Having given Shadow, our 2003 Pontiac Vibe, to a family member, I was now in the market for a new car just a little over a year after purchasing Mica, our 2013 Mazda CX-5. Now that both of my children were out of daycare and my wife was working full time, our financial situation had improved dramatically. The Mazda was already paid off, and we had quite a bit saved up to purchase another car. As you may have already figured out, I didn’t go in the expected direction.
When you think about it, the situation was almost comical. Taken from the perspective of a dealer finance manager, based on the cash we had to contribute, debt-to-income ratio, and credit score, we literally could have walked into almost any dealer and driven away in any car on the lot. However, I’m the type of person who prefers earning interest to paying it. We already had one car that was roomy enough for the family and our stuff. So, I could see no reason why we needed two. In addition, I was weaned on small cars, and they’re what I feel most comfortable driving. All I really wanted was a fun commuter just big enough to fit me and my two kids when performing drop-off and/or pick-up duty. I could put a hefty down payment on a top-trim three-row crossover that I didn’t need, or since I’m not trying to impress anybody, buy a small, less expensive car outright. I also chose to go with an automatic transmission since the bulk of my driving is in the city.
I love hatchbacks, and the choices had improved tremendously since 2002. Rather than drive from lot to lot, I took the family to the Connecticut Auto Show. I found the Honda Fit to be just as uncomfortable as every Honda I’ve ever sat in. The Toyota Yaris felt cheap inside and was saddled with an obsolete 4-speed automatic. I was intrigued by the Prius C, but my wife just said, “I don’t see us owning this car.” The Mini Countryman was too expensive, and I wasn’t confident in its reliability. I’d heard nothing good about the PowerShift in the Ford Fiesta, and I just didn’t like the look of the Nissan Versa Note. That left the Chevrolet Sonic, which had started at the top of my list anyway. I did look at the Buick Encore, which is based on the same platform, and even went as far as a test drive. It was slower, less efficient, not much roomier, and wallowed like an old Buick (my wife’s description). In our opinion, the Encore wasn’t worth the $6,000 premium over the Sonic (the Chevrolet Trax was not yet on sale in the U.S.).
The Sonic was introduced for the 2012 model year as a more-stylish, more-powerful, better-engineered replacement for the Aveo. Instead of a wheezy 1.6-liter, the Sonic had the same powertrain as the larger, heavier Cruze: a standard 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine or an optional turbocharged 1.4-liter. Both engines made 138 horsepower, but the 1.8 made it at a lofty 6,300 RPM, while the turbo peaks at 4,900. More importantly, while the 1.8 only made 125 lb. ft. of torque at 3,800 RPM, the turbo makes 148 lb. ft. at a nice, low 1,850 with the 6-speed automatic. While this may not sound like a big difference, it is. In addition, the turbo is more efficient than the old 1.8 (27/37 vs. 25/35).
One of the main reasons why the Sonic was at the top of my list was due to how well Charlie, our 2011 Chevrolet Cruze protected me and my 6-year-old son in a horrible side-impact collision. While I would actually have liked another Cruze, my wife wasn’t comfortable in the low-to-the-ground seating. Like that Cruze, the Sonic is several hundred pounds heavier than it has any right to be. At over 2,800, it’s as heavy as the Vibe even though it’s 12 inches shorter. Being an all-new design, it incorporated all of the modern safety features for the time, including ten airbags. I felt comfortable that the Sonic would protect us in an accident, even if the car itself ends up looking like a bowl of mush.
Having driven the CX-5 for almost a year at this point, my wife was now sold on crossovers. While clearly not one, the Sonic is two inches taller than the Cruze and has a higher seating position. To be on the safe side, I had my wife sit in a Cruze to remember how much she hated it, then I had her sit in a Sonic. “This isn’t bad at all,” she said. On a later test drive, the relatively smooth, well-controlled ride belied it’s tiny 99.4-inch wheelbase.
Since I was shopping near the bottom rung of the Chevy ladder, it was the perfect opportunity to be choosy. Not being a fan of leather seats, I crossed the LTZ and RS off my list, which left the mid-level LT. The LT was already well equipped: power windows with auto up/down driver’s side, power locks and mirrors, air conditioning, tilt and telescoping steering column, remote start, variable intermittent wipers, rear wiper/washer, automatic on/off head lamps, multi-function display, cruise control and steering wheel audio controls with Bluetooth.
To solve for the awkward-looking standard 15″ wheels, I chose the optional “Wheel & Fog Lamp Package” with its Camaro-aping 16″ wheels and fog lamps that nicely dress up the front end. Another must have was the “Fun & Sun Package,” which grouped the turbo engine with a power moon roof for a surprisingly affordable $995. I also selected the MyLink 7″ touch screen in combination with a backup camera. You might not think that a backup camera is necessary for a small, squared-off hatchback where the rear window is not that far from your head, but it’s still helpful. Finally, I added forward collision and lane departure warnings. I found Topaz Blue Metallic to be the most attractive of the available colors, and it gives the funky little hatchback a mature look more befitting its middle-aged owner. For the inside, I opted for the pewter interior over the ubiquitous black.
There was exactly one Sonic in this configuration within 750 miles of me, about 80 miles away. It had everything except for the FCW and LDW, which I could live without. However, the salesman at that dealer had a customer coming in to look at it. Since I wasn’t in a hurry, I went ahead and put in a custom order at my local dealer. I didn’t know custom ordering a car was still possible. Very old school.
About a week later, I received a phone call from my dealer that the other guy wasn’t able to get financing, and the car was available if I was still interested. I told him I was, and thought to myself, “Dude, if even the dealer can’t get you approved to finance a Chevy Sonic, not only should you not be shopping for a new car, but there is something seriously wrong with your finances.” As far as I know, my dealer did not cancel the custom order, so somewhere out there is a Sonic that looks exactly like mine.
Since the company I work for has a supplier pricing deal with GM, the actual sales transaction was easy. With the then $1,000 rebate, “Eddie” was around $20,000 out the door. Yes, I know I probably could have bought a base Malibu for that price, but I neither wanted nor needed a Malibu (I’m looking at you, JPC).
Following the tradition we started with Shadow, we broke in Eddie with a road trip to visit my uncle in New Jersey for the weekend. A family of four taking a road trip in a subcompact might sound like the makings of a slapstick comedy, but it went surprisingly well. The Sonic is remarkably quiet and comfortable cruising on the highway, and the deep well in the hatch easily swallowed a full-sized piece of luggage and a few small bags. My uncle had just leased a new Encore, and it was fun to compare and contrast.
The trip, of course, was a one-time thing. Eddie’s main job is daily commuting, and that is where he shines. The Sonic handles pot-hole-infested downtown much better than the Vibe. More importantly, it is downtown commuting where all that low-down torque really comes into play. Need to make that green light or get in front of that bus before it pulls out? Power is immediately available, with no turbo lag. More often than not, the transmission doesn’t even need to kick down. It’s classic GM with a high-tech, modern twist. However, just like with every W-body powered by a 2.8- or 3.1-liter V6, there’s nothing left at highway speeds. The jump from 50 to 70 is accompanied by at least a 2-gear kick down, a lot of screaming, and not a lot of thrust. Like I mentioned above, it’s just fine on the highway, but you have to adjust your expectations.
Inside, everything is clear and within easy reach. The “motorcycle inspired” gauge cluster is more than just a gimmick. The large digital speedometer is so much easier to read than the CX-5’s cramped 160-MPH analog unit. Why don’t people like digital speedometers? The tachometer is analog, as it should be. The version of MyLink in the Sonic is a simplified version of the one available on Chevy’s larger cars, but meets all of my needs. There up to 35 presets available regardless of band, so you can have AM/FM/XM stations all mixed together based on preference. While people have noted that the interior is filled with too many hard plastics, at least they’re high quality with contrasting colors that add to the fun quotient. Also, with big, round knobs, I can adjust the climate control without even looking.
Even though the round headlights are part of the “motorcycle inspired” theme, I find they throw off a wider field of light. The thin blades on the Mazda, for example, have a sharp upper cutoff right in my field of vision.
What I enjoy most of all is the small size. In traffic, I can (carefully) dart in and out much easier than larger vehicles. In my parking garage, I can pull into a prime space most other drivers had to pass by because one or both of the surrounding cars are parked too close to the lines. A few months ago, some moron blocked my car while he worked something out at the front desk. The space next to me was empty. So, I turned my car around inside the two spaces and pulled out. OK, it did involve a bunch of K turns, but it would have been impossible with anything larger. In my own short garage, parking near the back of the bay leaves a good six feet between the door to the house and the front of the car for easier pedestrian traffic.
My only issue with the car is gas mileage. When people see my car, the first thing they say is, “Wow, it must get great gas mileage!” Uh, no. In the warmer months, I can just achieve the EPA estimate of 27 with a light foot. In winter, that can fall as low as 24. In my Liberty Mutual “Big Brother is Watching You” three-month monitoring period, I got up to 30 MPG by feather-footing it, but I can’t keep up that kind of driving. Overall, there are plenty of mid-sized cars, as well as our CX-5, that can match or beat that kind of real-world city mileage. However, when you only drive about 6,000 miles per year, gas mileage doesn’t matter that much. Also, I’m having way too much fun to care.
Six years on, I’m not regretting my decision at all. The Sonic is one of those great, under-appreciated cars that just isn’t on most people’s radars (hence, my wife’s reaction when I told her what I wanted). The 2017 update took away the funky gauge cluster and round headlamps, two features I feel make the car really stand out. Predictably, there doesn’t appear to be a next generation forthcoming. I’m glad we had the opportunity to purchase one, and my son already has his eye on it for when he gets his license in two years.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this series as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Finally, thanks go out to Paul for all of the un-compensated effort he puts into this site and for giving me the opportunity to share my story.
This respectable-looking device had its exterior design done by an Australian at Holden. It’s aged well.
In the country of it’s designer, however, it only got a fairly ancient 1.6 litre, so powertrain was never something by which it would sell. I rented one: it was less than good. I have to say too that it drove clumsily, though I would agree it felt like a bigger car for solidity. But overall, it seemed a lesser car than the Opel Corsa C (from the same platform) that it replaced. That car had been something of a class act for a supermini.
A caveat. The Sonics (Barinas) here were made in the old Daewoo factory, and did not feel like any sort of quality item. Time proved that to be true in operation too.
Folk who’ve never driven a small car have no idea how much fun they are in a city environment. And if it’s a basically solid car, like these, they also have no idea that long trips don’t have to be a trial either. Glad yours has served you well.
And thankyou for your efforts in these COALS. They have been excellent, Mr D.
We got the 1.4T, too, but only briefly. I think it was exclusive to the RS, which didn’t carry over to the facelifted model.
Hell, one day even I was thinking about one of these and subcompacts aren’t my usual preference. These just look so handsome! But with no 1.4T available in the facelifted model, I very quickly crossed it off my list.
Thanks Justy! However, I had read that the Sonic, on GM’s Gamma II platform, was better than the Corsa D, which was built on the GM/Fiat SCCS platform.
They came here too as Holdens but there are no parts a friend had one it died she got rid of it as it couldnt be fixed.
A ~100″ wheelbase really isn’t tiny, as shown by the Sonic’s wheel-at-every-corner design. The AMC Pacer is probably the largest car ever with a 100″ wheelbase. The original Chrysler K cars also had a 100″ wb, and some pretty big 2-seaters like Mercedes SLs are in the ballpark.
It’s not tiny by 1975 or 1981 standards, but since most cars utilize the “wheel-at-every-corner” design today, it’s small by modern standards.
The Sonic did an amazing turnaround, with reviews that were as good as those of its predecessor, the Aveo (aka Daewoo Kalos), were bad. Although still not the class leader (that spot was reserved for the Honda Fit with stuff like its amazing ‘magic’ rear seat which provided a stunningly cavernous rear cargo area for a car so small), the Sonic was usually in the top three in small car comparisons, probably vying with the Mazda3.
It’s a shame GM went conventional with the second generation Sonic, which dumped the fun motorcycle-themed instrument cluster and ‘blackout’ headlights. Those two features set the Sonic apart from the pack and now, while it’s still just as good, the Sonic doesn’t stand out quite as much.
It was also a facelift when a full reskin was called for, and I think both it and the Spark reskin should’ve dropped the gimmicky “hidden” rear door handles for more glass and a narrower blind spot.
I loved the digital speedometer the n my 2 Olds 98s. Had to go back to analog with my Lesabre, but it has a digital HUD, so best of both worlds.
In Slovakia these were equipped mostly with 85 HP 1.2 or 100 HP 1.4 naturally aspirated gas engines. Compared to these, the 1.6 or 1.4T engines must feel like a warm-hatch! It’s more fun to drive a slow car fast than to be slow in a fast car, though.
Thank you for all the COALs, they were a very nice reading material.
Despite original being marketed as a fuel efficient and compact American car British buyers saw what the range really was, cheaply built Korean cars and stayed away and brought Hyundais and Kias nstead. Chevrolet. UK remains as a cottage industry served by just 6 dealers, selling one or two Camaros and Corvettes struggling against Mustang.
Thank you! In the U.S., the 1.2 was reserved for the 10″-smaller Spark (Daewoo Matiz).
Now I see there were some 1.6s in Europe, too, like this provided example.
At first I thought it’s Eddie’s Doppelgänger, but Eddie seems to be of a darker shade.
I’m sorry to learn this is the end of your COAL series! I’ve always enjoyed your narrative and perspective.
Thanks Sam! I wish I had more cars to write about.
I had a 2012 Sonic.
I don’t know if you had the same issue, but I had to wear sunglasses to tone down the reflection of the dash onto the inside of the windshield. It was very distracting.
In mine, the portion of the dashboard with the defogger is dark grey, which doesn’t reflect as badly. I could also be that up her in the Northeast we don’t get as much sun, either.
Very enjoyable COAL series Adam. I can understand you enjoyment of a small car, especially in a city environment. Although for me I generally prefer a manual transmission in small cars. Despite working at a Chevy dealer in the past, these modern small Chevys are completely foreign to me (pardon the pun). I did not like the old domestic GM compacts, like the old J-bodies.
The combination of the Mazda CX-5 and Sonic actually matches one of my colleagues. Although he typically drives the CX-5 and she drives the Sonic. They really like both cars.
Thanks Vince! Buying the assets of Daewoo and leveraging Opel for engineering the smaller cars were two of the smartest decisions GM ever made. Then they sold Opel…
About five or six years ago we went to a family wedding in New England. As always when I was reserving the rental, I selected “VW Jetta or equivalent” but all I saw lined up at the rental lot were Sonics and Corolla’s (more recently, all they had were Kia Souls and Sentra’s; is it actually possible to rent a Jetta at an airport in the US?) and I picked a Sonic sedan. I was prepared to be underwhelmed, but it was a great experience. Quick, roomy, great ergo’s and a very nice 6 speed automatic. ALMOST as good as the Mazda 3 I had rented the year before, though my Mazda experience was enhanced by wonderful Columbia River and Mt Hood scenery and roads. But the Sonic handled Mass and CT congestion just fine.
I’ve never driven an Aveo, but I rode in a lot of Aveo taxis in Ecuador. The Sonic seems like a huge advance, though those Aveo’s seem pretty hardy in what must be a brutal environment of potholes, traffic and high altitude.
I had a coworker with an Aveo, and he told me it was a piece of garbage. He’s also from Pakistan, so you can imagine the cars that he was comparing it with.
I own an Aveo I bought in Nov of 2013, as a low-mileage repo. The LT sedan w/(5) spd manual has served me well, saved, a refinery of petrol, and , as most agree, is fun to drive. I will keep “Sir Passed Alot” until I find a Cruze or Sonic manual of my specs.
My current 2011 Aveo, the urban runabout we use to save wear n tear on the truck and suv. (Hope the pic comes up this time)
If the pic doesn’t show it it’s likely too large. Try saving as a smaller file.
The Aveo only did one thing well: price. They were the cheapest new car with a warranty one could buy (and Chevy discounted the hell out of them, too).
But, other than that, they were easily the worst new car on the market, the very definition of a slow, uncomfortable penalty box. Frankly, I wonder if the same East Germans who were responsible for the Trabant, somehow, gravitated to working on the Aveo.
rudiger, I thought the purpose of this form was to exchange car stories, have fun sharing observations/memories and admire different writing style(s). I believe, perhaps out of ignorance, you violated one of CCC’s covenants with the statement about Aveos; “worst new car on the market..” Slamming one’s vehicle, perhaps all they afford to spend, is NOT in the spirit of this forum. You owe an apology!
I just can’t get past the odd practice of naming your cars.
Your life will continue. 🙂
My 2011 Aveo aptly named “Sir Passed Alot”
Second to post “Sir Passed Alot” 2011 Aveo Lt, (5) spd.
Last attempt to post image. I hope learning has occurred, even at my age…
We name ours sometimes. Goes back to the early days on motoring.
Great COAL Series, Adam. I missed a few of the earlier ones, and will have to go back and find them. Some of the guys at the end of their COAL series will provide links to all of them. That would be handy, but I think I can find them with CC’s Google Search functionality.
My Aunt had one of these when she passed away. Her BIL (my Dad) told me how great it drove. He was really surprised as this is not his kind of car. I was considering a commuter car when I took my Mustang out of DD service. I ended up with a turbocharged Civic Coupe which I like a lot.
In the cross-shopping process then (August 2016), I drove the Mazda 3 (I imagine the Mazda 2 would’ve been the equivalent car to the Sonic), and also drove a Cruze in this exact color (which is an awesome choice, BTW… Nice!)… While I liked the Mazda, I wasn’t thrilled with the Cruze (or its high pressure sales guy). The Cruze had that stop/start ignition thing for better gas mileage while driving, which quite frankly (and pun intended) was a non-starter for me.
Does the Sonic have this? I am not a fan. Thankfully my Civic is not so equipped.
After reading your COAL Review, I’m now almost sorry I did not check these out at the time. I discovered that small cars really are a blast to drive.
Oh, an my wife reacted the same way when I said I wanted to check out the Civic. “You want a what?!?!?” Heck, it even surprised me.
Thanks Rick! On a computer, you can just click my name and it should automatically bring you to the author link:
You’ll have weed through the Classic CARmentaries, though. Clicking on the author name doesn’t seem to work on the mobile version.
Thankfully, the 2014 model does not have the start/stop feature. I feel the same way about it that you do, and I would just rather buy a hybrid if the pure ICE choices all have start/stop.
You must usually buy big cars for your wife to react that way to a Civic, since the name is pretty well known. Sonic, on the other hand, only brings up visions of a drive-in burger chain.
My choice of car for many years was the Ford Thunderbird. The smallest car before my first, an ‘83 Aerobird, was a ‘79 Fairmont Futura. It was considered a compact car back then, but ironically was just about the same size as that T-Bird… I would learn later on these very pages that it was the same platform, Fox… Gotta love the CC…
I owned exclusively PLC(s), concluding with a ‘97 Grand Prix GTP before I bought my smallest car ever, the 2007 Mustang. To listen to XR7MATT, this is no small car, but it was MY smallest car…
…until the Civic. For a DD, I may very well never go back to a larger one.
The fact the Civic came in a coupe kept my street alive… Every car ever titled to me has had 2 doors, even my first, a HUGE 1973 LTD.
Now that being said, through various wives over the years, I have had 4 door and compact cars, so I was aware that they were fun. The ‘84 Celica GT was particularly memorable, and even the ‘94 Nissan Sentra (I think that those across the Pacific call this car a Bluebird… an odd name as that’s a School Bus to us Yanks 😉) was kinda fun to drive, albeit underpowered. My current wife’s Lancer is nice, roomy, and its visibility is superb compared to the Mustang and Civic, but its CVT is annoying, and its 2.0L is really slow… but I’ve grown to like it. What is it they say about it being better to drive a slow car fast, than a fast car slow?
As to your “Curbside CARmentary”, I’ve read a few, but want to go back and catch the few I’ve missed. Thanks for the link!
too late to edit: Streak, NOT Street, but you probably got that from context… Damned Autocorrect!!!
Thankfully, the Grammar Police don’t patrol CC. 😉
Sonic is the last vehicle I want to buy and own. I even avoid this car in the car rental lot. If I am low on budget and in market for a vehicle. I will go for under 10-year old Collora and Civic. For this car class, the best vehicle is Ford Fiesta in very aspect except Ford screwing up its DST transmission, but you can pick a manual transmission model. Honda Fit is very practical for small family because it is a Honda product. But I think its handling falls short against Fiesta. Toyota Yaris is the most sensible choice, I don’t care about its 4-speed automatic gear box. Again you can go for stick shift. Both Yaris and Fit are expensive, you can go for lightly equipped Collars and Civic for about the same price. Don’t forget there are also low end of Korean models and Fiat 500.
“However, I’m the type of person who prefers earning interest to paying it.” Me too. Learned the hard way.
I like the Sonic’s looks a lot, it certainly stands out in a crowd with those very attractive headlights. The interior feels fresh as well. I’ve never had the opportunity to drive one, but from your account sounds like my fandom would continue. It seems like a great choice and is doing well for you, I hope that continues.
I too shall miss this series, but at least we have CARmentary for now so you won’t be a stranger!
Thanks Jim! The only thing going for the current Sonic are the discounts. Now that the turbo and 16″ wheels are standard, you can buy one equipped like mine for thousands less than I paid. The only thing you can’t get is the Topaz Blue Metallic – that color has been replaced by the less attractive (to my eyes) Kinetic Blue Metallic.
Great COAL, thank you. I agree on the digital speedometer. I prefer them over analog gauges. They’re big, easy to read and tell you what you need to know at a very quick glance.
Ironically the 80s and 90s they quickly moved from being a gimmick to being derided as an old person’s feature. I suspect that since the German brands didn’t do digital at the time, people assumed there was something wrong with the concept.
Thank you! I’d also wager that the less than stellar quality of American brands of this era may have done them in as well. I’ve seen many a New Yorker with a dark dash.
Well, since the Sonic has “motorcycle style” gauges, I’ll say that my experience with a couple of bikes I’ve ridden with digital speedos had a problem: digits flying by too fast to read under hard acceleration. Perhaps not an issue with Sonic, even the turbo, but not good on 1000cc superbike. Of course, both my bikes are old-school analog, with no tach either.
In my experience it’s easier to grab information from a pointer’s position on a scale than to read changing digits.
I rented a white one with the 1.8/automatic for a week while my truck was in the shop, and I was duly impressed with its fit and finish, handling, ride and quietness. I thought it had adequate power, and playing the long-term mileage function game helped me keep my foot off the gas. But that was no fun! I did not consider these when I bought my Yaris, as the reliability problems with the turbo were emerging and I could not find evidence of a “fix” (much like with the intake gaskets on the GM 3.1) that would have allowed me to be comfortable with that risk. And there just were not any base engine/manuals around to consider one of those.
The Yaris rides about as well on the highway with proper tires and shocks, but it is much noisier. And I find that the way I have to drive it in the city to keep up with traffic (not enough torque, as you point out) yields only about 28 mpg (vs. 38 plus on the Interstate), so you are not doing too badly. I suspect that you need to get a hybrid to do much better. Glad you are enjoying this car, I grew up with Chevys and keep hoping they will build one I would want to buy. Looking for a mid-60’s C 10 for a project truck, that may have to do. I know what goes wrong with them and how to fix it.
Great series, Adam, thanks for taking the time. The Sonic interested me, particularly with the 1.4t. Kind of a 3/4 GTI from the way reviews described it. There’s one in our neighborhood, street parked, in a dark color with saddle Brown seats and dash trim. The cheap sheen from the dash detracts a bit from the premium intent of that color combo, but it is still unique and appealing in a subcompact.
There’s nothing wrong at all with optioning up a small car to base big car prices, particularly when you are flying well under your budget anyway. Enjoy the Sonic, keep us posted on how it holds up long term for you.
Thank you! I always liken it to a Polo GTI, and, obviously, was thrilled when someone started selling a car here that could genuinely be considered a competitor to the Polo.
Saddle brown interior? If it was a sedan, I wonder if it was the rare “Dusk” package.
Adam, yes, Sonic is wise choice! In Aug 2017, I bought a 2016 LT automatic (shiftable) six spd hatchback, 80 miles for <$9K in Chicago with a salvage title.Runs n looks great…dealership fire-smoke and sml amount of melted roofing tar on paint. I am actively looking for a 2015( made after Feb 2015) to 2018 (last year for the 1.8L with the manuaL (5) spd. I am staying away from the 1.4L turbo. All Sonics made thru Feb. 2015 were not five star IHST rated. A significant mid-year production change was made to Sonics produced from March, 2015 until the end of production in 2020 earned the 10 air bag Sonic, five stars. This includes reenforcement of the side pillars around the doors (side impact) and reprogramming the airbag for earlier deployment. Those Sonic are rated (5) stars. 2019 was to be the last year, but a late decision was to come out with a 2020. The only change was to drop the (6) spd manual.
Your approach to purchasing cars probably has a lot of people envious these financially fraught days. When vehicles were still selling, the average transaction price was $38,500. There are much more prudent investments than a vehicle the actually purpose of which is to stoke one’s self esteem.
The list on “Lucky” was <$22. The dealer said the Sonic was on the showroom floor when the fire broke out Jan3rd in early Am hours at Marshall Chev, Winchester, IL. An alert employee moved it to safety, but the insurance co toatled all cars within proxmity to the fire.Lucky, with (8) miles on the odometer sat in a Copart yard in North St Louis until the winning bid, June 10, 2017. It was removed from the yard June 14, 2017, taken to Indiana were the Chicago owner had it cleaned and sent to his residence. He was an engineer for the city of Chicago, but "flipped" cars as a side business. We flew in, took public transportation to his home, and drove home to South Kansas City, MO. I'll try to to attach the Marconey…..
As a devotee of small runabouts myself, I applaud your choice! Especially since guys our age are not usually purchasers of these kinds of cars. All the better, I say!
Like you with your Sonic, I appreciate my Scion’s higher profile, and we’ve used it with 4 passengers just fine. In fact, when we take my wife’s parents anywhere, we use the Scion instead of the Corolla. They have an easier time getting in and out, as the Corolla sits rather low by comparison. Factor in the utility factor of a hatch, the great fuel economy and low maintenance costs, the lack of a car payment and it’s a win/win/win. Plus little cars are ball to drive. (Interesting that “Sonic” is an anagram of “Scion.”)
To be honest, this would never have been on my radar. When the Yaris was wrecked, I never once considered anything by GM. Perhaps that’s my loss as you seem to have a very well-made car and I like the styling (and color). However, I think I can supply an answer to “why don’t people like digital speedometers?” This is my own personal gripe, so keep that in mind. I find the constant flickering of a digital speedo highly distracting. When you’ve got an analog gauge, slight changes in speed aren’t noticeable. But with a digital one, even tiny fluctuations in speed are immediately registered. When I drive my dad’s ’12 Civic, which also has a digital speedo/analog odometer setup, I find myself being hyper-aware of the speedometer. Perhaps it’s a touch of OCD, but I feel the need to keep the speedometer registering a constant number as much as possible. It’s exhausting. But I’m sure not every one is as neurotic as I am!
Thank you for sharing your stories. They have become a part of my Sunday morning routine and I’m going to miss them. Happy driving!
Thanks Matt! I still miss your series on Saturdays. Regarding the digital speedometer, that makes sense. Fortunately (or not), my OCD expresses itself in other ways.
A couple of years ago, I was talking to one of the other fathers at school pick-up, and he was mentioning how he recently had a Honda Fit as a loaner and loved how much fun it was to drive. Unfortunately, he “needed” his Pilot, so…
Well, I’m glad I don’t “need” a larger car. Life’s too short and the roads around here too narrow to be stuck behind the wheel of a lumbering SUV or over-sized pickup.
I miss writing my pieces and I have a couple of new ideas I’d like to write about. At the moment, I’ve been very busy with work (for which I’m so thankful considering present circumstances). Because I do creative work (graphic design), it’s been hard for me muster the energy to write. But those pieces are on the back burner and when I get the chance, they will be written.
I know you are all the way on the other side of the country, but if you are ever out this way, let me know!
Thank you for the offer, and likewise, of course. Paul has my e-mail address.
He also has mine… Feel free to reach out.
My dad’s 1985 Riviera had the then-novel digital speedometer. It was pretty slow to update, probably for exact reason you describe.
These days I usually keep the multifunction display between the speedo and tach to MPH just because it’s easier for me to glance down and see a number than to read an analog gauge. Then again an LCD fluctuating (to me at least) isn’t nearly as noticeable as a vacuum fluorescent display.
I have a 2019 1.4T-6A Sonic sedan and I love it! Mine is the basest if base car with crank windows yet I dont really care. It was more about the price….$13K out the door! I get an avergae of 28 in town and 25 on the highway. The trunk is massive and 4 fit comfortably, 5 in BIG pinch! Reliability after 19K has been great! So far so good!
That’s an awesome price. Four years ago, my friend bought a new 2016 LT sedan, with power everything and the Wheel & Fog Lamp package for about $15,500 out the door. Like I said in my last COAL, it’s so much easier to find a deal when you’re not too choosy and are willing to buy the car that no one else really wants, like my friend’s Velvet Blue example.
I meant 35 on the highway
I’ve really enjoyed this series of well-written COALs. I’ve learned about cars I haven’t given much thought to and I appreciate the deviation from the “bigger is better” perspective that often characterizes North American car buyers.
Regarding the Sonic, I rented one on a business trip to Salt Lake City in 2016. While taking a phone call at the National lot, I watched as my first choice Cruze was rented to someone else, so I was reluctant to take the Sonic, but it was just me and the trip involved only local driving during my 24 hours on the ground. I had a fully loaded LTZ in red with fewer than 2000 miles and really enjoyed my time with the car on a gorgeous spring day. I found it to be geared well for suburban driving, it rode and handled well, and, surprisingly, felt very solid and quiet cruising on I-15. I came away thinking the Sonic would be an ideal car for one of my millennial daughters when they graduated college. I returned the car to the rental lot with newfound respect for GM’s ability to make a class-competitive small car.
Best of luck with your Sonic!
Thank you for the nice words, William! Unfortunately, you found that respect just as GM has stopped making the Cruze and the now 9-year-old Sonic is withering on the vine. From my brief test drive in a Buick Encore, the additional 500 pounds and higher center of gravity take away all of the fun.
This has been an enjoyable series, Adam. And you don’t need to give me the side eye, as I would rather drive your Sonic than a stripper Malibu. 🙂 The color and the wheels make this one stand out in a good way, though I will admit that I have admired the looks on these since they came out.
You and I are in that same club, where it is silly to have two cars in the family that are good at the same thing. And while my Sedona was the best value and best for an all-around family car (and trust me, choices thin a lot when you go from 2 kids to 3) my Honda Fit is a perfect compliment with a small footprint and big versatility.
It is funny how different people are or are not comfortable in a particular car. It has always been the GM stuff that has never fit me as naturally, and my most comfy cars have been either Mopars or Hondas. But this is where variety is good.
Sorry, JP, but after our back-and-forth on the Versa, I couldn’t resist :-). And thank you for the kind words.
Besides seat comfort, the 2014 Fit was the last year of the second generation and I really wanted something designed and engineered in the current decade. I like the look of the current Fit, but the Sonic still tops it in ride quality and noise. If space and economy are what someone is looking for, it’s hard to beat the Fit.
“Why don’t people like digital speedometers?”
I find them distracting. My late-80s Camry had one and I didn’t care for road trips with “65, 66, 65” alternating in my face. I also prefer analog displays on volt-ohmmeters, thermometers, etc. because the sweep of an analog gauge indicates the rate of change in the value vs. just the value.
I agree as far as all of the other gauges, but I like to know that I’m doing 65, not 66. The difference could be a $150 speeding ticket.
I’ve not heard of anyone getting a ticket for 1mph over. For many cars the speed shown is a lie, it is not uncommon for the speedo to read ~2mph faster than you are actually going.
In a 55 MPH zone. It happened to my dad, which is how I learned that the police will USUALLY give you 10 MPH on the highway before pulling you over. Fortunately, we now have GPS to confirm that our speedometers are correct, which mine is. Unfortunately for Dad, his was 2 MPH slow (he was going 67 when he thought he was going 65), but he fixed it after getting the ticket.
Great series, Adam.
Remembering the old pre-GM Daewoo days, I’m impressed how far they’ve come. Heck, as you said, even since the Aveo.
@ Adam: Really enjoyed reading about your various cars. We’ll have to agree to disagree concerning your thoughts on the Fit, as I find mine to comfortable for my 6’4″ frame! However, I do APPLAUD your taste in color, as my Fit is the same shade of
Hmm, apparently, the picture didn’t come through. Let’s try again! 🙂
Sharp car! It’s not uncomfortable as far as size, I just find the seats too hard. My dad had the same problem with his ’89 Civic, to the point where he had to get rid of the car.
Thanks for this great COAL series! You and Matt have brought a lot of excellent experiences and perspectives. Certain similarities were obvious from the get-go, so I guess it’s not too surprising you both ended up with quite similar cars, which they rather are: compact slightly-tall hatchbacks. I approve!
And thanks for sharing the CARmentary reviews; an excellent addition.
Thanks Paul! The best part of the CARmentaries is sharing the “story behind the story,” which I obviously couldn’t include in 350 words. I’m going to miss writing these stories, though. It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun.
Thanks for the feature Adam. I spotted a car like your Sonic on the way to work the other day and thought it would be the ideal car for a long roadtrip if I was going solo. There is also something about the styling and those 16″ wheels that I like.
Two other cars crossed my mind; the Versa Note which I recently looked at close-up in the parkade at work and the Honda Fit. I’ve driven the Fit and liked it, I’ve heard mixed reviews about the Versa.
I’m surprised you didn’t get better fuel consumption. Likely because of speed, tire pressure and how you drive, which you alluded to. I certainly agree its the right size of commuter car as I’ve always preferred compact or sub-compact cars in the city.
Around town, you need to be able to stay out of the turbo to get optimum mileage, but you really have to feather-foot it, since the turbo kicks in at such a low RPM. The Sonic is best at performance, noise and ride. The Fit wins for efficiency, space utilization and predicted reliability. The Versa Note has the biggest back seat of the three, as well as good efficiency. Thomas Kreutzer, a once frequent contributor to TTAC, bought a Note for his wife:
You’ll notice a familiar name in the comment section.
Chevy fanatic that I am, I love that you stuck with the Sonic.
I drove a 2013 several years ago as a loaner when our Equinox was in for service. It was a BALL to drive. It felt planted to the road and nimble…it actually felt better than the Cadillac DTS’s my business partner and I would rent back when I co-owned an advertising company in 2004-07. No amount of plush makes up for that “front end feels like it’s falling off the car” feeling virtually every GM FWD had from the 80s ’til Bob Lutz-era designs started coming to market…like Sonic (which would’ve been in development during his tenure.)
True, the MPGs were only around 26 with the 1.8, but it had plenty of power and held its own on the 4-lane.
Someone over at TTAC once noted that the Cruze/Sonic/Malibu offered 90% of the driving enjoyment of a Mazda with a FAR better ride. I’d throw the outgoing Impala with the 3.6 in that group as well. Having driven the crappy ’97-’03 generation and the even crappier ’04-’07, the 2010 my son recently purchased is an absolute delight in LTZ trim with the 3.6.
This is also my kind of car as a hatchback, though I’ve stayed at the compact size (maybe it is mid-sized now, but whatever they call the VW Golf now).
I’d actually like a bit larger (maybe mid-sized like the Malibu) hatchback, though it was probably a wagon, I liked the Malibu Maxx 10 years ago, but wasn’t in the market during the brief time they were sold…which has happened to me before. I’m really not interested in SUV or crossovers, which is what they tend to push you into if you like a hatch or wagon configuration nowdays…kind of like when domestic station wagons disappeared in the 80’s and the substitution was minivan (or later SUV). Closest I came was in mid 80’s when I was considering an Accord hatch but bought my GTi (mostly because I didn’t want power locks/windows but wanted fuel injection, which Honda didn’t offer when I was ready to buy.
Something smaller than the Golf would probably work, but as my only car, I prefer a bit bigger for the (few) times I carry passengers, or like the added length to carry lumber or other bulky stuff without having to rent a truck (or glom off my truck-owning family/friends). I was more looking at the Cruze hatchback, but they only briefly sold it, again when I wasn’t ready to buy new…maybe I’ll get a used one once I decide to move on from my 20 year old Golf.