Our test with the 2014 Chevrolet Sonic Turbo started with a road-trip from Phoenix to Los Angeles to test the ability of this small compact to meet or exceed its 40 mpg highway rating and 29 mpg city estimates.
Our road trip started out on I-10 in Phoenix and an average mpg over 40 mpg was easily reached in the city freeway traffic. Were we able to keep this going all the way to LA? Well lets see.
The 2014 Chevrolet Sonic is a small car that really beats to its own drummer. Competing against cars like the Nissan Versa, Ford Fiesta and Toyota Yaris, it offers up a different style and character all its own.
From top to bottom it just has an avant garde sort of feel to its styling, even aggressive in a cute sort of way. Our five-door hatch had a kicked up C-pillar that just makes you smile, or frown depending on your tastes.
While the average Sonic LT Turbo would be around $18,000 our tester was loaded up with a host of dealer installed appearance accessories and packages which brought the price well over $21,000.
These included fog lights, blacked out grille and mirror caps, a rear spoiler, and mean looking black 16” alloy wheels. It also had a cat-back Borla exhaust which gave it some extra punch in the sound department as well as a nice piece of bling out back.
The interior of the Sonic is an impressive design which goes a few steps further in style than many competitors. The seats have a nice patterned cloth and provide good comfort, something we appreciated on our long trip.
The dash is well laid out with a motorcycle style instrument cluster and a simple center stack which has easy to understand controls. The only question mark was the large storage holes on either side of the radio that seem afterthought.
The steering wheel tilts and telescopes and the manual shifter while feeling disconnected was slick and easy to use at all times. The switch gear feel and quality is far and above basic Chevrolets of the past, making this car feel like a better value merely by touch.
The only area I really was let down by the interior was the audio system’s lack of a CD player. Chevrolet has made the executive decision that people don’t seem to need them anymore, well I disagree.
The optioned touch screen audio system while missing a CD player offers up excellent sound as well as Chevrolet MyLink which gives voice recognition for phone, Pandora & Stitcher and all manner of Bluetooth functionality.
Rear seat room was cavernous for a car of this size, offering good height for leg comfort. The rear cargo area was not so big but if you want a trunk you can order up the Sonic sedan instead.
Handling is somewhere between econo-car basic and sport hatch. Spring rates and steering weight seemed about medium in strength which was just enough to make the car engaging around town and on windy roads.
Yeah nimble is the word. Much of the time on our road-trip was spent on windy roads and city streets where the Sonic was indeed fun to drive, carving through traffic and pushing into the occasional curve.
Power comes from the optional 1.4 liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine which produces 138 horsepower and 148 lb-ft. of torque. It seems to be perfectly mated to the 6-speed manual transmission and the gear ratios are spot on for both acceleration and highway cruising.
Acceleration is brisk of not sporting, but overly fast. It’s just enough to be fun and has a playful power curve at all times. On the highway in sixth gear it will roll along at 2,000 rpm at 65 mph which is the sweet spot for maximum fuel economy. Now, about how we did on our road trip.
As far as our mpg minded road trip, our results were not as good as hoped but not because the car didn’t perform. We drove straight into a winter storm which gave us 20-30 mph gusts and stead headwinds most of the way, and met rain to go long with the expected mountain passes.
Our actual mileage however was still commendable with 38 mpg over the average of the road trip which included some stops and city streets. In our week with the Sonic we averaged 33.5 mpg, still more than the EPA combined estimate.
Our Chevrolet Sonic proved to be a good friend for the long trip and showed that it makes both an easy to drive and willing city car as well as a comfortable road trip cruiser. This is a a set of traits which many of its competitors don’t do both well at the same time.
For a more in-depth review and photos see our report at GasMiler.com