The Chevrolet Sonic started its life as one of the dorkier kids in high school. Back then it was known as the Chevrolet Aveo, and anyone who knew what it meant to be cool felt like shoving it into a locker full of old jockstraps.
Then the Aveo went to college, hit the gym with Chevy engineers, got ripped and landed a roll in Transformers 2 as the Chevrolet Sonic.
Now the Sonic is a car that’s helping to redefine the image of compact domestic cars.
Let’s do a word association with that phrase: Compact domestic cars… Take a moment.
Did you think of ‘boring’, ‘ugly’, ‘slow’, ‘basic transportation girl repellant medley in a rusty can’?
The Chevrolet Sonic is a compact domestic car and it is the opposite of those things. Most obviously the exterior styling is aggressive, youthful, athletic and bold; an appearance that suggests the person behind the wheel prefers to drive a car that exudes a little passion and style.
So far so good Sonic, but we all know just because a lady wears a sporty outfit doesn’t mean she’s really as fun as she looks. Where the Sonic shines on the inside is its sweet, sweet engine.
Each and every Sonic comes standard with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder pushing out 138 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque. It’s nice, but keen buyers with a little more to spend will want to opt instead for the 1.4 turbocharged four-cylinder.
Sure, it also makes 138hp, but torque is boosted to 148 lb-ft, enough to slam other subcompact cars into a locker of sweaty jockstraps.
If you’re not like that, the turbo engine is also more fuel-efficient than the 1.8-liter. This is a good example of why turbos are a trend right now in the auto industry; they help smaller displacement engines keep up with or beat out larger displacement engines both in the way of power and fuel economy.
Whether you're trying to be fun, green, or both, the turbo is the way to go.
A single transmission option on the Sonic is harder to advocate. Manual transmissions come standard; a five-speed for the 1.8-liter, and a six speed for the 1.4-liter. A six-speed automatic is optional on the 1.8-liter.
Those who plan on taking full advantage of the car’s sporty side should consider a downfall of the auto transmission. In Manual/Automatic mode (where you can shift up and down by clicking the gear shift in either direction), the Sonic substitutes the stick click for a button on the side of the shifter.
You’re supposed to click the button up or down with your thumb to shift, like the volume on a television remote control. I found this to be an awkward endeavor, as if I was thumbing at a button to adjust the temperature of my seat rather than changing gears.
Maybe I just have awkward thumbs, maybe shifting with your thumb is weird. Judge for yourself.
The word nimble is used far too often to describe the handling of cars, but gosh darn-it if the Sonic doesn’t handle that way. Perhaps more importantly, its composure doesn’t come with a skateboard ride that makes you worry about biting your tongue off on bumpy roads.
At six-feet tall I felt much more substantial behind the Sonic’s wheel, but not oversized or cramped. A second me could have rode shotgun with ample room for the Holy Spirit between our shoulders. Not just any compact car will do that for a six-footer and his clone.
The rear seats aren’t a place a six-footer would want to occupy for long trips, but they’re still impressive for the small car segment.
The Sonic’s interior ensemble isn’t going to thrill many or let them down – it gets the job done with decent material qualities that aren’t anything to write home about or pen a note to Chevrolet’s suggestion box for.
More noteworthy are the goodies that come with the base LS trim package: alloy wheels, air-conditioning, OnStar, auxiliary audio jack and a telescoping/tilt steering wheel that will curl up in your lap if that’s your thing.
A bit more dough brings home more pleasantly-priced features with the LT and LTZ trims, such as leatherette premium vinyl upholstery, heated seats, iPod interface and Bluetooth phone/audio connections.
All in all the Sonic makes a strong name for itself and packs enough fun to appeal to the car enthusisast crowd. That unto itself makes for an over achiever in it's market.
Still, when I told a Car Guy friend I was testing the new Chevrolet Sonic for a couple days he spun around in his chair to his PC, performed a quick internet search and concluded, “No you’re not, you’re testing an Aveo!”
He was right to a certain extent. Then again, the Aveo would have failed an audition for the Transformers movies extremely hard. The Sonic on the other hand doesn’t look out of place beside the bumblebee Camaro and in reality is plenty of fun to drive.
In fact the Sonic might be the closest thing to a real-life Transformer in any of those blockbuster movies thus far. Think about it:
An everyday automobile morphs into an exciting machine to do battle against the evil forces of mundane compact cars.
That sounds like an exciting story to me.
Check out a slideshow of the Sonic here: http://tinyurl.com/7epynpf