By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 7.8
Built in the USA, the 2013 Chevrolet Sonic is the second-smallest car to wear the bow-tie badge (the new Spark is officially the smallest), but its abilities are far from diminutive. Competing against Ford's Fiesta and Honda's Fit, among others, the Sonic delivers fuel economy that's equal to or better than its rivals and driving dynamics that range from comfortable and nimble (LT trim) to downright sporty (new RS). Offered as a 5-door hatchback or 4-door sedan, the Sonic is no ordinary small car. It offers loads of features unexpected at this price range, such as streaming Bluetooth audio and the MyLink infotainment system that allows for control of cell phone-enabled apps.
In sedan or 5-door hatchback configuration, the 2013 Chevy Sonic is the quietest and most composed subcompact car you can buy. Combined with more conventional styling than some of its key competitors, the Sonic is destined to become a mass-market favorite.
The big news for the 2013 Chevy Sonic is the addition of the sporty RS that includes a stiffer suspension, leather seats and unique 17-inch wheels. There's a simplified version of the MyLink infotainment system and all Sonics gain integral blind-spot side mirrors. The LT trim adds cruise control, a USB port, second auxiliary input, steering-wheel audio controls and Bluetooth streaming audio.
Driving Impressions Around town and on the highway, the 2013 Chevy Sonic sets a new standard for subcompact driving refinement. As a whole, the offerings in this category have become less skittish...and less buzzy in recent years, but Chevrolet's Sonic for 2013 drives like a bigger, pricier car than any of its competitors. It's not perfect, though. The up-level turbocharged engine available on LT, RS and LTZ models offers excellent fuel economy but suffers from somewhat quirky power delivery. Fortunately, the base-level 1.8-liter engine costs less, is available with either a 5-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission, and delivers - in some ways - a better driving experience. One of the front-wheel-drive Sonic's best tricks is how it manages to deliver both segment-leading highway manners with impressive road-holding abilities. And, if you decide to charge a canyon road, you might be impressed by the grip and stability it delivers.
With MyLink, customers can use their smartphones to enable music from popular apps such as Pandora and Stitcher. Later in the model year a navigation app will be added to the mix.
If your phone and digital music player are one, and you take more short trips than long drives, you'll appreciate the ability to play your music without having to constantly plug and unplug your phone.
Inside the 2013 Chevy Sonic is a mix of conservative design with a touch of motorcycle inspiration in the form of a compact gauge cluster with a digital speedometer. Like many of the newer subcompact cars, a key highlight of the Sonic interior is simply the dearth of weak spots common to the category's cabins only a few years ago. Worth noting are that the cup holders are good but awkwardly-placed too rearward between the front seats, the backseat is one of the category's roomiest, and the 2-glovebox layout is especially nice for those who use a dedicated digital music player (the USB port is located in the smaller top box).Exterior
The motorcycle-inspired headlights notwithstanding, the Chevrolet's 2013 Sonic is among the more traditionally-styled subcompact cars in the segment. While it won't generate as much excitement as the crisper styling of the Ford Fiesta or Hyundai Accent, the flip side is that it won't push as many people away. One fun detail to check out: On the 5-door hatchback model, Chevy's designers "hid" the rear door handle in the black area of the C-pillar, in an effort to give the car a little bit of a 2-door look at first glance. Also, we love that, with the exception of the base LS trim, all models include alloy wheels.
In sedan or 5-door hatchback form, a 2013 Chevy Sonic LS includes a 1.8-liter engine, 5-speed manual transmission, air conditioning, Bluetooth, steering wheel audio controls, 4-speaker AM/FM/aux sound system and OnStar with a 6-month subscription that includes convenient turn-by-turn navigation. You might notice power windows and mirrors are missing from the list of standard equipment, but that's not unusual for base-level subcompacts. A full range of standard safety equipment includes 10 airbags.
A fully-loaded 2013 Chevy Sonic includes the 1.4-liter turbocharged engine matched with a 6-speed manual transmission or 6-speed automatic, leatherette seats, heated front seats, moonroof, cruise control and 17-inch wheels. Chevrolet's MyLink infotainment is available on LS and LT and standard on LTZ and RS. A premium 6-speaker audio system is offered on LS and standard on all others, while the LTZ with the automatic transmission comes with standard remote start. The RS trim adds leather seating, four-wheel disc brakes, performance suspension, 17-inch alloy wheels and a sport steering wheel.
The bad news is that the more powerful, more fuel-efficient turbocharged engine isn't available on every trim. The good news is that the base 1.8-liter engine is a viable option with more linear power delivery. In fact, the pricier turbocharged engine's key strength isn't the added torque but the 5-mpg advantage in highway fuel economy. We haven't yet tested the 5-speed manual, but we were impressed by both the 6-speed automatic and 6-speed manual transmissions.
1.8-liter inline-4 (LS, LT, LTZ)
138 horsepower @ 6,300 rpm
125 lb-ft of torque @ 3,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 26/35 mpg (5-speed manual), 25/35 mpg (6-speed automatic)
1.4-liter turbocharged inline-4 (Optional on LT and LTZ, standard on RS)
138 horsepower @ 4,900 rpm
148 lb-ft of torque @ 2,500 rpm (manual)/1,850 rpm (automatic)
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 29/40 mpg (6-speed manual), 27/37 mpg (6-speed automatic)
By dbGlenview on Monday, October 20, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 8,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Mileage, style, power, driveability"
Cons: "Tiny gauge cluster; lacks engine temperature."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Have not owned a Chevy since a 1960 model. Sonic is our most trouble-free car ever. Oil life (according to its sensor) could go 10,000 miles, but must be changed at least annually, to keep warranty valid. I wanted Union Built USA vehicle; note: this has about 50% Korean-made Parts. Top Crash Safety rated; 10 airbags. Great Hatchback styling appears to be a 2-door wagon; 4 adults fit just fine. Has reasonable cargo space; privacy cover clips are flimsy (broke), but the cover works better if clips are actually removed! Amazing turbo power when needed, yet 1.4L engine gets over 50mpg highway. With 6 speed transmission, it occasionally hunts for a gear (when going from coast to accelerate). Gets best mileage over speed 42, as 6th gear is reached (overdrive?). Mileage falls with wind resistance, over speed 55mph. Takes corners like a race-car; is fine in 5- inch snow. LT model has virtually every accessory, including cruise, power windows, remote start, great speaker system. Thick pillars and the headrests obstruct most rearward vision, but dual-lens side-view mirrors help immensely. Just like our 2000 Ford Focus, a little warmed air comes through the heater/air conditioner system whenever the fan-only is turned on, and dial set to coolest."
By ziofran on Saturday, October 11, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 14,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Peppy. Fun to drive. Best in class for the price."
Cons: "Air conditioning could be better."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I am retired and drive mostly short trips. The turbo works great, I am one of the fastest car on the road. I had a BMW 325i before this and there is not that much difference. Of course it is small, but has plenty of room for two people and a lot of baggage. And gas consumption is great, I average about 28 MPG on an average speed of around 35 MPH. So pretty good. At 65 I get almost 40 MPG."
7 people out of 14 found this review helpful
By Coinneach on Thursday, October 09, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 4,600overall rating 6 of 10rating details
Pros: "Good power and handling, decent fuel economy."
Cons: "MyLink is useless, basic creature comforts lacking"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 6
"I have a 2014 Sonic LT, 6A, MyLink. It's OK for what it is (a low-end disposable runabout), but it has some... issues. MyLink doesn't even come close to living up to the hype. Three audio streaming apps and one nav app that appears to be barely out of beta isn't what I call useful. The system doesn't even look at track number info in mp3 files and doesn't recognize m3u playlists that literally every other playback system has used for 10 years. You don't want your albums played in alphabetical order? You can either deal with it, or manually retag your files. You can't even delete the preset favorites in the bands that you don't use. Performance: surprisingly decent, considering. Off the line, it's faster than my '12 Cruze LS (same engine, 6M trans). Acceleration on the move is very good. Steering is solid when it should be and light when it needs to be. The brakes are numb for the first half inch of pedal, then grabby. Comfort and Quality: The ride is comfortably solid, with no rattles or squeaks. The incredibly obnoxious headrest angle can be mitigated somewhat by reclining the seatback and lifting the headrest to its maximum height. The seat pans are reasonably firm and supportive, but there's only one skinny armrest for the driver and front passenger to fight over and no center armrest at all in back. Since the only people likely to be back there will be in booster seats, I suppose this is a fair omission. The HVAC is very good, but the controls feel... weird. The temperature control detents are squishy and vague. I don't exactly regret having bought a Sonic, but I'll be bringing it back as soon as I can get the payoff below trade value."
2 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By Scott on Saturday, September 06, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 13,687overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun to drive on back roads or interstate"
Cons: "one arm rest"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I drive about an hour each day and the sonic is the perfect car for day to day driving. It has features from the more expensive models and was still in my price range."
22 people out of 44 found this review helpful
By Albert on Friday, September 05, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 9,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"I bought this car because it is assembled in USA. My car is 2013 LTZ with 5 speed manual transmission, gas mileage is excellent, combine highway and city, 33.9 miles. I drove the car cross the country, it's given me a lot fun! The only thing is the clock synchronization is not working and the leather seats look like fake. Otherwise, it is a perfect car! Thanks GM!"
4 people out of 4 found this review helpful
By tim on Friday, August 22, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 5,400overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "great gas mileage using the turbo and 6spd,"
Cons: "one arm rest"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I've purchased this car specifically because I commute 120 miles per day round trip. I opted for the LT-1 Turbo, so mid level with onstar and mylink radio. My car has cloth interior and both sets of mats, power locks and windows but manual seats. It has the 1.4L Turbo with the 6 spd manual. Engine performance: Now, I own a turbo diesel truck so I am up to speed on turbo lag. This car is no different in that department, except what I found is that if you blip the throttle then give it some gas turbo lag is non-existent. It is just something you get used to and remember when pulling across a side street. Transmission: The gearing between 1-2-3 is pretty tall and in some cases you will lug the engine if you are not paying attention. But where this car shines is the 5th and 6th gear. They are a great ratio and add to fuel economy. Shifting is smooth and precise. Sometimes though if you are not paying attention or being too easy on the gas you will miss 6th and drop it into 4th. Fuel economy. Because I commute such a distance and I have taken this vehicle on road a couple road trips, I can definitely talk to the fuel economy aspect of this car. The first week I had this car 52.6 mpg was the norm at 65mph. Now it has settle into 48.9 mpg average across my 60 mile commute over rolling terrain. I have two routes I can take. The 48mpg is a back country open highway, the second route is an urban freeway with lots of overpasses to climb. When taking this route the car will average 44.6mpg. note these trips are all with the A/C on, which actually doesn't ever seem to change the MPG at all. One major factor I have found is the type of fuel and from what gas station will cause the fuel economy to go up or down. I found that Conoco or Chevron both yield the worse mileage ratings over the coarse of two full tanks or for me two weeks worth of driving. I run premium which I have also found yields 3-4mpg better, which over my 22K miles per year is an extra $107, for the year. I found that Shell, safeway, Costco and Mavrick country stores yield the best MPG ratings. I am assuming it is because they do not place addatives into the fuel. Also, I know the Conoco has ethanol which drops the mpg ratings. Audio- This car is not Apple product friendly. The USB port is worthless for apple products and the blue tooth support is sporadic with apple as well. However using any android device including my Samsung tablet, the car has no issues. You can even plug in an external hard drive or USB stick. Show pictures on the screen or play movies and media files from the device. OnStar and Hands free. This car has some cool features in the Mylink system. On the steering wheel you can control your phone and make a phone call from your cell phone. Or on the rear view mirror you can use the vehicles built in cell service to make a phone call. Both calls go through the vehicles speaker system. The onstar function is actually pretty cool. I have used it a lot for directions. Call onstar, tell them where you want to go and they beam you the directions right to your stereo. It then gives you turn by turn directions to where you want to go. No actual navigation required. Driving impressions: You have to face reality, this is a sub-compact car. But there is still room for a small family on a short road trip. We have used it twice to take a 6 hour drive with two adults and two teenagers. So 4 people in the car. The kids never complained once and said they had enough room. But to be fair to them I did stop a few times. This car is zippy and nimble. I am always amazed that it can turn around on a one lane road and the uturn in a parking lot is just amazing. But then again, coming from an F350, a 777 on a runway can turn better. Overall this car is a great fun little car. The gas mileage with the Turbo 6spd is off the charts. The fit and finish is very good and the build quality is stellar. If I had one complaint it is the fact there is only one arm rest in the car. But it you had two, it would cover up the cup holders, so that makes sense. FYI, my car is the sedan and not the hatchback. Now for the other side of things. My wife took this car on a road trip from Utah to Idaho, to Nevada and back to Utah. She said that she really likes this car. That is saying a lot for a person that is used to driving a Honda Pilot with plenty of room. She raved about the radio and how easy the car was to drive, even though it is a manual transmission. When ever I am home she opts to take the Sonic to run errands or even pick the kids up from school. That just goes to show you how good of a package this little car is. I plan on giving it to my son in couple years when he starts driving."
6 people out of 8 found this review helpful