By Matt Degen
KBB Expert Rating: 8.9
The 2016 Sonic is Chevrolet's second-smallest vehicle after the Spark. Available as a sedan or 5-door hatchback, the Chevy Sonic subcompact offers impressive room for its size. As with rivals such as the Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Accent, Nissan Versa, Toyota Yaris and new Scion iA, the Sonic appeals to younger drivers with its low entry price, easy driving manners and high fuel economy. Though now a few years old, the Sonic remains a worthy competitor in this growing field of value-oriented cars, and even has a few tricks up its sleeve such as the inclusion of 4G LTE connectivity and a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot.
Highlights of the 2016 Sonic include a starting price around $15,000, a fuel-economy rating that reaches up to 40 mpg when equipped with the optional turbo engine, and snazzy tech features like a touch-screen display and in-car Wi-Fi.
If many highway miles are in your future, consider stepping up a size to something more substantial like the Chevy Cruze or Honda Civic. Parents of new drivers may want to check out the Scion iA, which comes standard with safety features like a rearview camera and low-speed collision-prevention system.
KBB Expert Ratings
Apart from three new exterior colors – Nightfall Gray Metallic, Mosaic Black Metallic and Kinetic Blue Metallic – the Chevrolet Sonic carries over for 2016 with no significant changes.
Take a spin in the 2016 Chevy Sonic and you may just gain new respect for the subcompact genre. This small Chevy's ride is smooth and stable, its steering is...
... precise, and the car's suspension is nimble enough to round corners with confidence or dart through city traffic with ease. Despite its compact dimensions, the Chevrolet Sonic feels more substantial than a Ford Fiesta or Honda Fit. When equipped with the 1.4-liter turbocharged engine, the subcompact Sonic feels quick and agile, and its fuel-economy figures earn two big thumbs-up from our test staff. Even if you stick with the base 1.8-liter engine you’ll find a pleasing driving experience. The smaller but more powerful 1.4-liter turbo makes this car quite fun, especially the RS variant with its stiffer suspension. We liken that top-line model to a lower-price alternative to a Mini Cooper.
Chevy’s MyLink infotainment system helps drivers keep connected to their music, messages and apps while keeping their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. The system is also compatible with Apple's Siri Eyes Free and the BringGo navigation app.
BIG SAFETY FEATURES
The Sonic aims to mitigate the worries that can come with a small car with standard features such as 10 airbags and available ones like forward-collision alert and lane-departure warning to stop an accident before one can occur.
The Sonic is now a few years into its first generation, but its 5-passenger interior still feels fresh and offers a lot to like, starting with the motorcycle-inspired gauge cluster that’s unlike anything else on a car’s dashboard. The rear seat is one of the roomiest in the subcompact segment, and the versatile and recommendable hatchback models offer 47.7 cubic feet of cargo room with the rear seats folded. And we really liked the dual-glove-box arrangement, which is particularly thoughtful for those who use a dedicated music player, with the USB port located in the smaller, upper glove box.
The 2016 Chevy Sonic has a small footprint and tidy proportions as either a sedan or hatchback. Our eyes favor the design of the hatchback, which reminds us of classy-yet-practical European models. Interesting details on that model include the hidden rear door handles in the black areas of the C-pillars that make the Sonic hatchback appear more like a 2-door. Another thing in the Sonic’s favor: With the exception of the base LS trim level, all models have aluminum-alloy wheels and some really eye-popping color choices. For traditionalists, the sedan benefits from a large trunk befitting a midsize car.
Both the Sonic sedan and Sonic hatchback are available in four trims: LS, LT, LTZ and RS. In its least expensive LS form, the Sonic includes basics like air conditioning, keyless entry, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, and AM/FM stereo with auxiliary input. And while the base model does include Wi-Fi, you'll still have to crank your own windows. We recommend spending the extra $1,800 and at least stepping up to the LT model, which includes the Chevy MyLink audio system with 7-inch touch screen, Bluetooth connectivity and USB input, plus power windows and mirrors, cruise control and upgraded cloth interior.
Climb to the LTZ model and you'll get an automatic transmission as standard (it's optional on the other models), the turbocharged 1.4-liter engine, rearview camera, 17-inch wheels, heated front seats, fog lights and Leatherette seating. Top-line Sonic RS models pack a leather-wrapped steering wheel, sport suspension, rear spoiler and leather seats. Options include the forward-collision and lane-departure warning systems, power sunroof and a lowering suspension kit for improved handling. A turbo stage kit adds another 10 ponies to the turbo engine's horsepower count, for a total of 148.
There are two engine choices for the Sonic, each more than merely acceptable. The base 1.8-liter 4-cylinder cranks out good power and is entirely adequate, especially for younger drivers. The pricier alternative is a 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that’s sportier and makes more torque, and thus goes quicker, but has as its main advantage a 5-mpg gain in highway fuel economy. The 1.8-liter is available with a 5-speed manual transmission, the turbo 1.4-liter with a 6-speed manual, and both can be matched with a 6-speed automatic. In our experience, we found no reason not to like any of the transmission choices.
138 horsepower @ 6,300 rpm
125 lb-ft of torque @ 3,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 26/35 mpg (5-speed manual), 24/35 mpg (6-speed automatic)
1.4-liter turbocharged inline-4
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), 25/33 mpg (Sonic RS, automatic), 27/34 mpg (Sonic RS, manual)
The 2016 Chevy Sonic has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting just over $15,200 for a base LS sedan. A hatchback variant of the same trim runs $600 more. Again, we recommend stepping up to at least the LT trim, which includes far more amenities for roughly $17,000. Go all-out on a RS hatchback and you're still looking at a price under $24,000. The Sonic's price isn't quite as low as that of competitors like the Nissan Versa, Kia Rio, Ford Fiesta or the hard-to-recommend Mitsubishi Mirage, but it still represents a good value. Before buying, check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying. The Chevy Sonic's resale value is expected to be below that of leaders like the Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris and Scion iA.