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2017 Chevrolet Sonic Expert Reviews

Expert Reviews

2017 Chevrolet Sonic

New Car Test Drive
© 2017 NewCarTestDrive.com

The 2017 Chevrolet Sonic gets more safety equipment and features, but mostly styling that’s more expressive, with a new hood, headlamps, LED daytime running lamps, and rear fascia. Also new wheel designs and four new colors: Orange Burst Metallic, Brimstone, Cajun Red Tintcoat, and Arctic Blue Metallic.

New features for the 2017 Sonic include a power driver’s seat, heated steering wheel, heated cloth seats, and infotainment system with seven-inch screen that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, with 4G LTE connectivity and wife hotspot.

The Chevrolet Sonic is a refined and sporty subcompact that was introduced as a 2013 model to replace the plain and boring Aveo. The Sonic comes as five-door hatchback or four-door sedan.

The Sonic hatchback is the more cohesive design, with its angled window line, hidden rear door handles, and truncated tail making it look like a coupe. Its short rear and longer front overhang give it sporty proportions.

The Sonic sedan has the same wheelbase as the hatch, but with conventional rear doors, a longer roof, and big trunk. The problem is that sometimes it looks like three styles pasted together. Chevy sells a lot more Sonic hatchbacks than it does sedans.

The base engine is a raspy 1.8-liter inline four-cylinder. It lowers the base price, but otherwise forget it.

The available 1.4-liter turbo is still quite affordable, and much better; it’s smooth, refined, responsive, and gets better fuel mileage. Both engines make 138 horsepower, and each is available with a 6-speed automatic. If you want a gearbox, you get a 5-speed manual with the 1.8 and 6-speed with the 1.4 turbo.

The Sonic gets five stars from the NHTSA in crash tests, and the IIHS calls it a Top Safety Pick, with a top Good rating on both the moderate overlap and tougher small overlap frontal crash test. That’s the test that’s foiled a lot of cars, including bigger ones. The Sonic comes standard with 10 airbags, blind-spot mirrors and rearview camera. New for 2017 are available Rear Park Assist and Forward Collision Alert and Lane Departure Warning.

Model Lineup

The 2017 Chevrolet Sonic sedan comes in Sonic LS, Sonic LT, and Sonic Premier models. The Sonic hatchback comes in LT, Premier and the sporty Sonic RS.

Walk Around

The 2017 Sonic styling changes keep it in line with other global Chevrolets such as the Cruze, Bolt EV, Trax, even the Malibu.

The design is a pleasant balance, neither bold nor boxy and bland. Conservative but handsome. Alloy wheels are standard, even on the base LS. Thank you Chevrolet, for not saving money with plastic hubcaps over steel wheels.

The new hood flows neatly back from the projector-beam headlamps that meet the grille in a contiguous horizontal line that includes the LED DRLs (light-emitting diode daytime running lights). New front and rear airdams complement the change, while the rear bodywork is now chiseled.

Interior

The Sonic’s front seats are quite good, able to adjust to large and small drivers, but the back seats are tight and subcompact all the way, especially in headroom, and definitely with three squeezed in.

The rear seatbacks flip forward to make more cargo space, in both the hatchback and sedan, but the load floor isn’t low like some competitors, and it doesn’t offer anything near like the Honda Fit’s Magic Seat, a front passenger seat that drops level to make room for long sporting equipment or building materials. That makes the Sonic a bit less attractive for dog owners or cargo haulers.

The Sonic tries to make up for it in storage area. In front there are trays, bins, and cubbies to hold your small stuff. The hatchback boasts 19 cubic feet of cargo capacity, a lot for a subcompact, with a compartment under the floor that can hide a laptop. Meanwhile the sedan has a 14.9-cubic-foot trunk, big as that of the Nissan Versa.

In some places the interior packaging is inferior to competitors, despite some upscale materials. It shows its family design age, in particular the dash with wraparound console that curves into a V-shaped centerstack. The new available infotainment system with seven-inch screen updates it. And there are some nice touches that you don’t generally find on subcompacts, such as chrome trim rings and different grains in materials. Overall, it feels upscale for a subcompact, with one of the quietest cabins in the class. The LT is the quietest. If tire noise matters a lot to you, avoid the 17-inch wheel-and-tire upgrade, as on the RS model.

GM says the instrument cluster is inspired by motorcycle gauges, but the tachometer has a digital speedo with icons, graphs and lights, not exactly what you find on a bike.

Driving Impressions

The Sonic feels strong and sturdy, with a ride that’s smoother and quieter than that of most subcompacts. It’s enjoyable to drive, thanks to a well-tuned suspension and electric power steering that has a nicer feel and weight than its Asian rivals. Sonic feels settled, more like a larger compact car. The Sonic RS hatchback tightens the suspension up a bit more. The package is available as an option on the sedan.

On the turbo, there’s a bit of throttle lag. But the 6-speed manual transmission makes it way fun anyhow. The gearbox is precise and direct, with nice short throws. The clutch is smooth and foolproof.

Unfortunately, the brake pedal is mushy, like every Sonic we’ve ever driven. The stopping distances are fine, but the feel is soft.

The 6-speed automatic transmission is good too. The 1.4-liter turbo doesn’t get paddle shifters, but there are shifting buttons on the lever to manually shift the transmission. It shifts in the right places when left in Drive, with the turbo; but with the base 1.8, the transmission goes hunting for gears, up and down. Another reason to avoid that engine.

The Chevy Sonic is a worthy competitor to the dominant Asian subcompacts. It has a winning powertrain with the 1.4-liter turbo engine, and we like the hatchback more than the sedan. It’s not a Honda Fit, but it doesn’t try to be; still, the cabin holds its own for a subcompact.

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