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#10

in Affordable Small Cars

MSRP: $14,170 - $21,610
Invoice: $13,816 - $20,530
MPG: 26 City / 35 Hwy
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Chevrolet Sonic Performance

Reviewers say the 2014 Chevy Sonic’s base engine is competent. However, they also write that the optional turbocharged engine provides quick acceleration and ample power, which makes higher trims more fun to drive. Equipped with the turbo engine, the Sonic also gets better fuel economy. Test drivers agree that handling is excellent and the Sonic delivers a steady, comfortable ride and responsive steering.

  • "With either engine, the front-drive Sonic combines class-leading road manners with remarkable handling capabilities." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Similar to European cars like the VW Golf, it handles well around turns, yet it also rides well enough that long road trips are a viable proposition. Nicely weighted steering completes the package." -- Edmunds
  • "You don't usually equate subcompacts with performance, but Sonic is an exception. ‘What a nice powertrain,’ CG editor Rick Cotta wrote, referring to the base 1.8-liter 4-cylinder paired with a 5-speed manual transmission. The 1.8 is spunky enough with the manual, which has one of the best shifters I've ever experienced along with a smooth clutch take-up." -- Consumer Guide (2013)
  • "Yes, it's a subcompact, but it drives like it has a spring in its step. With a feisty four-cylinder engine, this is no Point A to Point B drone." -- Cars.com (2012)

Acceleration and Power

The base Chevrolet Sonic has a 138-horsepower, 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine. There’s an optional turbocharged, 1.4-liter, four-cylinder engine that also makes 138 horsepower. The base model comes with a five-speed manual transmission, while a six-speed manual and a six-speed automatic are available. According to the EPA, equipped with an automatic transmission, the base Chevy Sonic gets 25/35 mpg city/highway, which is unimpressive for the class. However, equipped with the turbocharged engine, the Sonic gets 27/37 mpg city/highway, which is on par for the class.

Most reviewers test drove the fully-loaded Sonic RS and loved the smooth and spirited performance of its turbocharged engine. The base engine provides acceptable power as well, they say. Reviewers also note that the manual and automatic transmissions offer quick, smooth shifts.

  • "While both of the available engines offer decent performance, the turbocharged 1.4-liter feels more lively and provides useful power for merging and passing maneuvers. The fact that it also delivers better fuel economy makes it even easier to justify the extra up-front expense." -- Edmunds
  • "Rowing the gears is plenty fun, and the clutch takeup is properly weighted for an engaging feel. Power is solid from the turbo four for brisk acceleration." -- AutoWeek (2013)
  • "We were likewise surprised by the 138-hp, 1.4-liter turbo four. It's a gem, much easier to appreciate here than in the heavier Cruze. There is very little lag, power delivery is smooth, and it never groans in complaint like so many other econocar engines." -- Car and Driver (2012)
  • "The manual transmission is excellent, with a smooth but meaty shifter, and low-effort clutch. The automatic delivers crisp, timely shifts." -- Consumer Guide (2013)

Handling and Braking

The 2014 Chevy Sonic offers a smooth, comfortable and quiet ride, test drivers note. The automotive press is especially impressed with the Sonic’s accurate steering and athletic handling, which they say makes it fun to drive. Higher trim levels like the RS hatchback are more engaging to drive, but even the base model offers above-average handling and braking, test drivers say.

  • "The well-tuned suspension provides steady handling without a noticeable sacrifice in ride comfort -- call it a junior-size Volkswagen Golf and you won't be far off. And with its firmer suspension and slick six-speed manual gearbox, the sportier Sonic RS model can be downright fun to drive." -- Edmunds
  • "It is difficult to take the Chevy Sonic for a drive and not come back mightily impressed with the comfortable ride, the nimble response, the snappy handling and the overall level of composure and refinement. All subcompact cars are better than ever, but the Sonic stands out from the crowd and drives like something bigger and more expensive than the competition." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "This car's stiffer suspension setup merely reinforces what is already a fun chassis to toss around and to enjoy at the limit, thanks to good body control and decent steering weight and feedback. It's all pretty predictable, if not quite go-kart-ish." -- AutoWeek (2013)
  • "The essentials - steering precision, brake feel, cornering ability - all seemed more than satisfactory." -- USA Today (2012)
Review Last Updated: 5/16/14

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