2018 Chevrolet Sonic Review

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2018 Chevrolet Sonic Overview

Small but mighty, the Chevrolet Sonic subcompact receives minor updates for 2018. Launched in 2012 as a replacement for the Aero, the Sonic challenged competitive subcompacts and quickly became a top seller. A 2017 mid-generation refresh updated the Sonic's exterior design with a new front fascia, hood, and taillights. The update added a number of standard and optional features as well. For 2018, the available Fun and Sun package gains a sunroof and 17-inch aluminum wheels, and Chevy offers the Sonic in a new Ivy Metallic exterior paint color, which joins such existing colors as Orange Burst Metallic and Cajun Red Tintcoat. Finally, the RS package for the Sonic hatchback adds new black Chevy bowtie emblems.

Since its introduction, the Sonic has made a positive impression on owners. While many admit it may not make the best family car, drivers commend its reliability, safety, ease in maneuvering into tight spaces, fuel-economy, and space for a couple passengers and their gear. In addition, people enjoy the Sonic’s go-kart handling when zipping around corners and its fresh styling, including a wide array of exterior paint choices. Although its fuel economy and cargo space could be improved, most owners consider the Sonic a good buy with considerable overall value.

The Sonic is available in 4-door sedan and 5-door hatchback body styles—hatchback available for top two trims only. The lineup includes the base LS sedan, the mid-range LT sedan and hatchback, and the top-of-the-line Premier sedan and hatchback. All trims feature a 60/40 split-and-fold rear seatback to add cargo versatility. Cargo space in the sedan's trunk measures 14.9 cubic feet, but jumps to 19 cubic feet in the hatchback with the rear seats up ands to 47.7 cubic feet with the rear seats folded flat.

The Sonic's 2017 exterior updates included a more contemporary dual-element deep-mouthed grille,automatic on/off projector-beam headlights, and a new rear fascia. Despite enhancements, the Sonic's basic shape remains the same, displaying a clean, fluid, short-nosed design, sharply raked windshield, flared wheel wells, and rising sidelines. On hatchbacks, the rear wheels are pushed to the back corners to improve interior cargo space;sedans have a rear overhang for the trunk space. Outside, the LT and Premier trims come equipped with heated power-adjustable side mirrors. All hatchbacks include the RS package, adding sporty exterior features like front foglights, lower rocker moldings, a rear spoiler, RS badging, and the new black Chevy emblems. The RS package is an available option for sedan buyers. The LS and LT sedans ride on 15-inch wheels, the LT hatchback gets 16-inch wheels, and the Premier upgrades to 17-inch aluminum wheels.

Power for the Sonic comes from one of two engines, depending on the trim. Both deliver plenty of pop for around-town driving and help the Sonic stand a step ahead of rivals. Base power for the LS and LT trims comes from a 1.8-liter Ecotec 4-cylinder powerplant developing 138 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque. It links to a 5-speed manual transmission, standard on the LS trim, or a 6-speed manual on the LT and Premier. Buyers can upgrade to a 6-speed automatic on all trims. Fuel economy numbers check in at 26 mpg city, 35 highway, and 29 combined with the 5-speed manual transmission and 25, 34, and 28 with the automatic.

The Premier trim delivers a sportier driving experience, thanks to its 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, which boosts torque to 148 lb-ft, although horsepower remains the same at 138. The turbo 4 links to the same transmissions and posts improved fuel economy numbers of 28, 37, and 32 with the manual transmission and 27, 35, and 30 with the automatic. Chevy’s Fun and Sun package includes the turbo 4 engine as well as a sunroof and 17-inch wheels and is an available option on the LT trim. All trims and body styles are front-wheel drive (FWD).

The Sonic garners good marks for handling, maneuverability, and driveability, and owners call it a fun car to drive. The LS and LT trims ride on a Touring suspension, which is tuned for increased traction and stability, as well a smooth ride over all types of road surfaces. The Premier trim upgrades to a Sport suspension, which provides a firmer ride for more precise control and handling. Features such as hill start assist and GM's Stabilitrak electronic stability control system are standard on all Sonic trims.

While power and performance are important, the Sonic really comes alive inside, where it offers a roomy five passenger cabin with comfortable seats and plenty of standard tech and safety features. Most passengers will find adequate legroom in the both rows of seating; the hatchback offers more headroom for second-row passengers. The LS comes equipped with cloth seats, air conditioning, remote keyless entry, manually adjustable front seats, and Chevy's MyLink infotainment system with 4 speakers, a 7-inch touchscreen, USB ports, Bluetooth, a reversing camera, and support for mobile apps like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Cruise control and power windows are not included in the LS's standard package. To get those, consider the LT, which also adds deluxe cloth upholstery, a 6-speaker audio system, and a satellite radio. At the top of the line, the Premium comes equipped upscale features like 6-way power-adjustable heated front seats and a leather-wrapped heated steering wheel.

Chevy outfits the Sonic with 10 standard airbags, including knee airbags for the driver and front passenger. The Sonic also comes equipped with GM's OnStar safety system, which includes automatic crash response, stolen vehicle assistance, roadside assistance, advanced diagnostics, turn-by-turn navigation, and Wi-Fi hotspot capability. Buyers can add additional safety features like forward collision alert, lane departure warning, and rear park assist as options on the LT and Premier trims. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) awarded the Sonic a top safety rating of 5 out of 5 stars.

With a combination of value, performance, and safety, the Sonic has the largest appear among drivers under 30. In fact, Chevy notes that 30 percent of Sonic buyers are in the under-30 age range . Given its continued popularity and th 2018 mid-generation refresh, there are no immediate plans for a next-generation Sonic and may not take place until the 2020 or 2021 model year. Until then, the 2018 Sonic has plenty to offer buyers of all ages.

Updated

Rob has been a contributor to CarGurus since 2007, and an automotive test-driver and writer since the early ’90s. He’s test-driven everything from BMWs and Jags to Bentleys and Saabs, with an occasional Range Rover, Ferrari, Porsche or Lamborghini thrown in. He also created the annual Car of the Year and Exotic Car of the Year awards for Robb Report magazine. He currently resides in California.

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