I’m not going to spend this review talking about how good the inexpensive cars are today and how much better they are than the piles of junk we drove at 16, but they are, and they are. Moving on.
This Sonic has the rare, cloth-seat/heated-seat combo we barely ever see anymore. I like the combination, possibly better than leather. It doesn’t look as slick, unless they’re some sort of Recaro bucket, but they’re usually more comfortable and they’re way better when the temps hit the 20s. Leather just has the biting, vicious cold that sucks any sort of heat you have left after exiting the house in the morning. And these seats in particular were comfy enough for me to literally say “wow” when I sat down for the first time. Those, plus the heated wheel, made this Sonic about as much as you could ask for on the first cold day of the year.
The cabin is sparse, but that’s what we expect at the price. It does have a touchscreen, but no navigation. I did enjoy the satellite radio that I think is included for six months. It might be worth getting the subscription. Station 34, Lithium, was programmed in, which is alternative hits from the ’90s. I spent my weekend reliving my high school days with Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam and Nirvana. Plenty of volume, too. The USB is right in front where it should be — all of the other controls are simple.
After the seats, the next thing I noticed was the steering, which is better than you’d expect, feelwise; it’s also better, I think, than the Honda Fit, which is my usual go-to. The Mazda2 might be a little more enjoyable, but the Chevy is probably at VW levels or better. The Sonic has good brake feel too, and throttle tip in was fine, despite the low amount of power.
It’s not slow out of the box, but passing on the expressway took a full smash of the pedal, and then you have to wait for the trans to kick down two or three gears. It will keep up with traffic, you just need to plan ahead.
The suspension felt a little sloppy to me. It’s OK over bigger potholes; you can hear them, but they only jar the cabin a little. I didn’t feel completely comfortable changing lanes aggressively. The suspension rocks back and forth a bit, and the tires don’t do it, or the steering, any favors. It seemed to follow those grooves in the pavement, and when it got windy, it was even worse.
So the Fit EX, which is about the same price, only offers a CVT, no standard automatic, but it does feel a little more solid/robust/quiet overall. It does have that boosted steering feel, though, and a little less horsepower. Mileage is close. Speaking of, I filled this car, 198 miles, 7.2 gallons of the cheap stuff, for a real world average of 27.5, and I was not taking it easy. I still think the Fit looks better, but if this were a hatchback, it might be more of a toss-up. I also like the Ford Fiesta in this segment.
–Jake Lingeman, road test editor