The Chevrolet Sonic subcompact is essentially unchanged for 2018 because last year it got major redo, which included a new aggressive-looking front fascia, updated dash design and a multi-media system with a 7-inch touchscreen.
Safety features include optional forward collision and lane departure warnings and a backup camera-features once offered only for larger, costlier cars.
The 2018 front-drive Sonic can be had as a four-door sedan or four-door hatchback, with list prices ranging from $15,145 to $21,215. There's either a standard 1.8-liter 138-horsepower four-cylinder engine or a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder with the same horsepower but more torque. Transmissions include a 5- or 6-speed manual and a decent-shifting 6-speed automatic, which was in my test car.
Models are the LS, LT and Premier. I tested the base LS with the 1.8-liter engine, which was lively in town but lazy above 65 m.p.h. So be careful when passing on an open two-lane roads. The car is no fireball with the turbo engine, but moves out faster.
Fuel economy for a 99-inch-wheelbase subcompact is nothing to text home about, although only regular grade fuel is needed. Estimated economy depends on the engine and transmission combination. It ranges from 25 miles to 28 per gallon in the city and from 34 to 37 on highways. My test car averaged 30 miles per gallon, although I expected less because I did mostly stop-go urban driving.
Despite a tight wheelbase, the Sonic is comfortably roomy for four adults. If thin, a fifth can squeeze in back because the center of the rear seat is fairly soft. However, rear door openings are rather narrow and back doors lack the storage pockets of the front doors. There aren't many decent-sized cabin storage areas; even the glovebox is especially small.
My test sedan had a moderately large trunk with a wide but rather high opening. Also, the trunk floor is low, so some bending is needed to move certain objects in and out. Rear seat backs easily flip forward and sit flat to greatly enlarge the cargo area, and the pass-through area from the trunk to the backset area is large. But opt for the hatchback version for maximum versatility.
The quick steering is handy for sudden moves in heavy traffic but makes the car somewhat darty when moving fast on freeways or highways. My test car's ride was firm on anything but smooth roads -a few unexpected speed bumps nearly put occupants through the roof at 25 m.p.h. I suspected that the tires were overinflated, making for an unusually stiff ride, but the car was loaned for a relatively brief period so there was no opportunity to check tire pressures. Potential Sonic buyers should take a test drive on even moderately rough roads when considering the car. The brakes worked fine, with good pedal travel.
The red gauge pointers in my test car's speedometer and tachometer were a small touch that nevertheless provided a bit of sporty flair. Front seats were supportive, and controls were within easy reach, although the low set cupholders were a little hard to reach at the front of the console. I especially appreciated the manual dashboard HIV controls, and the touchscreen was easy to use. There is a good amount of plastic in the quiet (for a subcompact car) interior, but it doesn't look cheap.
Pop the hood and you'll see fluid filler areas are within easy reach.
Ford says it will cease production of most of its family cars to make pickups, crossovers and SUVs, so a car such as the Sonic might suddenly become popular if gas prices begin soaring again. Meanwhile, it could be a good choice for those with limited financial means or for use as a second family car.