with an RS-specific nose, a deeper air dam, chrome-trimmed fog lamp shrouds, sill extensions and a re-profiled rear end with larger spoiler and a big exhaust tip.
The exterior changes dramatically increase the RS model’s road presence versus lesser Sonics. Unfortunately, the bump in price means new competitors materialize that are even more fun and much quicker. The Mini Cooper S and Fiat 500 Abarth both sprint to 60 mph more than a second quicker than the Sonic RS.
Click past the jump for the full review of the Chevrolet Sonic RS.
The RS is undoubtedly the best-looking Sonic models available. Adding some performance body panels really enhances the Sonic five-door’s sporty demeanor and almost banishes all thoughts of the Chevrolet Aveo that preceded it.
The new front bumper and grille are the most striking change. The grille is RS-specific as are the lower bumper corners that hug the pavement nicely. The rest of the body kit plus a 1/2-inch drop in ride height are enough to bring out the inherent style of the five-door. The rear door handles are hidden within the C-pillar region to give the impression of a two-door car and the entire body is smooth, thanks to no Pontiac-style door cladding.
The back of the Sonic is less unique than the front, but it does have some special touches that are only available on the RS. There’s a new trapezoidal single exhaust finished in matte silver, a deep unpainted faux-diffuser that arcs across the lower bumper and a new rear spoiler that is slightly larger than the one on the LTZ hatchback.
The Sonic RS also offers some exclusivity via the RS color palette including of white, red, grey or black. Chevy offers numerous custom wraps and graphics to personalize the RS via its Chevrolet Graphics configurator.
The graphics are generally dealer-installed and cost about $700 for most designs. 3M supplies the OEM graphics, indicating they will be very durable and long-lasting even in normal use around road salt and car washes.
2014 Chevrolet Sonic RS Exterior Features:
- RS-specific grille
- RS-specific front bumper with sport styling
- RS-specific front fascia with vertical foglamps
- RS-specific rear fascia
- RS-specific spoiler
- RS-specific rocker panel extensions
- RS-specific bright exhaust outlet
- RS-specific 17-inch five-spoke wheel design
- Lowered and stiffened suspension with performance-tuned dampers RS badging
- Available power tilt-slide sunroof with express-open and wind deflector feature
2014 Chevrolet Sonic RS Exterior Dimensions:
|Overall length||159 in.|
|Overall width||68.3 in.|
|Overall height||59.7 in.|
|Track||59.4 in.(front) / 59.4 in. (rear)|
The interior of the RS gets as big an upgrade as the exterior, with the highlight being the leather and hyper-suede front sport seats with a ribbed design similar to the Volkswagen Golf GTI. The special seats also come with red embroidered “RS” emblems for added style points.
The red theme continues elsewhere inside the RS in places, like the floor mat trims and the shift knob on manual cars. Rounding out the changes are aluminum pedal faces and RS-specific graphics in the digital speedo cluster.
The changes help lift a cabin that already had a good design and a solid feature-set versus the competition. By making the RS a hatchback-only, Chevy has helped revive the hatchback as a sporty and practical alternative to the boring sedan body style. The Sonic five-door has a really big cargo area that expands to nearly 48 cubic-feet of cargo space with the seats folded down.
The high roof and relatively wide dimensions also help the Sonic RS feel more substantial inside and offers passengers more room than expected in this subcompact segment. Chevrolet ’s MyLink touchscreen infotainment is standard on the RS and packs tons of features and all the latest functionality.
2014 Chevrolet Sonic RS Interior Features:
- Sophisticated interface design and user experience via high-res 7-inch MyLink touchscreen
- Upgraded six-speaker audio system
- MyLink with AM/FM/SiriusXM Satellite Radio (trial three months of service included)
- Steering-wheel controls plus Siri Eyes-Free voice controls among iPhone users
- App-based navigation from BringGo that displays directions via the large in-dash screen
- Bluetooth calling and audio streaming
- Remote vehicle management via MyLink smartphone applications
- OnStar with six months of free directions, lockout service and more
- Movie and photo slideshow playback via USB when vehicle is parked
2014 Chevrolet Sonic RS 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 (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
The Sonic RS doesn’t get any extra muscle over the 1.4-liter turbo from other models, but it does offer a shorter final-drive ratio in the gearbox to give the RS some extra urgency off the line.
The dampers and brakes get much more attention via the lowered suspension and gas-charged rear struts. The rear suspension is a multi-link torsion beam system similar to the Opel/Vauxhall Corsa VXR ’s setup. While not as good as a fully independent rear, the VXR design allows the Sonic RS to pack a huge trunk and a flat-load floor.
The RS is the only model in the Sonic line to get full disc brakes. Drums on a new car sound absurd until you realize that the Sonic only weighs 2,750 pounds.
Two transmissions are offered: a six-speed manual or a six-speed automatic. The automatic is just as quick as the manual in sprints, while also offering a more relaxed atmosphere on the highway, thanks to its overdrive acting like a seventh gear ratio. The manual cars get standard hill start assist that holds the brakes momentarily when the in-car accelerometer senses the car is on a steep grade. This prevents roll-back while engaging the clutch.
Both Sonic RS configurations reach 60 mph in 7.7 seconds before topping out at 108 mph. This is disappointingly slow compared with the regular Sonic’s 7.8 second sprint, as well as the Kia Forte5 that is priced about the same and offers 53 more horsepower from its turbo 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine.
The Sonic RS turbo engine is small but deceptively powerful with a low-rev torque peak that enhances driveability. The RS model keeps the stellar efficiency numbers of the lesser Sonic hatchbacks to top out at 40 mpg on the highway.
The driving experience is greatly enhanced by the RS package by offering tighter body control and more resistance to under-steer via some extra chassis bracing. The RS model’s 17-inch wheels also help road-holding ability, while the power steering feels slightly meatier thanks to wider rubber.
2014 Chevrolet Sonic RS Mechanical Specifications:
|Engine Size and Type||1.4-liter Turbocharged VVT DOHC I-4|
|Peak power||138 horsepower|
|Peak torque||148 pound-feet|
|Transmission||6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic available|
|0-to-60 MPH||7.7 seconds, est|
|Top Speed||108 mph, limited|
|EPA Fuel Economy (City/Highway/Combined)||29/40/33|
The Sonic RS sticks with all the safety systems from the base cars. This includes the new-for-2014 blind spot and lane keeping assist technology. The Sonic was the first car in the subcompact class to get a full five-star rating from the NHTSA. It is also an IIHS Top Safety Pick that packs 10 standard airbags.
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:
- Ten 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
The 2014 Chevrolet Sonic RS costs $20,185 with a manual transmission and $21,470 with the automatic. This compares favorably with the Kia Forte5 and Ford Fiesta ST that both are expected to cost $22,500 before options.
The long-anticipated Fiesta ST was the bulls-eye for Chevy when developing this car. It needed to match the sportier new styling of the ST Ford and largely succeeds. All 2014 Fiesta’s get Ford’s new grille and nose design that significantly enhances the car versus the gangly previous model’s nose. The ST’s turbo engine offers an overboost feature for 15 seconds of 197 horsepower. The Ford therefore demolishes the Sonic RS in acceleration by more than a second.
Note: the European three-door model is pictured. The U.S. Fiesta ST is a five-door.
Gallery Ford Fiesta ST
The new Forte5 is an interesting competitor for the Sonic RS. It packs increased styling drama in its Turbo GDI trim. The Forte5 looks better than the Chevy from the back, while the Chevy looks better from the front.
The Forte5’s ace-in-the-hole is a larger, quieter cabin and a 201-horsepower turbo engine. This really puts the Chevy to shame in performance but isn’t as efficient on the EPA highway cycle. The Forte5 also packs LED DRLs, LED fog lights and full-led taillights – none of which are even available as options on the Sonic RS.
Gallery Kia Forte5
The Sonic RS makes really good sense for Chevrolet as a way to enliven the Sonic brand and offer some additional dynamic thrills. The styling of the front looks dramatically better than the base Sonics when viewed back-to-back, but is less noticeable on the road versus base Sonic hatchbacks.
The RS provides some meaningful interior style and equipment changes that reinforce this RS as the sportiest Sonic available.
Some questionable choices are made in the name of cost-saving, including the leather seating surfaces that are only for the front seats. The back seats soldier on with the LTZ’s perforated leatherette that is just a step above vinyl.
The Sonic RS is also way down on power compared with its two closest competitors. There’s no question that an ECU re-flash by GM (or by owners themselves) could free an additional 20 horsepower from this engine instantly. Add a free-flowing intake and the car could easily produce 178 horsepower in just a few hours of DIY-friendly modifications. The lack of a power upgrade indicates that keeping the very good EPA numbers was the priority.
The only other real place the RS falls down is with the pricing that cracks $20,000 for the manual and $21,000 on the automatic. It seems unusual that the car is so much more expensive than the LTZ model but the leather sports seats, standard MyLink and handsome new styling make it a worthwhile upgrade for hot hatch fans.
Now, if only Chevy could stop making audio-based puns about the Sonic’s name. Versus some other options, the Sonic RS sounds better than the Chevrolet Sonic BOOM Edition. This fictitious model has earth-rattling subwoofers where the back seats would normally live. Just kidding.
|Driving||B+||Tight Roadholding and Responsive Steering; Still Noisy Inside|
|Performance||C-||Why No Extra Power?|
|Look||B+||Nicely Enhances the Sonic Five-Door’s Style|
|Value||B||Makes Sense Versus Lesser Sonics That Make All Features Options|
|Overall||B||The First And Only Fun-To-Drive Compact Hatch From Chevrolet|
- Subtle and cost-effective styling mods help make Sonic RS much more aggressive and masculine looking
- Now even more playful dynamics via sportier suspension and lower ride height
- Very good interior design and tech at this price point; MyLink plus smartphones is genius
- Noisy and bumpy cabin
- Needs more power; Too slow
- Will 18-inch rims fit or is 17 inches the max wheel diameter?
Gallery Chevrolet Sonic RS
Sonic RS turns up the volume
The performance-themed Chevrolet Sonic RS amplifies the Sonic’s youthful appearance and driving experience with unique exterior and interior features matched with the Ecotec 1.4L turbo engine. Buyers can choose between six-speed manual or automatic transmissions, both featuring more aggressive final-drive ratios.
One of the most dramatic Sonic RS cues is its front fascia, which has a deep air dam design that enhances the car’s road-hugging stance. Vertical intakes at the edges of the fascia reinforce the wide, low proportion and house the fog lamps. Other features include:
- RS-specific grille
- Rear fascia
- Rear spoiler
- Rocker moldings
- Bright exhaust outlet
- Unique 17-inch five-spoke wheel design
- Lowered and stiffened suspension with performance-tuned dampers RS badging
- power, tilt-sliding sunroof with express-open and wind deflector feature
Inside, a Jet Black interior is exclusive to RS. Features include:
- Leather-appointed front bucket seats with suede microfiber inserts and red RS accents
- Sport three-spoke, leather-wrapped steering wheel with contrasting stitching and racing-inspired flat-bottom design
- Leather-wrapped shifter knob with red stitching (manual transmission)
- Aluminum sport pedals
- Specific instrument panel cluster graphics.