2014 Chevrolet Sonic Driving Impressions

The Chevrolet Sonic delivers sprightly acceleration performance with the standard 1.8-liter engine. Power from the 1.8-liter engine is sufficient off the line, but we found throttle tip-in to be overly sensitive and that made for jumpy standing starts until we got used to it.

We sometimes had trouble choosing the right gear over hills and through windy roads. With the automatic, we needed to manually shift to get optimum power. With the manual, second gear seemed too short yet third was much too tall. This suggests torque from the 1.8-liter engine might not be sufficiently broad and robust for the gear ratios. In short, more power would be useful for motoring around town.

We found the 1.4-liter turbo models in the LT and LTZ to be a tad zippier, smoother, and quieter. There isn’t much low-rpm response, so downshifting is required for good acceleration. Merge from the on-ramp onto the freeway in third gear, and you may be wishing for more power to get up to speed.

The shorter gear ratios in the Sonic RS make it feel noticeably stronger at low speeds. The 0-60 mph acceleration time is about the same at about 8.4 seconds, but that’s because you’ll need to grab an extra gear to get to 60. It may not be much, but we like the extra zip of the RS, though it’s going to consume substantially more gasoline than a turbo in other models.

When it comes to handling, the Sonic is accomplished for the price. Steering is surprisingly responsive and offers decent road feel. The car’s strong body structure and well-tuned suspension make it agile and composed. Throw the car into a cloverleaf on-ramp and it will maintain its line and rotate the way you want it to. We like to think of the Sonic hatchback as the poor man’s VW GTI.

The Sonic RS is even sportier. The lower ride height and stiffer suspension make the handling a bit more crisp, without becoming harsh or high strung.

Ride quality is comfortable: a nice balance with handling. The suspension is sufficiently compliant to handle bumps and railroad tracks, yet still firm enough to attack corners with minimal body roll.

Braking is responsive. The brake pedal is not as progressive as we would like, however. There’s pedal travel, then the brakes bite. Though perfectly safe, they’re more difficult to modulate for smooth driving, which takes some of the joy out of the driving experience. The Sonic RS, which has four-wheel discs instead of rear drums, feels a bit more progressive.

Fuel economy for the Chevrolet Sonic, regardless of body style, is an EPA-estimated 26/35 mpg City/Highway with the 1.8-liter engine and 5-speed manual transmission, or 25/35 mpg with automatic. The 1.4 turbo is rated at 29/40 mpg with the manual and 27/37 mpg with the automatic. The RS’s shorter gearing costs it significant mileage: Sonic RS is EPA-rated at 27/34 mpg with the 6-speed manual, 25/33 mpg with 6-speed automatic. Regular gasoline is recommended for all models, so there’s no need to pay more for Premium.

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